Literally My Last Blog Entry On The Word "Literally"

Yesterday, I Tweeted this:

Which caused many to label me a “prescriptivist,” informing me that I can be a fussy stick-in-the-mud while they will rejoice in the way language evolves.
One wonders how they’ll respond when, via the exact same mechanisms, the OED defines “gay” as “stupid” and “embarrassing.”
The truth is, I’m not a member of your language gang wars.  On the whole, I think it’s fascinating and wonderful how language is a living entity, not really controlled by any single person, this sort of floating, mutating mass of information hovering over all of us.  The words “twerking” and “photobomb,” yes, should appear in dictionaries.  Nor am I the sort of person who grits his teeth when someone says “should of,” as though it’s blatantly incorrect it’s one of those language shifts that simply happens.  I think it makes you look dim at this point in time, and encourage you heartily to use language that makes you look smarter, but I’d wager in a century or two it’ll be a widely-accepted thing.
If you truly believe that language should never evolve, then why aren’t you speaking Chaucerian English?  No.  What you’re doing, as Stephen Fry correctly pointed out, is taking the language you were made comfortable by and attempting to freeze it in time.  And as I correctly pointed out in one of my first-ever entries, The Stupid Always Win; you literally cannot fight the evolution if enough people start using it their way.  Language is determined by mass usage, not some book or college course, and if you don’t find that fascinating then I don’t know what you do find fascinating.
Just because language does evolve doesn’t always mean it’s correct to evolve.
As I said in my essay previously, “This is, incidentally, why the PC obsession with language is a complete balls-up. It doesn’t matter whether you call someone a ‘Negro’ or an ‘African-American’ or a ‘people of color’ – if enough redneck hicks stand on the corner sneering, “Hey! Person’a Coler! Go backter Africa where y’came from!” the term will become a slur no matter how well-intentioned it is. Many of the terms we use to insult women today – like ‘whore,’ for example – started out as referring to high-bred and respectable ladies, and slid. Language works back-to-front, not front-to-back.”
(I was wrong about “whore,” incidentally.  It started out as “lover.”  Still, my point remains.)
And in the case of “literally,” it is literally the only convenient word to mean “this factually happened.”  Yes, even such greats as Mark Twain misused it on occasion.  Yes, it’s been sliding since the very day it was introduced.  Yet the reason I object to the term being used is not because I am a language snob, but because I am a language snob.  I object not because I don’t believe language should change, but because without literally we’re bereft of a common word that does the same job, and are instead reduced to saying stupid things like, “No, I mean literally literally.”
Getting rid of literally in the exclusive sense of “literal” is like getting rid of peanut butter.  Oh, maybe you can find almond butter somewhere on in the dusty back shelves of your grocery store, but it’s inconvenient to find and it doesn’t taste quite the same.
As such, I reject the paradigm that loving language means loving all of language’s shifts.  I do not have to rubber-stamp every evolution.  Some of those changes make for more awkward vagueness, and to those changes, I am opposed.  Some of them, like the usage of “gay” to mean “dumb,” draw ugly parallels, and to them I am opposed.
Others have also argued that merely being defined in the OED doesn’t mean anything.  I argue it does.  If I tell you, “I am afraid of the dog,” and by “dog” I mean “nuclear holocaust,” then when people misunderstand me you’ll tell me that really, it’s my fault.  And it is.  But if I were to point you to a dictionary and show you that indeed, a common alternate meaning of “dog” was “nuclear holocaust,” you’d feel as though you were at fault for being sufficiently uneducated.  (You might also think me pretentious for using such arcane terminology, and you might be correct.  But you wouldn’t call me wrong.)
Being used commonly enough to make it into the OED is, in fact, a stamp of legitimacy.  I’m not saying that the OED should not so stamp it; the OED’s job is to describe the language, not define it.  But it’s like watching George W. Bush elected twice; I can agree that this should happen at the same time I lament it.
