The Truth, Mainly - 08/30/1993

Gender equity confronts 'genetic destiny'
by Leon Satterfield

"I just want you to know," I say to my wife, "that despite my new nose-and-ear-hair clipper, I have no immediate plans to desert you for a younger woman."

I have this nifty new battery-operated gadget for clipping hair from my nose and ears. It's a kind of miniaturized weed-eater small enough to clear out the excess nasal and auricle foliage, and it makes me look 30 years younger.

"Oh?" my wife says, not looking up from her crossword puzzle.

"I want to reassure you," I say, "that despite my new youthful appearance, the miraculous result of no longer having hair protruding from my nostrils and ears, I am not at this time contemplating trading you in on a newer model."

She puts down the puzzle and looks at me. I brace myself for the extravagant gratitude she's about to lavish on me. Instead, she laughs.

It begins as a twitching at the corners of her mouth, a pooching out of her cheeks and an arching of her brows to accomodate the widening of her eyes, then progresses to a faint rumbling deep in her esophagus, grows to something like a suppressed giggle, and finally explodes into a belly laugh that knocks her off her chair and leaves her rolling on the floor.

"I've made you very happy," I say. "Haven't I?"

"Let me get this straight," she says after she catches her breath and gets back in her chair. "You think just not having hair growing out your nose and ears will make you attractive to some bimbo who hasn't yet discovered the effect of gravity on the human body? Do I have that right?"

"Everybody knows," I say, "that the male of the species becomes more attractive to the younger female as he gracefully ages. It's nature's way of keeping the gene pool from getting dumb. My nose-and-ear-hair clipper is just helping me fulfill nature's intent. It's no big deal."

She guffaws. She convulses. She gets teary-eyed.

"See, it's right here in the paper," I say. "Clint Eastwood's young wife just had a baby. He's 63. You saw how that young woman in 'Line of Fire' couldn't resist him."

She wipes her eyes and goes back to the crossword puzzle.

"And here's another story," I say, "about Anthony Quinn—78 years old and he fathers a child by his 30-something secretary."

"What's a six-letter word for macho senility?" she asks.

"It's not macho senility," I say. "It's genetic destiny. Look at the old guy in 'Northern Exposure'—Holling what's-his-name—and that high school cheerleader who's so hot for him. Look at those 70-year-old Ak-Sar-Ben kings and their 18-year-old queens. Look at Strom Thurmond. What do you say to that?"

I settle back, having once more won the argument with my gracefully aging male logic. But she's not finished.

"What makes you think the January-May business only works with old men and young women?" she says. "Barbra Streisand is very friendly with a tennis player less than half her age. Liz Taylor and Cher have found happiness with callow youths. And if you want to appeal to nature, look at the mature queen bee and all those young drones servicing her."

"Don't be silly," I say. "Let's talk about something else now."

"Remember what the Wife of Bath said," she says. "The best husbands are 'meke, yonge, and fresshe a-bedde.' What makes you think I might not want to have my way with your hypothetical bimbo's hypothetical brother, then throw him away like a used Kleenex?"

She winks lasciviously. I snort so indignantly that coffee comes out my nose. It's a minute or so before I can speak.

"I'm just glad," I say, "that the children aren't here to listen to their mother talk like that. That's the sickest thing I ever heard."

"Why is it sick when I talk like that?" she asks. "You've heard of sauce for the goose, haven't you?"

"It's perverse," I say. "It's grotesque. It's. . . it's woman's libber, bra-burning, E.R.A. talk!"

"You missed a grey hair growing out of your left ear," she says. "It's twitching."

"Gigolo-pandering!" I holler. "Cradle-robbing! Contributing to the delinquency of a minor!"

"There, there," she says, handing me my new clipper. "You go trim up and it'll be all better."

I go to the bathroom to get the ear hair I missed, but when I switch on the clipper, it makes a little buzzing noise like a dying drone, then expires.

"Oh no," I yell. "I need a recharge. My battery just ran down."

There's five seconds of silence while she digests the tragic enormity of that news. Then she speaks.

"I wouldn't touch that line," she says, "with a 10-foot pole."


Satterfield is a college professor and writes as a means of discovery.

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