Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Never The Twain Shall Meet

It would be fair to say I have a complex relationship with feminism.  That is to say I’m somewhat conflicted.  If I had to guess, I’d say that while a good 70% of my brain naturally empathises with the continuing plight of women’s liberation, regrettably there remains something of an unreconstructed chauvinist closeted away up there in the other 30%, with his brandy and cigars, resolutely refusing to come out until till the other 70% put their bras back on and bake him a pie.  It’s an ethical quandary which results in me rarely being in one camp or the other in the ‘battle of the sexes.’  I’m a sort of intellectual hermaphrodite if you will...no you won’t, will you?  I don’t blame you.  Look, let me try to explain what I mean: While it would be dishonest of me to say that I would have absolutely no interest in watching two or more women wrestle in bikinis, it is however true that I would only be in favour of attending said event at such times as science makes it possible to pit the great women of history, women embodying all the strength and independence of the gender, against one another.  I would defo be in the front row for Joan of Arc vs. Boudicca for example and I’d probably pay a fair whack to see Germaine Greer go at it with Emmeline Pankhurst or someone like that.  Similarly I would never dream of slipping money into a female’s clothing as reward for any kind of  erotic dance; however if she had put in a particularly impressive performance for her team in the latter stages of University Challenge, say, then I might well be tempted to stick a fiver down her turtleneck jumper.  You get the idea.  Essentially my philosophical ice cream cone is predominantly feminist, with misogynistic flake sticking out the top and ideally would be served to me by a sexy girl whose attire is designed to meet only the most rigours hygiene standards expected of all those trusted with preparing and distributing foodstuffs to the public, rather than to satisfy any of my own personal requirement for visual titillation.

It is this diverged view of sexual politics which makes it difficult for me to determine exactly which part of my brain objects more to ‘That Don’t Impress Me Much’ Shania Twain’s 1997 hit in which she lyrically crushes three unsuspecting suitors in a manner that frankly  makes Nurse Ratchet and Loretta Bobbitt look like Marilyn Monroe and Ma Walton.  You’d think, wouldn’t you, it would be the misogynistic bit of my bonce, which feels the Shania has no right to be judging men because she is but a dainty woman whose only ings in life should be restricted to the domestically functional; but then maybe, just maybe, it’s the liberal feminist part of my noggin.  Maybe that side worries that by emotionally wedgying these poor clowns to the extent that she does, it’s a sign that the balance is tipping too far, past the equality women justifiably strive for and further towards a misandrical society (opposite of misogynistic apparently – still got it, Jeeves) where Prime Minister’s Questions would be utterly indistinguishable from those scenes in ‘Sex & The City’ where they go out to lunch, get drunk and slag everything off.  Then again maybe I’m making a fuss over nothing.  Maybe be she’s got a point.  It's definately true some lads are complete and utter gonks, so I think it’s only fair that, in the interest of objectivity, we quickly examine these guys she’s so unmoved by and see if she’s got any legitimate complaints. Shall we?

  I've known a few guys who thought they were pretty smart
But you've got being right down to an art
You think you're a genius-you drive me up the wall
You're a regular original, a know-it-all
Oh-oo-oh, you think you're special
Oh-oo-oh, you think you're something else
Okay, so you're a rocket scientist 
That don't impress me much

Right, well first off, I don’t mean to be pedantic about this but and there isn’t actually any such thing as ‘rocket scientist’ per se, so there’s obviously been some kind of mix up there.  I’m no expert on space exploration but even I know that the business of propelling manmade vehicles beyond the Earth’s atmosphere is a pretty complex one, which relies fairly heavily on various different branches of science working together in unison; so I would imagine that such sophisticated multi-disciplined scientific co-operation would encompass a large number of highly individual and extremely detailed job descriptions.  He must have been a bit more specific about exactly what his role in the whole process was, surely?  You know Shania, I would hate to think that while this poor soul was explaining the intricacies of his employment – which admittedly may sound a little dry to the uninitiated like you or I – you were so deeply unimpressed that you either completely tuned out while he was talking or else were being deliberately sarcastic. Because if that’s the case I gotta tell you, hen, just while we’re chucking around ideas on how not to make a good impression here; bit rude, yeah?  Anyway, I reckon if this guy does indeed work with rockets, then the likelihood is his job title is closer to something called an Aeronautical Engineer.