And lastly, some were distressed by the fact that I will think less of you if you use it in this new and more-authorized fashion.  They didn’t like the judgment.  I’ll remind them that they’re free to judge me in turn for being snobby or callous or thoughtless; in fact, every time I post, I am in fact encouraging you to pass judgment on me one way or another.  That’s pretty much what public writing is.  If I post a poorly-thought-out entry and you think, “Gee, he really should have thought twice before posting such misogynistic drivel,” I’d argue you should think less of me for presenting myself poorly.  Likewise, I’ll think a little less of you should you use the language in a way I think isn’t thoughtful.
If this distresses you, I am a pudgy balding depressive neurotic man with attention issues, and I will remind you that my opinion is eminently dismissable.  I’ll also remind you that a few hours with a Google search could probably find numerous examples where I myself have used the term “literally” in a way I find abhorrent.
Yes.  I do think less of myself for lapsing on those occasions.   Yet somehow I live.  “Thinking less” is not “dismissing entirely,” and we can remain friends.  You’ll just bug me whenever you do that.  But that is literally what friends do.

Moral Imperatives

Yesterday, a spirited conversation broke out in my comments about whether it’s right for a politician to act against the moral will of his constituents.  If the people want something they consider moral, and the politician doesn’t vote for that, shouldn’t the politician step down?
My take remains the same: I elect a guy because I want him to be smarter than I am.  And after that, I gotta trust that he’s balancing morality against pragmatism.
My personal lesson on that was the first Iraq war, way back in 1991.
Now, I was not for either Iraq war – but once we invaded and trounced Saddam Hussein’s army in an almost embarrassing spectacle, there were a lot of people saying, “Roll into the capital!  Topple Saddam!  Finish the job!”  And Bush – the first and wiser Bush – rolled up to the gates, and then withdrew, leaving Saddam Hussein in power.
There were a lot of people upset about this.  I mean, shit, we had a dictator who’d gassed his own goddamned people!  How could we just walk away, leaving a bloodthirsty maniac in charge?  We’re literally on his doorstep!  And a lot of people were pissed off, because morally, the choice was clear: what kind of a man would choose to keep a tyrant propped on the throne?
As we all know, Bush the first was a one-term President.  A lot of that was his raising taxes, but some significant portion was his refusal to do the satisfying thing, and the moral thing, by refusing to pull the trigger on Iraq’s evil bits when he had the shot.
As we all also know, thanks to his dumber son, things weren’t nearly that simple.  Yes, we could – and did! – remove a tyrant.  But removing that cork meant all the sectarian tensions in the area were suddenly unleashed, creating a wave of bloody infighting that killed roughly 125,000 civilians.  Admittedly, we did a really bad job of actually preparing for that tension, but I think even if we’d planned and executed the transition well, we’d still have had tens of thousands of people dead.  And, of course, Iraq’s only now starting to recover.  And, of course, other dictators have had more breathing room because America has had to pour a lot of resources into Iraq and really can’t threaten war the way we used to.
Which is not to say there’s not a case to be made for toppling Saddam, who killed hundreds of thousands of people as well.  But too many people at the time saw getting rid of Saddam as “Oh my God, it’s so simple, why wouldn’t you?” They (and I!) saw it as a stupidly easy snap-call, like just calling in the exterminator, and watching Bush as he made the call to just pull up stakes and leave was highly frustrating.  But Bush, who paid attention to world politics in a way he rarely gets credit for, realized what a snakepit it would be trying to set up our own government there, and decided that it would kill a lot of people and not be particularly effective.
History seems to indicate that he had a point.
And my point is that a lot of voters – including you – get pissed because things seem so simple that they become black and white: “This is clearly the only responsible thing to do, and my God, how dare the guy I elected contradict my desires?  This isn’t just politics, it’s a clear moral imperative!”  And I believe, as with most things, that the world is full of ugly grays, our power is more limited than we’d ever want to believe, and more often than not one guy’s moral imperative is a stupid oversimplification that’s going to get us all into trouble.  The Tea Party is a very simple party with very simple needs, and things are very clear to them.  And actually, I find that’s what makes them as dangerous as they are: that inflexible set of demands backed by a moral outrage.
