The Pig Picture
Are all guys who aren't gay gross slobs? So often, when a guy's invited me over after the second or third date, I've discovered such a disgusting disaster area that I wish I'd worn hip-high wading boots. The specifics: dirty, wadded-up towels on the floor, a week's worth of dirty dishes in the sink, decades of crud on the fixtures, and a bathroom so vile that I put off using it until my bladder's ready to burst. Do guys simply not see this stuff? Do they see it and just not care? And does it not occur to them that a woman might be turned off by such slovenliness and filth?
-- Totally Repulsed
It isn't that guys don't notice the filth, it just takes them a little longer -- like until the crud impedes access to the bathroom or the fuzz on the dishes evolves to the point where it hisses at the dog.
Now, not every straight guy is a slob, and not every gay guy is fastidious, but there's a reason the TV hit was "Queer Eye For The Straight Guy" and not "Straight Eye For The Queer Guy" -- the home makeover show to help all the gay men whose living spaces have been featured in "Architectural Digest." And, sure, there are squalor-dwelling chicks out there, but when a woman apologizes for her "disaster area" it's likely she's telling you she's run out of color-coordinated Kleenex and forgotten to pick up fresh flowers.
Because many women can't imagine that a man would think differently than they do (thanks, in part, to the toxic mold that is radical feminism) they often take it personally when a man invites them into what looks to be a one-bedroom/one-bath Petri dish decorated in a landfill motif. The perceived insult may be magnified if he's a guy who typically looks shaved and bathed, and like he picked his clothes out at a department store, not out of a dumpster. I mean, jeez, in honor of your presence, couldn't he have at least hosed the place down?
The truth is, as you suspected, straight guys just don't have the filth and disarray vision that women and gay men do. Studies show gay men's attention to environmental detail is similar to that of straight women, but in general, "the female brain takes in more sensory data than does the male," writes brain researcher Michael Gurian in "What Could He Be Thinking?" How much more visual detail does the female brain take in? Well, in an object recall test by York University psychologists Irwin Silverman and Marion Eals, women remembered the name and placement of 70 percent more items than the men did. At that rate, it shouldn't come as a surprise if a guy doesn't notice the dog hair, beer cans, and Taco Bell wrappers -- at least, not until they start blocking his view of the game.
Men can be obsessive about detail, explains Gurian, but their mental and visual attention is usually single-minded and achievement-oriented. Gurian gives the example of a man's meticulousness in building a model ship in a tiny glass bottle. "He is focused on doing whatever it takes to succeed in reaching his goal," but in his day-to-day life, "he doesn't experience the mess in the house as a challenge over which to triumph." (There's still hope somebody will come up with a Pro-Am tournament of housekeeping.)
According to Silverman, Eals, and other researchers, a guy's tendency to let his home become a pizza crust wilderness refuge probably traces back to our hunter-gatherer past. Men's current visual and attentional strengths correspond to what would've made them successful hunters: the distance vision and mental focus needed to track and bring home dinner -- instead of being eaten by what was supposed to be dinner. Women's superior peripheral vision and ability to process detail would've helped them spot the family's favorite edible plants in a big tangle of vegetation -- while making sure the children weren't playing in wildebeest traffic.
Culture or training may mitigate the modern man's natural crud-blindness. My German friend Thomas, for example, can be awakened from a deep sleep by a lone crumb in the middle of the counter. If you're a clean freak, find a guy like him. Otherwise, if a guy's a slob, but a quality slob, maybe resign yourself to living alone and having him come over to your place. If you must live with him, keep in mind that he probably isn't leaving a trail of trash because he's a bad guy, but simply because he's a guy. To keep the peace, hire a good cleaning person -- hard to find but nowhere near as scarce as really great men you click with. When you find one, why let a little thick, green bacteria keep you apart?
Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, No. 280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com.
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