George Saunders
Photo: Fancy Photography/veer.com
Much has been made of the whole "what do women want/what do men want" thing. I think it's actually pretty simple: Women want men to know what women want. And men want women not to want anything.

If women must want something, men want them to want something easy to get. On the other hand, women want their men to go to great lengths for them. If a man gives a woman something he got with little effort—say, a bowling trophy he's had since he was 20—his woman may feel taken for granted. And he will have to buy her flowers to make up for it. The more egregious the offense, the less pedestrian his flowers can afford to be. For something like this, I recommend the man genetically engineer a species of rare lily not seen on the face of the Earth since Cleopatra's time. That should just about do it. And deliver them in a gold vase. (Note: A bowling trophy does not qualify as a "gold vase," even if spray-painted. Trust me on this.)

Men, in contrast, have very simple desires. What men want is for their woman to love them so much that, when they are doing nothing at all, or are even doing something slightly "wrong"—flirting with the college girl at the Gap, say, invading the wrong country, eating leftover Indian food from the container, with their fingers, in their underwear—their woman just stands there going: "Isn't he something? Wow, look at that fine ass."

And yet all relationship problems can be solved with a little creativity. Women: When your husband is eating Indian food with his fingers, in his underwear—join the party by taking your pants off too!

Men: When your wife looks askance at the rare Egyptian lilies you cloned for her—agree with her that the lilies are inadequate, toss them into the yard, run out in your underwear and give them a vicious kick to indicate how deeply repentant you are.

Women: If your man keeps calling you by another woman's name—change your name!

Men: If your wife has an affair with her Pilates instructor—get a latex mask made of his face, then wear the mask to bed!

Women: If your husband is thoughtful enough to wear a latex mask of your hot Pilates instructor to bed, reward him with his favorite meal of pot roast, steak, bacon, lard cubes, bourbon, and Snickers bars.

Personally, I'm glad men and women are different. Otherwise, how would I know which restroom to enter in a fancy restaurant where the bathrooms do not say men or women, but MSSR or MMSLLE, or just have drawings of a male and female duck, which to me look pretty much identical, except one of the ducks is holding a walking stick, and I am like: I have no idea—maybe female ducks carry the walking stick? Because honestly, I have never seen a duck, of either gender, use a walking stick.

But because men and women are different, I can just lurk nearby, waiting for the next man to come along, then follow him into the appropriate restroom. Or, conversely, I can wait for the next woman to come along, and go into the opposite restroom from her. Or I can wait for a duck to come along, see which restroom it goes into, then follow it in, turn it over on its back, and see if it's carrying a walking stick.

Anyway, as the French say, Vive la différence! Which means: Live the difference! Or, in some translations: What is so different?

I find that so true. What is so different, really, between men and women? Our sexual organs, our breasts, our girth, our life philosophies, the extent to which we consider "mopping" part of "cleaning the kitchen," whether we tend to leap up and pretend to shoot an imaginary basketball right in the middle of a wake? Yes, yes, but other than these few, trivial differences, we are—thank goodness—very much the same.

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