THE HISTORY OF
CRAZY AND STUPID
WHICH CAME FIRST?
THE CRAZY OR THE STUPID?
The main reason women are crazy is that men are stupid.
— GEORGE CARLIN
No doubt exists that all women are crazy; it's only a question of degree.
— W. C. FIELDS
I drove a woman to an ashram once.
And when I say "drove" I don't mean in a car. And when I say "ashram" I do mean one of those places where you renounce sex and all your worldly possessions and chant "om shanti om" all day.
I drove her to an ashram. Where she lived for a good many years.
According to her I drove her crazy.
And when she says "drove her crazy" she doesn't mean that she was French, we made love by the Seine, and she squealed, "Oooh la la, monsieur! You drive me craaaazeee!" She means it more like "Hello? Insane asylum? Have a padded room and a straitjacket ready. I'll be there by three."
And she wasn't French.
Whether it was really me that drove her crazy or whether she was prone to crazy to begin with is a question we spent a lot of time debating. Perhaps it was just an unfortunate combination of the two. But as my friend Stephen said to me at the time, "I'm gonna give you a bye on this one. But if your next girlfriend ends up moving to an ashram, I'm gonna know it's you." Well, I'm happy to note that none of my subsequent girlfriends (or one ex-wife) have moved to an ashram. At least not yet. But in an informal survey of these women one consistent theme emerges: my stupidity. And when they say "stupidity" it's not my lack of knowledge of state capitals that they're referring to, but more a kind of cluelessness they felt I showed in dealing with them. And their needs. In the end, they maintain it was my stupidity that drove them crazy. Which is interesting, because I always felt that it was their craziness that drove me stupid.
But that's just the problem, isn't it? So what's the answer?
Which came first, the crazy or the stupid?
It's the million-dollar question we all want the answer to. Are women crazy because men are stupid? Or are men stupid because women are crazy? Not surprisingly, the way we answer these two questions divides us quite neatly along gender lines. Because let's face it, we all have a lot invested in the answer. Women maintain that over the course of their lives they are driven slowly and methodically crazy by stupid men. And men maintain that it's impossible for any man to act smartly with a woman who's out of her freaking mind. If we can just prove one came first, the other side will have blaming rights for all eternity.
If only it were that simple.
Yes, there is an answer to which came first, the stupid or the crazy.
And the answer is here.
But I warn you, it offers only cold comfort to all you potential gleeful blamers. As in chemistry, every action causes a reaction, which in turn causes another reaction. Stupid causes crazy, which causes more stupid, which then results in more crazy, and so on. Only by going back and tracing the tortured and confused history of men acting stupid and women acting crazy from its very beginnings can we begin to fully understand the origins of insanity in the age of stupidity. Or the origins of stupidity in the age of insanity.
And as for blaming rights, don't worry, there's plenty to go around.
THE MYSTERY SOLVED
The history of men acting stupid is a long and varied one that always ends up with some idiot starting another war. But modern male stupidity as it applies specifically to women is far more interesting and relevant to our purposes. It actually has its roots in the playgrounds of our youth. It was there that we first became aware of girls. It was also there that we first realized that we liked these strange creatures. They made us feel funny. But good funny. A kind of warm and gushy funny. Of course in those early years it wasn't acceptable to talk about these new feelings with our peers for fear we'd get rightly harangued about the dangers of cooties. But still, we wanted this five-year-old ponytailed goddess to know that we had a thing for her. So what did we do?
We hit her.
Or pushed her into the mud and laughed at her. (I'm so sorry, Susan Freyberg.)
And here our stupidity begins.
But how could it be any other way? We never had a chance. The hit and the shove (and once again, I apologize, Susie) were the only ways we knew to express ourselves! They were our way of saying, "Hey, I know it's not cool for us to be hanging out 'cause of the whole cooties thing, but I dig you." And that blows up in our faces. She starts crying and we're completely unprepared for that. And she keeps crying until some adult explains to her that we hit her because we like her.
And here her craziness begins.
"Wait a minute. He shoves me into a mud puddle because he likes me? What is he? A five-year-old imbecile? My hamster is smarter than him!"
We're then beckoned into a lifetime of stupidity by some "well-meaning" adult who tells us not to hit but to "use our words." And here the wheels start to come off an already wobbly go-kart. Words are hard enough for grown men, let alone little boys. But still, we come up with a way to express ourselves. Because we just have to be around this fascinating but vexing softer creature. So we start to joke around with her. Like we do with our buddies. And it makes complete sense to us because jokes are words. And jokes are fun! And who doesn't like to have fun?!
Apparently, little girls.
Who, once again, run from the room hysterical, in tears, because they think we're making fun of them. And we are! But only because we like them! This is once again explained to the five-year-old ponytailed goddess (see? it was because I liked you, Cindy Cirello), who once again wonders at her own sanity. "Okay, first the idiot punches me because he likes me. And now he's calling me names because he likes me? What does a boy do when he DOESN'T like you? AND HOW WILL I EVER BE ABLE TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE?!"
An inauspicious beginning to be sure.
