Sunday, November 8, 2009

Packing by Gender

I'm convinced that the biggest difference between males and females is how they pack. For any trip, I begin thinking about what I'll take with me a month in advance, and start loading bags days before departure. Men, however, usually put off packing until several days after leaving.

I have to envy the male method. My husband Jim needs approximately five minutes and a pair of boxers and he's done. I usually need schematics, a team of six specialists and an intricate system of levers and pulleys to make sure I have everything I need, might need, or that anyone I meet on my trip might need.

Men have always been hunters, and women, nesters. That's why men are happy to go procure anything they forgot to bring with them, whereas women must travel with an entire replica of their home, i.e. nest. Also, being more sensitive to weather, women must prepare for the forecasts of every destination en route, including those where they do nothing but spend ten minutes changing planes.

And let's not forget a woman's ever-changing moods, meaning she needs to bring a variety of makeup colors, perfumes, books, toothpaste flavors, and even pens. For instance, she needs felt-tip for melancholy, ballpoint for assertiveness, and a pencil for fickle Club Med flirtatiousness. I read somewhere, too, that the average woman uses 21 different toiletries (that need to be packed) during the span of a day. I think I top that number before 9 a.m., while most men couldn't even name 21 toiletries, especially after being told that beer doesn't count.

Yet our species survives only because of this female tendency to prepare for all contingencies. Even though driving with so much luggage that we can't see out the car windows is admittedly a risk, my over-packing is part of a female's life preservation frame of mind. Moms, not dads, are the ones reading 1,000 books about babyhood "what-ifs," even if Dad has to tend to the baby when all that conflicting info paralyzes Mom with indecision. Babies make it out of infancy because moms, not dads, must buy every product created for safely raising healthy children, even if losing the baby underneath all that stuff can be kind of dangerous. Finally, Mom is the one more likely to remember to pack the baby himself, which is much better for Junior's welfare than Dad leaving him home alone. This is still true even if Mom brings so much stuff in the car that there's no room for the car seat and Junior must be tied to the roof rack.

Though we're childless, I've surmised all this from having a dog. Bringing our mutt Teddy on a trip is my own worst packing challenge, which is weird because dogs by nature are pack animals.

But while women make packing much more complicated than men, men make unpacking complicated. Even though women have ten times more stuff in their crammed suitcases, somehow upon returning home, it takes men ten times longer to put everything away. Consider the last trip Jim and I took. When we returned I immediately unpacked and put all in its place. I was very proud, and looked upon my husband's small pile of suitcase items with snooty disdain. I was all ready to go to bed with my smug attitude, until realizing that, ultimately, male triumphed over female. That's because Jim's the one that remembered to let Teddy down from the roof rack.