Girls and boys and books

Posted on July 5, 2006


I am reading Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch, which is basically disappointing me. I figured I’d best read it now while I have football-crazed males in greatest abundance around me. Plus, I really enjoyed High Fidelity (although How to be Good sucked if not a fat, then intermediate-sized, cock); High Fidelity was the first book to give me any sort of indication that men are, in fact, people. However, I was lead to believe that Fever Pitch was a novel, and now I am treated to the most boring inner workings of the mind of man who is offering me no compensations for this tolerance on my part. I have, in the past, put up with musings about sports, and viewings of the same, either as a necessary accompaniment to the imbibing of liquor in Canada, or as my end of a bargain wherein eventually some sort of favour would be conferred on me by the male at whose behest I was being so abused. This book offers no such advantage, and I WILL NOT TAKE BOOK ADVICE FROM YOU, MO, AGAIN.
That being said, I came across the following passage of middling interest (unfortunately, the most interest I can come to expect until I leave here for Cairo):

Her room helped me to understand that girls were much quirkier than boys, a realisation that stung me. She had a collection of Yevtushenko’s poems (who the hell was Yevtushenko?) and unfathomable obsessions with Anne Boleyn and the Brontës; she liked all the sensitive singer/songwriters, and was familiar with the ideas of Germaine Greer; she knew a little about paintings and classical music, knowledge gleaned from somewhere outside the A-level syllabus. How had that happened? How come I had to rely on a couple of Chandler paperbacks and the first Ramones album to provide me with some kind of identity? Girls’ rooms provided countless clues to their character and background and tastes; boys, by contrast, were as interchangeable and unformed as foetuses, and their rooms, apart from the odd Athena poster here and there (I had a Rod Stewart poster on my wall, which I liked to think was aggressively, authentically and self-consciously down-market) were as blank as the womb.
It is true to say that most of us were defined only by the number and extent of our interests. Some boys had more records than others, and some knew more about football; some were interested in cars, or rugby. We had passions instead of personalities, predictable and uninteresting passions at that, passions which could not reflect and illuminate us in the way that my girlfriend’s did … and this is one of the most inexplicable differences between men and women.

And more in the same vein. I was pretty astonished to read this; it is men’s rooms that have always held a fascination for me. All the girls’ rooms I have ever been in are basically interchangeable. Chicklit, makeup and accessories, clothes everywhere, maybe a poetry print-out on the wall. That’s it really. One of my roommates was an artist: she had her own paintings up on her side of the room. That’s not really a quirk, just vanity, since all humans are self-obsessed. On the other hand, all the boy’s rooms I have ever been in seemed to display a large amount of interests and foibles (not M’s; his apartment is definitely a womb, with the odd diploma tacked up to the uterus wall). M, actually, seems to see me as a simmering mass of quirks – but I just think his previous girlfriends must have been cyborgs or something. But as for the other males of my acquaintance, I have seen it all…guitars, original records, obscure and foreign works of poetry, clocks shaped like Elvis, things they’ve stolen from bars and streets, Dali posters, Marley collages, drug paraphernalia and religious artwork (sometimes side by side). I don’t see any of this shit on girls’ walls. At one point I had a collage of Egyptian prints and postcards and maps, as well as a gargantuan flag of Egypt on my walls; I think this says homesick, not quirky, though. I don’t see how anyone has personalities rather than passions; we all have just passions. He obviously just thought this girl, and other girls’, passions were cooler than boys’.

I have met women who have loved football, and go to watch a number of games a season, but I have not yet met one who would make that Wednesday night trip to Plymouth. And I have met women who love music, and can tell their Mavis Staples from their Shirley Browns, but I have never met a woman with a huge and ever-expanding and neurotically alphabeticised record collection. They always seem to have lost their records, or to have relied on somebody else in the house – a boyfriend, a brother, a flatmate, usually a male – to have provided the physical details of their interests.

How can we be quirkier, and yet less keen about our quirks?