Me?  I’ll go to Obama again.  I wanted single-payer.  I was outraged when, because the benefits of single-payer were so ridiculously clear to me, that Obama didn’t fight for it.  And his refusal to go to the mat for it felt, at the time, very much like a betrayal of the principles that I elected him for.  But Obama had access to all sorts of polls I never saw, and knew what sorts of opposition he’d face in Congress and from the insurance companies and from the medical companies, and I’m willing to admit that while I think pushing for a single-payer system was the clear and righteous thing to do, the vastly-flawed Obamacare may have been the only thing that he could have actually gotten through as legislation.
In other words, Obama may have decided that my moral imperative was actually not doable, and decided to enact the best available solution, even if that solution is in many ways crappy and unsatisfying and flawed.  Kind of like walking away from Saddam.  And so I am suspicious when people tell me that the job of their elected officials should be a rubber stamp, because frankly I don’t think “reading whatever articles that seem interesting on Twitter” qualifies me to make decisions to run my home town, let alone the entire country.
I think elected officials, if they’re doing their job right, will be liars.  Because they’ll promise one thing from the campaign trail, and then discover new and ugly and very unsatisfying facts.  And all you can do is hope that your guy was the guy he said he was, and vote him out if you really don’t like him.
Which means that, like Bush, quite often measured wisdom and forethought will mean getting booted out.  Which is something to ponder.

When Are You Worse Than A Bigot?

Jim Wheeler, Nevada lawmaker, said that he’d vote for slavery if his constituents wanted it.
But, he adds, “There is absolutely no room in my life for any bigotry.”  He’s not a bigot.  He just believes very strongly that he has to do the will of the people, and if those people want slavery, well, he’d hold his nose and vote for slavery.
So no, Jim.  You’re not a bigot.  You’re worse.  You’re a spineless man who knows better, and yet is so desperate to retain power that you’ll actively do the wrong thing rather than resign.  Or, you know, vote against it.  You’re the kind of scummy, thin-water politician who lets all kinds of dumb-ass horrors happen because, “Hey, the people want it!”  As if a mere collection of votes created justice.
I know we venerate “the people” in America.  And Democracy is a fine thing.  But too often, the majority wants stupid and selfish things, and it’s the job of politicians to get in their goddamned way.  This is why politicians are often not popular; their electorate wants magic, simple solutions, and the real answers are generally dissatisfying compromises and long-term struggles against herculean opposition.  So good politicians, even effective ones, are often hated.
(I want single-payer health care. Yet as I’ve seen the crazy opposition to the Republican-created, very insurance-company-friendly Obamacare, I start to think Obama knew exactly how unlikely it was he could have gotten us to a British system.  So I can hate on Obama, but there’s a damn good chance he was more in touch with reality than I was.)
If you’re nothing but a rubber stamp for your electorate, then no.  You’re not a bigot.  You’re just a channel to enact bigotry, creating more legalized hatred and despair than any one individual bigot, and you actually know better.
Not something to be proud of, Jim.  Not something to be proud of at all.

Numenera Write-Up, Session #4: The Qi Zeppelin Disaster

The initial goal of my Numenera campaign was to run it entirely on pregenerated modules. I’m writing novels, I said.  I don’t have the brainspace to dedicate to a campaign, I said.  I’ll just run it out of the book, I said.
No, my Numenera campaign has catapulted off the rails and into a full-blown saga, as I am wont to do, and now I’m using that writer-brainspace to design a Numenera module.  My brain hates me.
