What’s a Mother to Do?
by Ann Edwards Cannon

Chapter 3
How Guys Impress Girls: The Formative Years

[p.9]As the mother of five sons, I certainly have a unique opportunity to observe emerging Guy Behavior on a regular basis. This once again became very apparent to me the last time I took my kids to Children’s Bingo Night.

I used to think you had to (a) be a friend of my grandmother’s and (b) have a large strap of your foundation garment showing before they allowed you to participate in the noble sport of Bingo, but here in the New York community where we’ve been living for the past year, it is a Game for the Young. Here’s how Children’s Bingo Night works. First, the kids all sit down and eat a meal with real silverware and napkins after which they retire to the game room for a fine session of brisk number calling.

It was the dinner part where I observed one of my children turn into a real Guy.

My two oldest boys quickly found themselves places at a Boys Only type table. No problemo there. I knew they’d feel right at home listening to everyone’s stories about skiing off twenty-foot moguls and so forth.

My sweet, dreamy eight-year-old didn’t fare so well. By the time he realized it was Wednesday again, and he was actually at Bingo Night, all the guy seats were taken—the only room left was at a table FULL OF GIRLS.

Miserable to the core, he slid carefully into his seat, trying very hard not to (a) make physical contact with or (b) breathe the same air as any girl persons. Yes, it was a sad and joyless son, a glum and downcast son, a morose and heavy-hearted son I saw before me. To be the only eight-year-old boy cast adrift in a roiling sea full of females is a hard thing indeed.

About halfway through dinner, however, the most amazing thing happened. My son looked up from his bar-b-que ribs long enough to make accidental eye contact with the very fine looking little girl sit-[p.10]ting next to him. Maybe it was her thick dark hair pulled back in a casual pony tail. Maybe it was her bright red cheeks. Maybe it was the way she sneered at him. Whatever it was, my son was hooked. I watched it happen. Lightning had struck. The next thing I knew, he was doing his level best to impress her.

First, he tried making various disgusting noises such as (a) dying frog sounds and (b) burps, which is something his oldest brother once earned a merit badge for at Scout Camp.

She was unmoved.

Then he picked up a paper cup and stuffed it in his mouth, after which he slowly chewed it to a papery pulp without taking his eyes off her once. Her indifference was monumental. Finally, in a fit of desperation, he picked up his fork AND STARTED COMBING HIS HAIR WITH IT.

This finally had the desired effect. She started looking at my son all right—with a look of complete and total horror. Then she elbowed all her little friends, telling them to take a look, too. You would have thought they were all looking at one of those two-headed calves you used to see at the state fair carnival when I was a little girl.

“I can’t watch any more of this,” I said to one of the fathers sitting next to me. “My son—flesh of my flesh, light of my life, fruit of my loins and so forth—is combing his hair with a fork in public.”

The father put down his newspaper and assessed the situation for himself.

“Indeed he is,” he said.

“He thinks he’s impressing girls,” I said.

“True,” he agreed. “Combing your hair with a fork is a time-honored mating ritual for males his age. Sort of like showing a cute girl that your mouth is full of mashed potatoes at lunch time.”

When I was in elementary school, I had this friend who looked just like Sandra Dee in Gidget, and boys were always showing her that their mouths were full of mashed potatoes at lunch time. Also they used to throw spit wads at her on the bus, so I knew exactly what this father was talking about.

“Have you ever noticed,” he went on thoughtfully, “that men sometimes have strange notions about what will impress a woman?”

[p.11]“Well, I’m sure women have odd ideas about what impresses a man, too,” I said.

He sighed. “You say tomato. We say tomato. It’s a wonder that our two species ever communicate.”

“I know,” I agreed. “It’s just like talking to the dolphins.”

He stared at me like I had suddenly seized my dinner fork and was busy combing my hair with it.

“You know how scientists spend all that time trying to figure out how to talk to dolphins because dolphins talk to each other in code?” I explained. “Well, it’s exactly like men and women.”

Guys.

Sometimes you have to hold up cue cards with great big letters, don’t you know.