So now, with mistrust, uncertainty, and confusion abounding — all before puberty even sets in — both sexes limp back to their respective corners and spend the next few years in relative seclusion from each other. As the seasons of elementary school turn, we stealthily watch the "other" and study their every move.
And boy, do they move differently from us.
We live amongst them but we are not of them. (Kind of like Jane Goodall and the apes.) We observe our parents' relationship hoping to glean a tip or two about the whole sexual divide thing. (More often than not Mom and Dad are an advertisement for what not to do.) We watch television, and that's an even worse distortion of intergender relationships.
But then something happens.
Magically, certain things start to sink in. We learn that boy humor is different from girl humor. We also begin to understand the finer points of conversation. Or at least the basics. It becomes clear that asking a girl about herself and what she likes to do is always a good opener. Around sixth grade we're actually getting somewhere. We're talking to girls. And they're talking back! When we make jokes now they seem to be laughing in all the right places. We've actually taken our first few baby steps to understanding the fairer sex.
Then summer vacation comes.
And when all the girls come back for seventh grade they have boobs.
And everything we've learned up to that point immediately gets knocked out of our heads.
Yes. Done in by boobs. That's right. It was boobs that done us wrong.
What used to be a simple conversation with a girl can no longer be simple. Or even a conversation. "Hi, Boobra! Uh, Barbara! How was your summer, Boob — Barb!" And of course the girl's actual name was probably something more like Pam Hoberman. (I'm so sorry, Pammy!)
Now when a girl starts to talk, a thick London fog blows over our brains.
Can't think. Boobs.
Can't talk. Boobs.
What's her name again? Boobs.
What's my name again? Boobs.
I'd like to say we're back to square one, but it's far worse than that. Because boobs completely overtake the part of men's minds where "women knowledge" used to be. Nothing can get in. And nothing can get out. And it's almost like we've never learned anything at all. We revert to maturity levels heretofore unseen in our behavior up to this point. In the cafeteria we giggle as we eat chicken breast. In chemistry, we guffaw as we ask a pal to hand us a test boob. And thinking we've discovered clever wordplay, we tell everyone it's called algebra! "Get it? Alge-bra!"
And thus one more log is thrown onto her crazy fire.
And who can blame her? We've checked out on her just as we were starting to communicate. So when she finally cries out, "You're talking to my boobs!" her mind has already started its slow but steady descent into madness. "But it's not our fault! It's the boobs!" we shout after the girl who's turned her back on us. ( Just the first of many women's backs we'll be speaking to over the coming years.) But still, we insist: Men don't make men dumb. Boobs make men dumb.
But we know better. One need only look at the evolution of the word "boob." It is now commonly used to refer to a stupid man. As in "He's a boob!" Or "What a boob that guy is!" When people say "Can you believe the boobs in Washington?" I can assure you they're not talking about Hillary. To paraphrase the great Al Capp: I have seen the boobs. And they is us.
Now obviously, many boys overcome "boob fog" and go on to have healthy, happy relationships. Unfortunately, many other boys turn into paunchy men who sit on the couch all day watching, yes, the boob tube.
It's also interesting to note that something completely unexpected happens at the juncture where boy meets boob. This is the moment where gay men historically begin to overtake straight men in their knowledge of women. Their keen insight into women and what makes them tick all begins to flower because they're not distracted by boobs. So they can actually listen to what women have to say. This is a huge advantage when trying to learn about women. So the people who could actually benefit from this knowledge never get it. And the ones who do get it could care less.
The history of stupid and crazy is chock-full of ironies such as this.
DAMN YOU, BOOBS!
In the years immediately following the return of the seventh-grade girls from their summer vacations, the sexes are once again lost to each other for a time. A long time. Yes, there is dating and crushes and making out and things done in cars in awkward positions. But in terms of understanding each other there is very little progress. Junior high and high school serve as a retreat from the great strides we seemed to be making PB (pre-boobs). Girls find solace in newly formed cliques founded often on nothing more than bonding over how stupid boys are. And the boys retreat to their bedrooms and pretty much masturbate until they leave for college.
THE COLLEGE CRUSH
College is where the next great chapter in the history of stupid and crazy is written. Because college is a time of incredible growth for both sexes. It's where stupid boys graduate into stupid men and crazy girls blossom into full-fledged nut jobs. This cementing of our identities is not the tragedy it appears to be at first glance. Because in college we fall in love for real for the first time.
And love changes everything.
Love, or whatever it is that keeps us up late in the dorm room smoking cigarettes, drinking, obsessing, and talking incessantly about our feelings, is as momentous an event as when we first discovered each other's existence on the playground so many years ago. But now the stakes are higher. Because it's love.
And love changes everything.
Men are still stupid, yes. But now we're stupid in the service of love. And there is no higher calling. And if women are driven crazy by love, then so be it. Nothing in the universe is bigger. This isn't about touching boobies or hiding them under big sweaters anymore. We're now crazy and stupid on a whole new level.