But here’s the thing: I believe GMing is an art.  And I think writeups of how an adventure went are often helpful to other GMs – kind of like tournament reports in Magic, where a well-done summary of the day’s events can show you how to be a better GM.  For years, I did this for my Planescape campaign, rehashing the plot and discussing what did or did not work, and since Numenera is such a new system, it’s kind of exciting to discuss how to be not just a better GM, but a better GM in Numenera.
So.  What happened?
In the last session, I dropped the hammer: the players discovered that the Iron Wind was actually a computer system gone berserk.  At one point, in one of the previous empires, the Iron Wind was actually a nanotechnology cloud that was everywhere, attending like genies to whoever asked – conjuring delicious food out of mid-air, genetically reconfiguring people’s bodies so that they could fly to the heights of the stratosphere or delve to the depths of the ocean, and always keeping records of their bodies so they could be reconstituted if they died.
Then something happened to it, and the Iron Wind went rogue.  Now it sweeps across the Ninth World in nightmarish nano-storms, dismantling things at random, reassembling them into worse configurations.  But if it could be repaired, then maybe everyone destroyed by the Iron Wind could be resurrected.
That was the not-so-subtle way of saying to the players: Here is your end goal.  Then, as they were wondering how they might actually accomplish this, a heavily-armored woman made of glass stepped through a dimensional rift and into the room and said, “I’m sorry.  You weren’t supposed to find that out.  Now, you have to die.”
That was the not-so-subtle way of saying to the players: Here is your end boss.
The glass woman (level 6) used all kinds of dimensional-warping tricks on the players (spurred by GM interventions), and I was pleased to see that my players were clever enough to almost take her down.  The Numenera book says that a level 6 opponent is a near-unbeatable challenge, but they did chip away at her through strong rolls and good tactics.  But in the end, I had my final GM Intervention: she waved her hand, disgusted, and said, “Just die” and teleported them up all 20,000 feet up in the air.
And that’s where we began this session.
I let the players attempt to save themselves, and they seemed appropriately panicked as they realized just how far up they were, and how little chance they had.  They weren’t even near each other, as the glass woman had separated them.
I stressed that they’d never seen this view of the land, as everywhere they’d ever been before they’d gotten to by walking or riding; flying was some crazy dream.  Which, I think, is part of good Numenera GMing; you want to remind the players that really, most of the world is still very much stuck in medieval technology, even if they are constantly exploring scientific ruins.  I think that sort of thing helps keep the wonder alive.
My players gave their “falling” their best shot: our Explores Dark Depths Jack figured out how to steer a little, the Clever Jack made some wings with a Hearth Magic, and the Barbarian just prayed.  None of them particularly worked; in terminal velocity, the wings shredded, and steering was aiming our Jack at a nearby body of water.
Then blue streaks started to zip past them.  Rexx, steering desperately, realized that someone was trying to target them with something as they plummeted – he got glimpses of hardwood floors, brass rails, and electricity in the middle of it.  Eventually, he dove into one…
…and wound up in a tank of some sort filled with a hundred smaller dimensional rifts that bled off his momentum.
Here’s one trick I did as a GM: I put the camera exclusively on Rexx while he tried to save himself, as he was the most agile, and let the other players watch as they tried to figure out what the hell they would do when their turn came up.  Then, when Rexx was rescued, I told them that he saw their characters in the tanks next to him.  Which is a nice short-hand; I think other GMs might have played it out three times in a row, but when the end result has to be “Your PCs are saved by a stranger,” then handwaving that the exact same thing happened to the other guys is a good way of building tension and then breaking it.
The stranger turned out to be a an elderly woman with a long gray braid, dressed in the starry cloak that symbolizes a member of the Order of Truth.  She apologized for not being able to save their friend (i.e., the player who’d had to, quite literally, drop out of the campaign), and then they all compared notes.
I hate the comparing notes meetings.
