“To be, or not to be– That is the question.”
As this famous phrase spoken by Prince Hamlet was, in fact, spoken by Hamlet, a man, and not by Ophelia, a woman, there was only one (solitary) question. Were Ophelia to have asked the question, it would have been followed by several other questions, dozens of questions, swooping in from darkened skies like leather-winged harpies, and then shadowed by hundreds more, each spawning crawling legions of new questions, and each of those, eyeless, clawed and fanged, tugging at the puffy trousers that Hamlet wore like sunken-faced starving, mutant orphans. It’s no wonder he was considering offing himself.
In fact, and I may be breaking the ‘man code’ in confessing this publicly if any women might happen to read this, but many men consider ending it. For instance, when shopping for tools in the hardware store, we might be seen thumping a hammer’s head into the palm of our hand. To a female onlooker, we’re considering its multiple uses, its utility in building new things, or in the fixing the broken things that we’ve been asked numerous times to fix. But any male onlooker knows– we’re also testing its suitability to render ourselves unconscious if the questions should start, or resume, or increase in velocity. During particularly inquisitive durations with one’s significant other, many a man has asked himself the same (solitary) question.
“To be, or not to be? ..and maybe I need a bigger hammer.”
History tells us that Van Gogh cut off his ear to give to a prostitute, a twisted gift of a love, limitless. We men know better. He was hoping she’d keep asking questions into his abandoned ear, unaware that he’d slipped away on tiptoes to a quiet hillside to finally get some painting done. I’m betting she figured out the ruse quickly and then hunted him down when he failed to nod, or to answer. This, of course, resulted in more questions. Still, it was worth a try, and someone had to go first. Now the rest of us men know that even dismemberment doesn’t help, and we won’t bother trying that one. Thanks, Vinny.
Some lesser-known historical texts have also speculated that without an ear, Vincent simply couldn’t hear the questions anymore. Perhaps DaVinci wasn’t the only genius of the past millennium.
Now, men have questions too; we’ve a natural curiosity– within the limits of our universe of thought, though these are questions of a different sort.
“Why won’t this damned lawnmower start?”
“Who invented grass, anyway, and why weren’t they shot?”
“What the hell is wrong with the Phillies this season?”
“Did you pick up some more beer, lovey-dear?”
These are questions that don’t really require answers, except the beer question, and in fact, like most questions, are better left unanswered. We didn’t really want to mow the lawn anyway. Now we can pop the top on a cold one instead, sit on the couch, and bitch about those miserable Phillies as they miss the catch, both at first and at home plate, up on the wide screen– at least until the real questions start again.
Not only do we men not have many questions, we also don’t have many answers. More accurately, we don’t have the right answers, or answers that are clearly understood. Over hundreds of centuries, our gender has learned that no answer we might provide, no matter how thoughtful or well-articulated, and not even if we use colorful charts or Power-Point presentations, nor if we utilize emphatic gesticulations, is ever accepted. So, we have our ways of avoiding answering altogether. It’s a losing game to do otherwise. Much like the hare, camouflaged, hides in the brush from the hawk, as she circles hungrily overhead, we have learned to evade the gleaming-black-talon questions asked of us. It’s a knowledge passed down in our genes, like the instinct to protect our delicate testicles. We are simply born knowing of risk and vulnerability, and the first strike to the groin, no matter how slight, or the first question volleyed, is a sage reminder that primal wisdom should not be ignored, nor questioned.
We’ve developed various strategies for avoiding answers, knowing that each answer given will only bring more questions. Though some strategies have proven better than others, which one to employ at which time really depends on the severity and context of the situation.
We can, like Vincent, or Beethoven, just pretend not to hear. This, unless really missing an ear, or truly deaf, won’t work for long, and can only be used effectively in situations where it won’t be challenged, like in public, but that’s a big maybe. The hope here is that the question will be forgotten, drifting off, gray and forsaken, to the place where questions go to die. Again, this doesn’t usually work. Questions, like regrets, are immortals.
In some situations, we can utilize the ’emergency contingency’. This strategy, when cornered by questions pointed at the throat and threatening our tender loins like shining spears, is to invent an emergency. For instance, screaming, “Fire! Fire! Run for your lives!!” and then fleeing the area. Being able to run for long distances is imperative before trying this. There’s nothing worse than being caught crawling at the end of the driveway to a house which is, decidedly, not on fire, left panting, clutching your stabbing-pain chest, and then still being questioned anyway as you lay there, likely dying. It’s been noted that, assuming you make it past the driveway, this one works best if you have no intention of ever returning.
In lieu of any other strategy that is 100% effective, most men play dumb. This is an art, not a fact. We act as cretins, not because we are cretins, but because it works. If we feel a question coming on, or if we see a full infantry division of them coming over the hill, bloody bayonets raised, we can easily circumvent the situation by doing something cretinous, like belching loudly, passing gas audibly, or scratching ourselves whilst making satisfied, bestial, groaning sounds. No woman alive, or any ever having been alive previously, has ever wanted to stay around while any of the above was going on. If all three are performed simultaneously in a trifecta of audacious symphony, one can expect a few hours of ‘quiet time’ while she goes out shopping. Hey, maybe the game is on.