Sharing Information

Tonight I stopped into Presti’s, a comfortable café in Cleveland’s Little Italy with good food, to pick up some takeout after my late-afternoon class. A bunch of older men were sitting together at a big table, hanging out and talking.

“Guess how many hot dogs that company sells a year?”one said to the others.

“Just at the stadium, or all over?” someone asked.

“All over,” he answered. “All their sales put together.”

Someone guessed, and then the man cited the real figure, some astronomical number in the millions. Incredulity all around.

Then the first man posed another question: “How much guacamole do you think they sell?”

Same basic conversation. Low-ball estimates followed by the man’s astounding real figure. Eight billion tons, or something like that.

I smiled at the young woman waiting on me and asked, “Are those guys in here all the time?” She said yes, pretty much every day, and smiled back.

They were kind of loud but not obnoxious. They were affable, cheerful, and good-natured. Enjoying themselves.

What I was thinking was that I have never experienced a conversation like that with a group of women. I have been in plenty of conversations with men exactly like that, sometimes at home with my husband and son. What’s the highest mountain in Europe? What’s the most populous city in whatever country? Where’s the deepest lake? How much guacamole does a particular company sell every year?

This is how men talk about sports. They compare what they know about statistics and careers.

I call this “sharing information,” and, I repeat, I have never been in a conversation like this with women. A woman might say that Mexico City is the most populous city in the Western Hemisphere, and the others agree or disagree briefly, and then we move on. It’s a fact, it can be checked, and there’s nothing more (from our point of view) to say about it.

I first noticed this gender-related conversation style when waiting out the conversations my husband has with other film buffs after movies.

What else did that guy direct? Did he win an Oscar for that one or the other one? Did you ever see his first movie? How many has he made?

Somebody may, at some point, mention liking the first movie or the last movie or the guacamole, and someone else might concur. But pretty soon it gets back to the sharing of information. Did that other movie come out in 1994 or 1995?

I do not mean this as criticism. The men in Presti’s today were enjoying themselves, and it was amusing to hear them. It’s certainly not my place to tell them what to talk about, but I did not want to join them. I want to exit those sports and film conversations. When my husband and son start batting back and forth some suggestions as to the relative land area of Minnesota and Wyoming, I tune out.

We have the internet now. Why not just look up populations and altitudes and land areas and Oscar winners, and talk about something else? I’m missing, somehow, the entertainment value of these conversations.Oh, yes, a male friend told me once—you want to talk about feelings all the time. He said the word with such disdain! That’s right. I would rather talk about feelings. He can feel free not to participate.

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