In the beginning, it’s usually hard for the players to know who to trust, or who to swap information with; some generally share freely, but there’s always a couple who are like, “Do we want this person to know this thing?”  Which is often quite warranted – especially when the last time you learned this information, a glass woman teleported in and killed at least one of your party.  So when you meet the initial NPCs, there’s often a lot of dancing around what sort of information you should give and what they know, and so forth.
What I always do in a campaign is try to give the players a couple of people who you can unreservedly trust.  Other NPCs may have mixed motivations, but providing them with a “base character” or two to ask for advice when they’re not sure what to do has turned out to be invaluable; quite often, the players will squabble, and you really can’t do anything as a GM because you don’t have a legitimate voice.  A couple of close allies allows you to shape the debate, turning them away from dead-ends or truncating tedious conversations, and as such – while Lexa will eventually become an ally – at first, it’s pretty forced.
But compare notes they did, and Lexa eventually revealed that as someone who studies dimension-folding, she’d seen flashes from this glass woman – who she calls Glyssa – but nobody Glyssa had ever hunted down before had survived.  The players revealed that Glyssa seemed to be acting out of some warped nobility – that by killing anyone who knew the secret of the Iron Wind, she was acting for the greater good.  (“The greater good.”)  Lexa then suggested that as a member of the Order of Truth, she could take them to the Amber Pope and perhaps the Order of Truth had some further knowledge about both the Iron Wind and what this Glyssa might be doing.
Medium-term plot: accepted.
At which point Lexa revealed that:
a)  They were not dining in a room.  They were dining in a great zeppelin, two thousand feet above the ground.
b)  The zeppelin was a living creature called “Beulah.”  c)  Did they want to learn how to pilot Beulah?
The piloting scene wasn’t planned, but the players were a little frustrated after all the “So what should we do next?” and so I decided it was time for fun and games.  So we had a few nice days where Lexa taught the PCs how to fly a great living zeppelin – going up on top of her inflatable body to drink wine and watch the sunset, scrubbing Beulah’s body to rid her of mold (which also has the benefit of petting her), discovering what happens when you piss Beulah off (she tends to drop ballast and drop you five feet at the worst times).
And there was a nice scene where they were drinking wine and Lexa got to discuss what I see as one of the key aspects of Numenera: ecological damage.  To her, this world had once been beautiful, but there – she pointed down – was a black mold from some other planet that was destroying a forest, and there was a group of pallones that were driving out the native creatures, and there were some dimensional foldings from wayward technology that was hurting the air.  The Ninth World is the scraps and leavings of great cultures, and with the wonders left behind are also messes that no one is quite sure how to clean up.
The players were quite surprised to find that the old empires spanned galaxies, and that some of the empires weren’t even human.  “Why don’t they come back?” they asked.  “What happened?”
“Maybe they collapsed,” Lexa said.  “Maybe they don’t think we’re worth talking to any more.  Maybe they’ve forgotten us.”
“Man, I am gonna be so sad when this NPC dies,” said Jerry.  Which is good.  That meant I got the players in her camp.
But as that conversation wound down, the alarm bells went off.  A horde of small, metallic flying things were scanning the top of Beulah.  Rexx and Rena went up to investigate; Raven, who had determined she was not going up top ever, stayed below with the sole parachute.  The small flying things scanned Rexx and Rena, then zoomed in and targeted their eyes and –
What I had told the players before was to make sure they knew what their characters’ worst moment was, and now they figured out why.  I started with Rena, who had lost her sister to the Iron Wind: as the bug flashed her eyes, she was back on that day, and I asked.  “So what were you doing with your sister on the last day she was alive?”  Christy said they were playing tag.  And of course, as a very evil GM, I said that her sister was hard to tag – she was athletic, had the same lanky genes that Rena did, was clearly going to grow up to be one hell of a warrior.  And her sister tackled her when it was obvious she couldn’t escape, and then said:
“I made you a present.”
She took out a ring of daisies.  “Here,” she said.  “I’m making you Queen of the World.”
