Who Da Man?

I can’t remember the last time someone asked me who the man was in our relationship.  These days, it’s understood that a question like that is impolite at the very least.  That’s not to say that people don’t wonder in the privacy of their own brains.

“Hmm, Gabriella works outside the home, and Deborah is the primary caregiver.   Clearly, Gabriella is the man.”  “Yes, but Gabriella is the nurturing, Italian mother who cooks all the meals for the family, and Deborah is a first-born ENTJ who thinks foreplay is overrated.  Me thinks she wears the proverbial pants.”  “They both wear lipstick, and neither one of them has short, cropped hair or has ever played rugby.  Could it be that they are both ‘the woman’?  Wait, how does that work?”

I don’t blame anyone for having these conversations in their heads.  I know I make all sorts of reflex assumptions about a person within the first few seconds of meeting them.  I keep them to myself while I gather information and weed through details in order to make a more educated judgment, though a judgment nonetheless.  I’m guilty of classifying my fellow humans.  What can I say?  I’m classy.

We can’t help pigeonholing, categorizing and generalizing.  It’s what we do to make life simpler.  What we do with the assumptions we make depends on how open we are to consider exceptions and how comfortable we are with shades of gray and how inclined we are to allow for complexities.   Even more challenging is our willingness to be wrong.

Shoving people in boxes is also how we empathize.  If we understand why someone is the way they are, we are less likely to take someone’s behavior personally. “Ah, you’re a first-born!  That explains why you are so bossy.”  “I understand you’re Gemini.  Now I know that you can’t help but be superficial.”  “I should have known you were Jewish by the constant complaining!”  If you believe that there are uncontrollable circumstances that define a person’s manner, you can forgive that person their differences and resist taking their behaviors personally. *I used myself as an example in order to be self-deprecating as opposed to insulting to any other first-born, Gemini Jews.

I don’t need to explain the downside of said boxification.  While we do our best to make sense of the world and understand other people, we invariably create limited truths that prevent us from accepting, celebrating or investigating differences.  It’s the lack of curiosity that upsets me the most – when it simply does not occur to us to question our own assumptions.


A same-sex couple is not a heterosexual couple in drag.  Your son is not gay just because he likes to wear dresses.  And, Jews don’t always whine.  I mean, you did read this post in an earnest tone in a low register, right? I’m not complaining, you realize.  It is human nature to assess and assume.  I’m simply asking that we challenge those snap judgments – even in in the privacy of our own minds. I’m asking and not telling because I don’t want to seem bossy.


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