Aeronautical Engineer does nothing for you, eh?  Really?  I mean I’m not sure if you’re aware what goes in to becoming one of those, but I thought I might do a little research just on the off chance that after hearing you might want to reconsider.  Basically, to qualify as an Aeronautical Engineer or ‘Rocket Scientist’ (I say potato…because that's what it is) you need at least A-Level Maths, English and Physics to get on an Aeronautical Engineering Degree course, which is four solid years of aerodynamics, chemical compounds, thermodynamics and mathematics, all at a level which, if it doesn’t get you a Degree at least garuntees you a migraine and a good few nose bleeds as a consolation prize.  You're not done yet mind, if you want to work at the highest level Aeronautics, both intellectually and sky…ily, you have to go on to do your Maters in Aeronautical Engineering which is another four years of brain meltingly advanced maths, chemistry and physics that made your origional Degree look like four years of playdoe, dry macaroni and glitter. Eight years of hard work and dedication then.  Eight years.  It’s not a paper round is my point. 

As a matter of a fact that is special, that is something else.  I mean I'm straight as a die, right, but if some guy told me he built spaceships for a living and had the chat to back it up, chances are it’d be proceed directly to second base, do not pass go do not collect £200.  Spaceships, woman!  Those are the coolest kind of ships bar none.  If you took a poll and asked members of the general public whether they’d rather be in a relation-ship or a space-ship most of them are going to struggle, yet here are you turning your nose up at a guy who could potentially give you the opportunity to be in both.  Maybe even at the same time!  But hey, different strokes for different folks, s’pose.  If that doesn’t impress you, it doesn’t impress you.  Maybe you’ve got higher standards than me.  Those sort of flimsy credentials might dazzle gullible folks like me and those slack jawed backwards bumpkins at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; but apparently not Americas ninth biggest selling Country and Western artist of all time.

You'll have to do better than that, mate.

To a certain extent I would agree about people who always have to be right though.  We’ve all played Trivial Pursuit with those people who hold a game up forty minutes, on the phone to the manufacturer arguing about the accuracy of a  Science & Nature card, or ended up on the same quiz team as those folk would rather pull the fire alarm and have the pub evacuated than admit they don’t know the tiebreak question for a ten quid bar voucher.  For the most part those people are irredeemable plums, but in this particular case Shania I’m gonna have to say you’re dead wrong, doll.  Think about it in the context of his job, of course he’s ‘got being right down to an art’, OF COURSE HE DOES, HE WORKS FOR NASA.  We’ve already discussed how complicated it is to get rockets 384,400 km away from the Earth, but let’s not forget that often there are people in those lumps of science and what’s arguably more important than getting them up to space is keeping them up there then getting them back safely.  Again, the kind of engineering that requires is probably the most advanced there is and one tiny mistake could have a horrifying domino effect on the whole procedure which may not be discovered until it’s too late.  Yeah, maybe he does have being righty down to an art, but so he bloody should because lives depend on his judgment.  Let’s say he decides to take his intellectual foot off the gas for a bit, let a few things slide while he’s chatting to you, play the lovable oaf, what’s to stop a couple of those bad habits creeping into his day job?  Nope, sorry dear, not worth the risk, I think you’re gonna have to forgive him being more interested in getting our brave men and women astronauts back to their loving families than getting you back to his place.  Think I’m overreacting? You think I’m overreacting, don’t you?  Well, let me tell you a little story:

In 1965 it was decided by NASA that for both safety and efficiency’s sake the on-board systems of their upcoming manned space flight, scheduled for launch five years later in 1970, should be upgraded, allowing them to run off a 65 volt Direct Current (DC) as opposed to the previously favoured 28 volt DC.  Accordingly then, a message was sent round every engineer working on the mission informing them of the need to make the necessary alterations to their entrusted section of the craft.  Though it was originally thought that the crucial dispatch was received and complied with by those involved, fatally, it would later emerge that one individual charged with changing the specifications of a thermostatic switch attached to one of the oxygen tanks, somehow missed this piece of vital intelligence.  Now god knows where said person was that day – probably off somewhere chatting up some bird, doing really well, charming her with his adorable professional incompetence and just generally really impressing her with his all-round sexy, sexy wrongness – but as you’ve probably guessed by now the mission in question was Apollo 13 and the resulting mid-flight explosion, caused by an overheated oxygen tank, left the ship’s crew temporarily stranded in space with neither enough air to complete their objective of reaching the moon, nor it initially thought to return home alive.  Thankfully of course as history tells us Jim Lovell managed to rig something up allowing the ship to reach Earth and crash land on a desert island where he survived for several years by talking to a volleyball before eventually returning home unharmed to fight crime with a dog named Hooch.  The point is though, what kind of person finds ignorance an attractive quality anyway?  Most of would look at that aforementioned real life example of human error almost costing the lives of four innocent men and think, that’s terrifying, that’s tragic; but apparently not Shania Twain.  Oh no, to Shania Twain; that’s hawt.  Never mind maybe she’s spot on about guy number two:

