A World Mostly Gone

By David L. Robbins | December 15th, 2015

David L. Robbins takes a shot at predicting behavior by gender

It  was my intention to write for you a silly article. Something lighthearted, a break from my sometimes somber observations and elegiac memory. So, here’s how that worked out.

On a recent afternoon, I headed for the elevator leading up to my YMCA gym. A woman, about our age, strode ahead of me a good 20 feet for the same elevator. She hit the UP button, the doors parted immediately, and without a glance back, she stepped inside. The doors closed just as I arrived, too late for a thrusting hand, too late for a scowl through the narrowing gap to tell her she’d left me behind.


I waited for the next lift, foot tapping, observing beneath my breath that I would never have done that to a fellow traveler, not held the elevator for them. When I arrived upstairs at the Y, I shared this minor slight with a fellow gym rat. He said, simply, “Women.”

When I asked a woman friend in the gym of her thoughts, she branded balderdash and claimed she held elevators all the time. Then, as a writer’s luck would have it, I saw this selfsame gal four days later step alone onto an elevator, stranding me and two other men 30 feet back. I made no mention of it to her, for though I may be a fool, I am not stupid. I did, however, agree with myself that I had found an interesting little topic for my next essay.

Last night, at a friend’s party, I set about doing my research. The questions I posed to both genders were: What is it that you think men will never do?; and What is it you think women will never do?

When asked for an example, I replied, “I believe I have never known a woman who would light the grill.” Or, “For some reason, men turn down the car radio when they are lost.” I even tried the old saws: “Men will not ask for directions,” and “Women will not pick up anything dead in the house.”


My line of inquiry set people’s teeth on edge. I was told this was an odd way to think. I was treated to denials and refuting anecdotes offered by both sexes regarding elevators, directions, dead mice and charcoal and gas grills. I pressed only in a few occasions and retreated in the remainder. After annoying a few and confounding the rest, I came away with nothing but: “Men stand to pee and women don’t.” That was the sum of what I could glean from this party of clever, accomplished, mature folk. I seemed unable to explain that I wasn’t looking for biological differences, just cultural and social traits, amusing tidbits. I wasn’t panning for an argument, only some good-natured poking of fun at our gender counterparts.

But the folks weren’t having it. And that became my story.

You and I grew up in a world mostly gone today. Ozzie and Harriet, Archie and Edith, Fred and Wilma. In this respect, in the restricted roles men and women played in the home, the workplace and in each other’s lives, it’s fair to say good riddance. We’ve blinded ourselves to what we once thought was obvious, and in that blinding, have made for ourselves a new and fairer reality. The barriers that held us apart as Guys and Dolls are falling all the time. There are fewer jobs allotted to just one group anymore, in and outside the home. Women serve in combat and may soon in the White House. Men serve happily in the home. The wide acceptance of gay lifestyles and marriage, Caitlyn Jenner, an African-American president, gender blending entertainment, a young generation which every day cares less about their differences from each other – wow. Where are the old fences we grew up with?

Silly and outmoded. Knocked down and trampled on.

And what’s best? Few mourn this. Quite the opposite.

Folks get indifferent or testy when you ask them even jokingly to relate what they think of one another as men or women. This is our brave new world, and we are in it together.

Good. Fine. Wonderful. I never liked picking up dead critters either. You do it.

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