June 06, 2004

gender split

Hereís something I donít understand: Why is it that when we get together with other heterosexual couples, we end up splitting up, with the women in one place and the men in another?

Sometimes it feels perfectly natural: last Saturday we went up to visit Tiny Coconut and her family. TC and I are friends, the men had never met. And she and I had Things To Discuss. Well, stuff to talk about. And so the men were thrown together by default. Fortunately, they have many overlapping interests and did just fine. I know Dan had a good time.

But other times it hasnít worked so well. Like a guy Dan worked with some years ago. Dan and I both enjoyed his company very much. But I kept ending up with his wife when the gender split would occur. Just the two of us. With nothing to talk about. And every time we tried, she said something in all innocence that made me want to start a fight. I would keep quiet because we were supposed to be having a pleasant social interaction, but after about five minutes, I wanted to run back to the men, but that wasnít so easy. So we stopped spending time with them. I just couldnít take it. I canít help thinking if it was the husband I objected to, weíd still be friends. Because I would probably never end up alone with him.

Another example: I went with Damian to visit a friend of his. The mom and I hung out the entire time with the kids. The dad came out of his home office once for about two minutes, max. I like her, this was not a hardship. Simply an observation, relevant because a month or so later, Dan went with Damian on the same errand. This time the dad came out and spent time with them. Did he like Danís face better? I think it was far simpler. He didnít want to hang out with a strange woman. A strange man, though, that was okay. It probably helped when he found out what Dan does for a living; itís similar to his own job. But he never even asked me that much. We never got that far before he disappeared back to his world.

Yes, sometimes all the grownups converge and chat together. But when the drift happens, which it always does, itís never the man of one couple hanging out in the kitchen chatting with the woman of the other couple while their spouses wander off to check on the kids. It always splits right down the gender line. I donít know if this is an LA phenomenon or a middle class one or something else. I donít remember it happening when I was younger. Is that because I was in New York? Are things different there? Why? What is this thing that makes the sexes congregate like something out of the Victorian era when women and men had their spheres of influence and their nearly completely separate lives? Itís not that way now, is it? Yet it is when couples come together. And I canít figure out why. Or what to do about it.

Posted by Tamar at June 6, 2004 11:50 PM

I think in the case of the man who only came out for two minutes, it may be that he made the assumption, usually erroneous, that the women would rather be alone and he would be an intrusion. Another possibility is that he really didn't feel like socializing and because a man wasn't there, he didn't feel particularly obligated besides giving a polite hello.

Posted by: Daphne at June 7, 2004 05:09 AM

My husband has a friend where this happens too. Very early on in our relationship we went to their place one afternoon for a BBQ, and once the food was done the TV got turned on to some sport or other and the men (Chris plus his brother and his friend) disappeared into the living room to watch it.

Leaving the friend's wife to clean up and do dishes. Being a well brought up *woman* I would have considered it unforgivably rude to leave her cleaning up while I went and watched TV, so I helped her. There I was, stuck in the kitchen with a woman I'd met maybe once before (or maybe not at all) and with whom I shared no interests and few values.

I was fuming. Not only for being deserted, but for the implication that it was OK for the women to get stuck cleaning up.

On the way home I let Chris know exactly how mad I was and he's never done that again. Not with that couple anyway. But then, we don't see them very often anymore...

Posted by: Kay at June 8, 2004 08:00 PM