And that’s when the Iron Wind hit.  Rena tried to save her sister, picking her up and running away, but no; she would forever remember tripping, seeing her sister sprawl to the ground, the Iron Wind howling around her as it turned her lungs to diamond.  She remembered her sister turning blue, choking out the last of her life – but instead of dying, her sister instead said, “This would never have happened if you had prettier hair.  You need a better shampoo.  You need Lustrin – ”
And WHAM, they’re back on the ship.  Take 4 Intellect damage and you need, need to buy some Lustrin.
These mini-flashbacks were mostly effective, though Rena’s was by far the best; I didn’t sit down with Jerry as much to map out Rexx’s tragedy, so that was a little freeform and not as emotionally impactful, and floundered a little.  But the Odfreys were fearful; you could kill them in a single blow, but sucking Intelligence by revealing bad memories made the players hate them.  If you’re going to do something like this (and these guys will appear in the module I’m writing), I’ll have some better idea of how to frame a mini-flashback.
Rena, enraged, smashed two of the Odfreys in one shot, and they exploded, sending white-hot showers of metal down onto Beulah.  Beulah lurched, and since Raven had opted to stay down in the cabin where it was safe, a GM Intrusion sent her falling out the windshield.
A furious combat ensued on top of the zeppelin, with GM Intrusions and notable events being:
a)  Rexx had a Wall of Fire, which he wanted to use to put a barrier between him and the Odfreys.  Fortunately, an intelligence check showed that putting a wall of fire on a rapidly moving airship meant that the wall of fire would impact them shortly.  He instead dropped it behind the Odfreys so it swept past them, taking out four in one shot….
b)  But Beulah lurched at the last minute in a GM Intrusion, causing the wall of fire to burn the back of her body, causing a major leak.  Beulah was crashing.  Call for Speed rolls to not tumble off the roof.
c)  Another Intrusion meant a competing set of Odfreys arrived, blue instead of red, and immediately began fighting with each other for consumer dominance, fighting at each other with sweeps of vicious laser beams that, when dodged, tore up Beulah’s surface more.
d)  Raven fell out of the window and was attacked by an Odfrey flashback, but rolled a 20 on her recovery and managed to use the memory of her dead wife in an “I want to LIVE!” moment that let her scramble up onto the deck.
e)  Another GM Intrusion set fire to the ladder she was crawling on.  Still another had Rexx tumble through a flap in the Beulah’s roof and so he tumbled down into her body and had to rescue himself.
f)  Raven worked her Who Works Miracles angle to try to heal Beulah, aided with a little assistance from Bob the Cypher-Friend.
In the end, after a spectacularly chaotic combat, with Beulah only about 700 feet off the ground, Lexa – who had been calling up “What’s going on?” and not one PC had ever answered her – decided to use her dimensional technology to warp Beulah to a safer location.  The ship glowed blue, shimmered, and vanished.
Leaving all the players 700 feet up in empty air, with only one parachute between them.
Next session, please.
As usual, I’m quite pleased by Numenera’s mechanics, although there were four things I learned:
1)  Considering Numenera is usually so good about avoiding needless busywork, the “Might per hour” cost for armor just strikes me as a lot of remembering when someone put on or off their armor.  That’s a lot of bookkeeping that I, as a GM, don’t like.
2)  I thought getting another level of Effort was the slam-dunk easy choice to make when levelling, but Jerry proved that an Edge of 2 is still really quite good.  So go Monte and Shanna for providing balanced mechanics!
3)  Having damage come off the Intelligence track is terrifying for most people.  Once they get used to managing Might, having something attack another stat was just something that sent them flying.
4)  Players can, in theory, heal 1d6+1 to a pool by taking an action… but in no combat run thus far has anyone had a spare action to take.  Maybe I run combats too chaotically, but I’m always keeping the players busy so that they’re fending off a foe or something.  Not sure if that’s my style or just a purposeful rule to ensure that recovering points in combat has a cost.

