After 45 years, I've finally figured out the difference between men and women. I might have noticed it a lot sooner, but my parents wouldn't let me read National Geographic.
Seriously, the difference I'm talking about is not physical but mental. It has to do with the way men and women see the world - and each other. Of course nowadays, all too often, the way men see women is by looking on the Internet, but let's not go there.
Then again, that's precisely my point. The main difference between men and women is that men focus on how a woman looks, whereas women tend to pay more attention to what a man does.
That's generally bad news for us guys, since what we do is so often dirty (working on cars, re-sodding the backyard), smelly (playing sports, breaking wind) or just plain stupid (mountain-climbing, dating).
Understanding this fundamental difference clears up virtually every mystery of the male-female dynamic. It explains, for instance, why little girls begin wearing makeup and dressing provocatively in elementary school. It's not just because they've been watching Paris Hilton videos - although that's probably part of it, too - but because they perceive early on the importance society places on female attractiveness.
Little boys, on the other hand, try to get girls to notice them by "showing off." Remember the scene in Tom Sawyer where Tom makes his bid for Becky's affection by turning cartwheels outside her house? Unfortunately, as little boys grow up, cartwheels give way to more reckless behaviors, such driving fast cars and rooting for the Falcons.
The looks/actions dichotomy also explains why women are attracted to men who aren't particularly handsome, like Bill Gates and Mick Jagger. We usually assume it's because they're rich, but that's not it, exactly - although being rich certainly doesn't make them LESS attractive.
No, women throw themselves at those guys because they've accomplished great and significant deeds their respective fields - Gates by building a global software empire, Jagger by turning quasi-youthful disaffection and bad dance moves into an art form.
Men, on the other hand, are much more concerned with how a woman looks than with how she acts and will frequently endure a level of bad behavior directly proportional to a woman's hotness quotient.
Other women see a decent guy being abused by some shrewish Heidi Klum look-alike and wonder to themselves, "Why does he stay with her?"
This doesn't mean a woman has to remain perpetually youthful in order to be attractive. I think a woman who is truly loved never really loses her looks. My wife, for instance, looks exactly the same to me as she did when we were 22.
My ability to turn cartwheels, on the other hand ...
E-mail Rob Jenkins at firstname.lastname@example.org.