I never knew a guy who carried a mirror in his pocket
And a comb up his sleeve just in case
And all that extra hold gel in your hair oughtta lock it
'Cause Heaven forbid it should fall outta place
Oh-oo-oh, you think you're special
Oh-oo-oh, you think you're something else
Okay, so you're Brad Pitt
That don't impress me much.

Admittedly this could mean a couple of things, but let’s first suppose the she is using the actor’s name as a sort of sarcastic shorthand for a guy’s vanity.  Now while it’s true that excessive emphasis on appearance in everyday life is quite off putting, if you consider it in the context of this song, I think it’s forgivable.  I mean I’m assuming you’re meeting this guy on some kind of blind date because you obviously find him deeply unimpressive (again), yet are prepared to  spend enough time with him to notice a frustratingly repetitive pattern emerging in his grooming habits.  Pretty much the only time people are obligated to spend that much time with a non-family member who they don’t care for, outside of work hours, is a bad blind date.  So you see now, that puts a whole different spin on things.  Everybody gets preoccupied with their appearance on dates.  Everybody.  It’s just what you do, isn’t it?  You get glammed up.  I’m sure we’d all secretly like to save ourselves the hassle and just turn up on dates looking like The Cure’s Robert Smith having a particularly hung-over duvet day, but out of respect for the person we don’t.  It’s called making an effort, Twain.  What actual evidence does she give that this man is vain anyway?  “I’ve never met a man who carried a mirror in his pocket and a comb up his sleeve just in case.”  What, you’ve never been to a hairdresser?  But aside from that, if you are on a date so the guy’s probably just checking for food in his teeth or something.  Perhaps a little more often than necessary, but hey, that’s first date nerves for you.  I suppose he could’ve always excused himself to use the mirror in the gents, but that would doubtless only have resulted in the lyric change “Okay, so you’ve got a bladder issue…that don’t impress me much.”  As for the comb up his sleeve, well this would suggest to me he might have hair like I used to and if that’s the case, then believe me, if it wasn’t for that comb it would only take the slightest hint of moisture in the air before Shania would find herself inadvertently on a date with Toad from Super Mario.

Of course the other interpretation of “Okay so you’re Brad Pitt...that don’t impress me much” is just that.  Brad Pitt’s turned up and Shania Twain thinks he’s nothing to write home about.  Well it’s true, there’s a time when I may have agreed.  Certainly when I first became aware of Brad Pitt, I too dismissed him as just another lantern jawed pretty boy elbowing his way past me in the evolutionary queue to the have his pick at the lady buffet of life, with no more justification than having a dynamite coupon and abs that could probably serve as a working xlophone; but having watched his career over the years I have to admit, that man worked hard to overcome such lazy stereotyping with some real success.  It would’ve been easy for him just to sit back and rake in the big bucks playing brainless rom-com fodder, but he hasn’t done that, he’s consistently taken on challenging roles spanning various genres, things like ‘Se7en’, ‘Burn After Reading’, ‘Fight Club’ and ‘The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button.’  Fair play to him, the lad’s got range.  Sure the way he treated poor Jennifer wasn’t really on, but he did go on to adopt like half of a 3rd world country’s entire infant  population, so karmically I reckon he’s probably just about breaks even.  All I’m saying is while Brad Pitt’s not perfect by any means, he’s got some real acting chops with a genuine humanitarian side and it maybe wouldn’t kill Shania Twain to acknowledge that once in a while is all.  Still, third time lucky.  Poor sod number three, please...

