Judging from the women who fell for him, Woody Allen learned this early. Alas, he is the least likely role model for Republican males, who seem to have misinterpreted the meaning of the aphorism.
To clarify: The idea is to make a girl laugh by engaging your wit, not to make her laugh at you.
As Republican leaders recently began tutoring their male candidates on “How to Talk to a Lady” (my title), it was tempting to imagine what wisdom was being imparted. A few ideas:
“Whatever you do, do not mention the V-word.”
“Steer clear of ‘legitimate rape.’ All rape is illegitimate. Whatever.”
“No matter what, avoid voicing thoughts such as, ‘This gal is probably not a candidate for Lululemon yoga pants.’”
I was unable to secure confirmation on any of the above despite investigative emails. The absence of transparency, of course, leads to rampant speculation. And, alas, mockery. Even though well-intended and much-needed, the idea that men should get coaching on how to talk to women so as not to offend them is sort of 1950s prep school-ish, as have been some of the suggestions directed their way.
“You have to connect with women on an emotional level,” said Mark Jacobs, Republican Senate candidate from Iowa, when a television interviewer asked him what the biggest difference is between men and women. “And with a wife of 25 years and an 18-year-old daughter, I’ve had a lot of coaching on that,” Jacobs continued.
There you go! See how simple? In more speculation:
“Madam Senator, I know it must be really hard to juggle your duties here with all the hormonal activity of a seasoned woman such as yourself — and I say that with great compassion because, you know, I have a wife, too. Hoo-boy, do I ever! Just kidding. Sorry, Freudian boxers! Heh-heh-heh. Hey, I thought they said you gals like to laugh?!”
All kidding aside, the real reason for these tutoring sessions is to ensure that incumbent Republicans, especially those who face female opponents, don’t commit any unforced errors on issues important to women. In recent years, women have been stampeding the other way like a herd of Gallimimus evading a T. rex or, in this case, a T. Akin, as in Todd, the former Missouri congressman who helpfully defined “legitimate rape.”
If I may: Gentlemen, one should connect with women emotionally in the privacy of one’s own home. At work, you can talk to a woman just as you talk to a guy, assuming you’re communicating about work-related issues. If you are confused about this, you should assume the fetal curl in the privacy of your therapist’s office.
The truth is, Democrats have engaged in such training, too. Notably, Joe Biden was coached about how to deal with Sarah Palin during the 2008 vice presidential debate: gently, kindly and without condescension or even a tiny hint of bullying. Biden performed admirably, flashing his million-buck smile without betraying his certain interior bafflement.
Further to truth, except for the occasional nitwit, the Republican Party is not anti-woman despite exhaustive messaging from the left. Yes, they are pro-life, but this is hardly a ridiculous position. Unfortunately, as a society, we’ve stopped thinking about life beyond that which pertains immediately and pleasurably to our own gratification.
What is ridiculous is Republicans’ incompetence in communicating their case. My advice would be to stop trying. Paul Ryan is pro-life, but you don’t hear him yakking about it.
The GOP is not helped by such characters as Rush Limbaugh, whom the White House brilliantly tagged as leader of the party and who may be the single greatest obstacle to attracting women. His latest insult among many was advice to women concerned with sexual harassment: “Please ask your breasts to stop staring at my eyes.”
Are you laughing yet, ladies? Didn’t think so.
Rather than tutor men about how to talk to women, Republicans might do better to recruit some of their own smartest women to public service. The boys might discover that women, rather than looking for a man to handle things, just want to get stuff done. One does fear, however, that once these freshly counseled gents witness intelligent, conservative women committing government, they might swoon from the shock of revelation and, you know, try to connect emotionally.
Kathleen Parker is a columnist for The Washington Post.