The Kind Of Guy (Or Girl) You Shouldn't Date

It’s been hard, figuring out what movies I’ll like, now that Roger Ebert is dead. It’s not that Roger Ebert was the best critic ever; it was that I’d read him for years, and I knew what he liked, and could compensate for that.
Roger had a hard-on for slow foreign films, and really didn’t know much about good science fiction. (Aliens gets two stars, but Escape From LA gets three and a half? Oh, Roger.) So when I went to read a Roger Ebert review, I could go, “He’s turned off by excessive gore,” and could use his biases to triangulate my preferences.
Likewise, if you’re silly enough to take relationship advice from me, I figure you gotta compensate a little. I’ve got my own biases, and God forbid you swallow my thoughts wholesale. You gotta integrate ’em.
And here’s a bias I think you should be really clear on:
I don’t think someone who sees the opposite sex as a foreign entity is worth dating.
This came up when some women responded to my essay, “When Should I Have Sex With Him?,” saying that if you wanted a long-term relationship, then my advice of “Just having sex when you felt like it” was too simple. (Which, of course, it is.) They said that some guys assume that women who have sex on the first date don’t want a serious relationship, and as such sometimes you have to hold off a few dates just to give them the right impression.
But here’s my take: a guy who just assumes that your first-date sexings mean you’re not serious, and then walks away, falls into one of two categories:
1) He wasn’t actually that interested.
2) He was that interested, but is so certain that “women” act that way that he won’t even bother to ask you what you think.
And guy #2 is the guy, to my lights, who you want to stay away from at all times. Because he’s already shown you that he’s willing to prioritize his impressions ofyour entire sex over you, and chances are should you break past this and rope him in, well, he’s going to do it again. You aren’t a person: you’re a woman, and clearly all of this 50% of the population act in lockstep so consistently that he doesn’t even need to check for variance.
That’s gonna bite you in the ass in all sorts of ways. You’re not just going to break the ice once and then he’ll see you as a unique individual from now on; no, chances are pretty good he’ll assume you do whatever his preconception of “women” does and make some pretty disastrous assumptions based on that.
So if that guy walks away after sex? Good riddance. I don’t think it would have worked out well, because right off the bat he’s shown he doesn’t see you as a Person first – he sees you as a Woman.
And you see (lowercase-w) women doing that, too, assuming that “guys do this” and “guys do that” and never asking the guy what the hell it is he wants because hell, who understands men? They’re looking at men as some sort of herd animal, as though a penis means they all do X and want Y.
And that’s not to say that a lot of guys don’t act in similar ways. Demographically speaking, football appeals more to men, clothes shopping appeals more to women. But there are exceptions to every rule – and if someone’s dating you and looking to the rule first and then you, just going “HEY ALL YOU CHICKS LOVE SHOPPING” and sending you to the mall, that hardly ever works out well when applied to the ten thousand different things a lover needs in a relationship.
Hey. Some couples get along well in their separate worlds – I find it to be almost barbarically old-style, that 1940s sitcom attitude of “men live in this world, women live in this one, and neither really understand the other” – but they don’t seem like happy relationships to me, but rather a set of armed camps who’ve negotiated an acceptable truce.
No. My bias is this: you want a partner who doesn’t ever go, “Women! Am I right?” And you want a partner who doesn’t ever go, “Who understands men?” You want a partner who understands that men and women both operate from a set of mostly-rational priorities, and who sees the differences between you not as a result of them being a certain gender, but as a result of differing experiences and priorities.
More importantly: You want to be that kind of partner who doesn’t short-hand differences by shoeboxing them into a gender. You want to treat every person you’re with as someone to be checked in with frequently, so you can determine what they actually like.
You want someone who sees women as a bunch of differing people, and is not going to make dumb-ass assumptions based on Women that he acts on.
That’s controversial, I’m sure. But that’s my Ebert Bias. You may disagree. If you do, I heartily encourage you to apply that filter to all my future writings. Thank you.