THE LESSONS OF ELIZABETH
I was sitting in my required freshman creative writing class. And she walked in. And nothing was ever the same. I was transfixed. To this day, I really don't know why I fell so hard and so fast. It wasn't quite her looks. It wasn't quite her loud, unapologetic personality. It wasn't quite the way she insisted she was "from Philly" when she was actually from southern New Jersey. It might have been her generous laugh, an unselfconscious cackle that seemed to give me the validation I'd apparently been craving my entire life. Whatever it was or wasn't, one thing was for sure: She was the woman of my dreams.
We became fast friends. Then good friends. Then eat-everymeal-in-the-cafeteria-together friends. Then talk-several-timesa-day friends. And then knock-on-each-other's-dorm-roomdoor-at-any hour-of-the-day-or-night friends.
And then I said I wanted to be more than friends.
And then she said she was fine just being friends.
And then I said I really, really wanted to be more than friends.
And then she said she really, really valued our friendship.
And then she started talking about Bob. Bob was her high school boyfriend who was now in college in San Francisco. And she seemed to think that she and Bob were still "a thing." I seemed to think they weren't.
This was just the first of many misinterpretations on my part. I thought it was obvious that there was something spectacular and life-altering happening between us and it couldn't be denied.
She denied it.
I then set out to prove that she loved me as much as I loved her. That's right. I was going to prove to her that what she felt was not love was actually love.
I'd gone to a whole new level of stupid.
Every chance I got I would point out to her how wonderful I was and how happy she was with me. I also never missed a chance to show her how unhappy she was with anyone but me — especially anyone named Bob.
She started to get irritated with me.
I started to get irritated that she was so irritated.
She finally told me she was upset that I wanted to have a sexual relationship with her. She considered this a betrayal of our friendship. She was disappointed in me because we were supposed to be friends. I said, "FRIENDS CAN FUCK! FRIENDS SHOULD FUCK! IF YOU CAN'T FUCK YOUR FRIENDS, WHO CAN YOU FUCK?!"
Then she said maybe we shouldn't talk for a while.
And we didn't talk for a while.
Then in the middle of the night several weeks later I called her. Sweaty and overwrought, I asked her if anything was ever going to happen between us. That's right. After being rejected repeatedly for three months straight I asked her to clarify her feelings about our future. It seems a rather daft question considering all that had gone before. But I persisted nonetheless.
"Is anything ever going to happen between us?"
"When you say 'no' do you actually mean 'yes'?"
"No yes? Or no no?"
Then she sighed deeply and said, "We're parallel lines."
I said, "Whuh...?"
She repeated, "We're parallel lines."
I again said, "Whuh...?"
She said, "Parallel lines. We can get very close but we'll never touch."
That's what she said: "We can get very close but we'll never touch."
Even now I feel something akin to getting kicked repeatedly in the groin with a hard-toed shoe when I think of those words. It was the worst thing anyone had ever said to me up until that point. (I've since gone to Hollywood and had much, much worse said to me.) But I was a young man in love. And this burnt a hole through my tender heart.
But thank god she said it.
And said it in that terrible way. Because I finally got it. It finally pervaded the all-encompassing fog that was obscuring my brain from all reason. I was finally able to realize that all the time she was telling me she just wanted to be friends, she actually just wanted to be friends. It seems a remarkably simple concept these many years later. But love will make you stupid every time. And I was a fool for love. And there are worse things to be. But a fool for love is still a fool.
In the end, what drove Elizabeth nuts was that I simply didn't listen to her. Repeatedly.
Not listening to a woman is the final nail in her crazy coffin.
Men don't listen to women for various reasons. Most often it's because we just don't want to. It's confusing. And loud. And it takes so much concentration. It's like listening to a different language. Who has that kind of time? But when we don't listen to women, they start to feel a lack of trust in us, and guess what it reminds them of? The first day of seventh grade when all we could do was stare at their boobs.
Yes. Stupid on a whole new level just results in the same old crazy.
A VERY BRIEF HISTORY OF STUPID AND CRAZY
We hit them on the playground because we liked them. Then we made fun of them until they cried. Then we stared at their boobs. Then we didn't listen to them. Repeatedly.
WHO WOULDN'T BE CRAZY AFTER ALL THIS? So what does this history of stupid and crazy teach us? It teaches us definitively, once and for all, that yes, THE STUPID CAME FIRST. And men all over this universe bear the responsibility of fighting their innate idiocy and making the world a better place for all women. But before all the women reading this march down Fifth Avenue with signs that say THE STUPID CAME FIRST, remember one thing: Stupid can be cured. But crazy is often forever. That's right. Men can get less stupid. It's an arduous process, no doubt, that requires many, many hours of dedicated learning. But it's still easier than getting less crazy. And yet, that's what a woman must attempt in order to do her part to bridge the divide with her man.
A woman's sanity can be so fragile that even relatively stable women can get "defensive crazy." The very idea that the man they love is going to act stupid in the future makes them crazy even before he does anything stupid. Yes. They get crazy on spec! This then results in "My man can't ever do right" syndrome, which is a complete disaster.
I told you this was complicated.
But in her first response, I'm sure Jenny will give us all great insight into how a woman's mind actually works.
A WOMAN'S MIND AT WORK
So this Elizabeth chick, was she pretty?
Copyright © 2009 by Howard J. Morris and Jenny Lee