 You're one of those guys who likes to shine his machine
You make me take off my shoes before you let me get in
I can't believe you kiss your car good night
C'mon baby tell me-you must be jokin', right!
Okay, so you've got a car
That don't impress me much

Yeah, she might have a point here.  I don’t get the whole car thing either.  As long as it’s got four wheels, a roof and it goes, it should do right?  Far as I’m concerned the best thing cars ever did for the world was give Gary Numan an amazing idea.  So in this case I’m tempted to say, go ahead love, fill your cowboy boots, give this petrol headed prat the swerve.  But then again is that the reason he wants you to be careful with his car?  Let’s face it a lot of people are living on the bread line out there and as we’ve seen recently the economy can be up and down like a yoyo, plus banks aren’t exactly a safe bet these days; a lot of people would argue it’s important to keep what wealth you have in physical assets.  Assets that need taking care of to retain their value, assets like a car.  Very few of us are America’s ninth biggest selling Country and Western singer of all time y’know, Shania – in fact, just you of us really – so we can’t afford to be changing motors like we change our socks.  Do you know a car dealer once told me a car loses a tenth of its value as soon as it’s driven off the shop floor?  Can you believe that, a tenth?  So this poor man is basically fighting a losing battle from day one, yet is still trying his best to keep his car as respectable as possible, maybe to take him to and from work to make ends meet or maybe in case he ever needs to sell it for a good price in a hurry.  Plus you say he ‘kisses his carpet night’?  He sleeps in his car, is that what you’re saying?Well if he's brave enough to survive in the face of such crushing poverty, I think the least you could do is indulge him and take your shoes off when you get in.  Aside from anything else, we’ve all seen the video; you’ve been strutting about in sand, that’s a nightmare to get out.  My dad took us back from the beach once and by the time we got home we had a mobile sand pit.  Trust me he lets you in with your boots on, he’ll be finding handfuls of that desert for decades.  Under the circumstances I think shoes off is a fair shout.  That’s another thing; I hate to finally mention the elephant in the room here, but you’re in the DESERT in a HOOODIE. Clearly you don’t need to be an Aeronautical Engineer with 8 years of thermodynamics know how to see why that’s not a good idea?  This man has a car; he could have crossed eyes, three teeth and a hump back, surely for the moment the fact that he has the very thing which could potentially save your life is impressive enough?  Sitting on your high horse is all well and good, dear, but nobody ever escaped the searing heat of a barren wilderness on a metaphorical horse, love.

So in conclusion, I think if there’s any one lesson for both genders in ‘That Don’t Impress Me Much’ I would say for guys it’s this; try not to be an arse on dates and for women it’s this; by all means have standards, ladies – no one’s asking you to jump into a wedding dress the first thing you see with a Y chromosome, or set off on a slow motion beach run towards the nearest Big Issue seller – but at the same time, try and be at least be a bit realistic in your expectations for any potential partner, because if you set that beau bar too high, chances are you’re likely going to end up either a rather lonely impossible to please spinster, or a starved, dehydrated leopard print covered corpse lying in the middle of some desert somewhere.  But all this kind of begs the question just what is Shania Twain looking for?  If not a intelligent, well paid, scientist at the forefront of human interplanetary endeavour, or a handsome, well groomed blind date/internationally renowned actor and sex symbol, or a financially prudent man who knows the value of things in this perpetually unstable dog-eat-dog capitalist society and treats them with due care and attention, then what? Frankly I doubt Venus the ancient Roman God of love, Eros the ancient Greek God of love and Cilla the ancient Liverpudlian God of love could come up with three better candidates if they were working as a team (and let’s not even entertain the idea that these three traits all the same person, because if they are I’d be tempted to say you’re beyond hope).  Anyway, we’ve been over all this; let’s see what she is after:

Don't get me wrong, yeah I think you're alright
But that won't keep me warm in the middle of the night.

Okay.  What you’re looking for is essentially…a blanket?  No, no, fair enough, that’s fine, whatever floats your boat and all that.  In fact, just to show there’s no hard feelings, I’m gonna go out my way to set you up.  Now I don’t normally do product placement on this blog but I know you’ve got high standards and you won’t settle for just any old blanket, so have you considered something called a ‘Slanket’?  See, it’s like a blanket, except it’s got sleeves.  Impressive, eh?