Mayonnaise jars and flowers


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Mayonnaise jars and flowers
By Bobby Neal Winters

Lawrence H. Summers, who is president of Harvard University, and presumably has walking-around sense, really stepped in it the other day when he said words taken to mean women are just bad at math. From the point of view of someone who walked in front of a math classroom as a teacher for the first time in 1983, let me just share that there aren’t many men who are all that good at it either. Though I daresay most of the people I’ve taught would’ve been able to calculate that a public person making remarks like those of President Summers would be walking into a buzz saw.
There might not be enough of him left to bury before this is all over.

Let me now make a statement that I’ve heard women make with great pride on many an occasion. Men and women are different. When women say this, it’s usually accompanied by a woeful shaking of heads, rolling of eyes, and muttering of “You’ve got that right, sister.”

There is a difference. When I was in kindergarten, I thought it was that girls had long hair and boys had short hair. I gradually became aware there was more of a difference than that, but the idea that men were supposed to be the ones who were good at academics was foreign. In the world of the oil field, women were supposed to be secretaries and bookkeepers, and men were supposed to be out on a rig in every sort of weather “pushing that rod and tubing.”

There are more differences between the genders than the obvious ones. Even though I live with four women, ages six through down-you-dare, I cannot speak from their perspective, and, unlike the president of Harvard, I do not have a death wish, so I will try to be more circumspect than he. However, my experience living among the other side and my forty plus years experience at being a man could be valuable, so I will try to make a few remarks.

It would be easy to say men are stronger than women. My usual example of this is what I call the mayonnaise jar test. This has been my means of job security for a number of years now. Periodically—usually while in the process of making potato salad—Jean will wander in to my office with a new jar of mayonnaise and wordlessly hand it to me. I will open it, and she will go back to making potato salad. As her potato salad is a favorite in our house, I’ve felt secure.

However, there have been recent developments in the area of mayonnaise jars that have threatened that security. Some spawn of Satan 9probably from one of those family-hating blue states) has invented a mayonnaise container with flip lid. Now any time my wife wants to bring me in line all she has to do is mime holding up one of those jars and opening it with an index finger.

Besides, man’s strength seems to be limited to the upper body. On three occasions, I’ve seen my hundred-pound wife give birth to a seven-pound baby, and let me tell you, I’ve not seen the man who would even think of doing that.

Another difference I’ve learned is important enough to share with the world at large. Men young enough to profit should take particular note. Flowers work. They really do, and this mystifies me. If a woman gives a man a pipe wrench or a power drill or a new hard drive for his computer, that is a good gift. It makes our work easier and, hey, those things are just cool.

But if a man gives a woman a 40-dollar frying pan, he’s likely to get it wrapped around his head. However, take that same 40 dollars and put it into flowers, and you are a hero. (Coincidently, 40 dollars in flowers is the exact amount it takes to make up for a 40-dollar frying pan. Don’t ask me how I know.)

For years, I’ve pondered why this is, and I believe I have a partial answer. Most men have spent a good deal of time observing their wives working, and want to make that work easier, so they mistakenly think buying them a labor-saving device is a good thing. Giving a frying pan is attractive to a man because a frying pan will last long beyond the life of the user, and, in some tragic cases, the life of the giver. We want to use our gift as a means of attaining immortality. However, the very fact that the flowers will wilt into ruin in a week is a part of their attraction.

(When I first observe this, I put forth the notion that setting fire to two twenties would have the same effect as flowers, but deep discussions with the opposite gender have disabused me of that notion, let me tell you.)

Giving flowers shows a willingness to spend money in a way that boosts spirits. Their very transience shows that the man giving the flowers truly desires the woman in question feel better. It is evidence we love them more than money, while something like a skillet is just helping them to serve us.

The next topic I wanted to talk about was the subject of reading maps, but, alas, I find I’m out of space. That’s too bad, because I’ve always wanted to be president of Harvard.

(Bobby Winters is a professor of mathematics, writer, and speaker. Will speak for food. You may contact him at or visit his website at )
that is a nice website. I added it to my favorites. I like Lindas page too. Oakies heart to heart.