Illustration: John Ritter
There are a few things I'm not particularly good at. Now, before you think I'm being coy or self-deprecating or anything else that it's not okay to be these days, I'll just say that there are a number of areas in which I excel. For one thing, I possess an almost encyclopedic ability to remember every detail of every TV show that ran during the 1970s. Sure, Paul Krugman won a Nobel Prize for integrating the previously disparate fields of international trade and economic globalization, but let's not kid ourselves, he's never going to be able to tell you that it was Miyoshi Umeki who played Mrs. Livingston on The Courtship of Eddie's Father. Lest you think this is my only talent, let me add that I'm also exceptionally gifted at finding lost Legos, and I was once instrumental in getting a squirrel out of the house, which may not seem like much, but talk to me after you've used your loofah mitt to shoo a large panicky rodent from the bathroom to the front lawn while dressed in nothing more than a towel and shower cap. Believe me when I say you feel pretty damn triumphant.
Anyway, those are the things I'm good at. The list of what I'm not good at is a work in progress, but I'd definitely place men right near the top. I am not now, nor have I ever been, particularly good at men. I like them, I even keep one around the apartment in case of emergencies (that would be Johannes, father of my 6-year-old, protector against future squirrel invasions), but I can't pretend that I'm totally at ease with them—at least not in the same way I am with women.
It seems to me that there are women who are women's women and women who are men's women. Lauren Bacall always struck me as a real man's woman. Glamorous, seductive, but pretty no-nonsense at the same time—the kind of dame who could smoke, shoot pool, drink everybody under the table, and still get up early to go fly-fishing without ever once chipping her nail polish. Bacall gave as good as she got, and what she got was Humphrey Bogart.
But she's not the only one of the girls who was one of the boys. Ava Gardner, Myrna Loy, Katharine Hepburn, Marlene Dietrich, Shirley MacLaine, Rosalind Russell, Angelina Jolie, any one of them could probably call your bluff in a high-stakes game of Texas Hold'em or change a flat tire without batting an eyelash or grab a rifle and go off skeet shooting.
I don't know what a skeet is or why anyone would want to shoot it. I don't know how to gut a catfish or loosen a lug nut, or flirt in a way that doesn't lead a guy to wonder if I might need to be institutionalized.
In my heart, I'm Lauren Bacall throwing Bogie the perfect To Have and Have Not exit line, "You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and...blow." But in my apartment, I'm still me and the exit line is more like "You know how to take the garbage out, don't you, Johannes? You just separate the recyclables and...go."