for release May 4, 2001
by Melodie Davis
Recipes for Long Marriage: Valuing the Differences
I had the opportunity to catch a one-man comedy show that had the longest run on Broadway of any solo act, Rob Becker's "Defending the Caveman." No longer on Broadway, it now tours to different cities.
As you might expect with a title like that, the show looks at "typical" male (and female) behavior, but goes deeper to explore what makes men and women tick, why we are the way we are. Unexpectedly, it made me love and understand my hubby of 25 years even more.
Becker endears you to himself right away because he shuffles around stage in blue jeans and a T-shirt and doesn't have the typical incredible male actor's figure: he actually sports a bit of a gut. He strews dirty underwear all around him in a circle and notes how wives gradually take over all space in the house (such as cupboards and closets) so that the husband has no place left but the basement or garage.
He starts out trying to dispel the notion that men are jerks. For instance, he describes that men aren't really jerks when they negotiate something like who will get up and refill the bowl of potato chips while they're all watching TV. First guy: "I bought the chips." Second guy: "It's my bowl." Third guy, "I ate the chips," and so on. He explains that this is a ritual exchange that men understand completely and that works perfectly until a woman is present. Then when one guy says "I bought the chips" in excuse for not getting up to refill the bowl, the woman thinks, "What a jerk" (real word not suitable for a family paper).
He notes the differences between how men and women relate to their friends, as in greeting a friend after not seeing each other for a long time: She (to she with a hug): "Oh you're my oldest and dearest friend!" He (to he with a rough slap): "Hey, you still driving that piece of crap?" I had to think of my husband's own standard phone greeting to a dear friend of his that makes me cringe: "Hey, uglier than I am."
Beckwith encourages us that instead of judging the opposite sex according to your own way of thinking, just recognize the differences between men and women and don't take them personally. Men and women are different, come from different cultures if you will, but instead of being hostile toward each other, we should try to understand the other's culture and the other's language.
His premise is that it all started with the caveman: men are hunters and women are gatherers. In writing the show, Becker spent time informally studying anthropology, prehistory, psychology, sociology and mythology, although as one critic said, he doesn't necessarily portray absolute historical authenticity.
The hunter/gatherer motif reveals itself in modern man and woman's approach to shopping: men zero in on the target, while women frequently want to gather a whole lot of information before making a decision. As in most stereotyping, sometimes a particular description doesn't fit a particular couple; my husband is inclined to gather a whole lot of information before he makes a tool purchase. I'm the one who tires of shopping with him in those instances.
It is a great show for couples to see together because you feel more understanding of each other. One critic noted (and I observed this too), "Couples stroll out into the night afterward holding hands. You know there's going to be some serious snuggling going on when they get home."
"What blows me away is how touched people say they are," writes Becker about reactions to the show. "Many women have told me that, thanks to the show, they've fallen in love with their husbands all over again. Men have told me that the show explains them to their spouses in ways they've never quite been able to articulate before."
One critic felt that "ultimately Becker is a romantic, looking back to an impossible past in which men and women honored each other." Well I guess I'm a romantic too but I think this idea of "honoring" comes close to being an explicitly Christian teaching and a helpful value for our society too. (Be warned that the show is not Christian and may be offensive to some in its casual use of language.)
Men and women honoring each other reminds me of the scripture verse in Romans 12: 10: "Love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor." If we believe men are jerks, it becomes easy to stop loving them, and start doubting ourselves. Was I really so dumb as to marry a jerk?
So anything that helps men and women understand, honor and love each other goes a long way towards helping marriages succeed.
For a free booklet "Creating a More Loving Marriage," write to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from a number of organizations including the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three growing daughters.
NOTES TO EDITORS: text = 775 words; end material = 105 words
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