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Parallax - Advice            April 10, 2000

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This week on Conversely man and woman contemplate the future of love in cyberspace. They dissect the behavior of a cheating suspect and partake in the latent mischief of a lady obsessed. They also evaluate the miserable condition of being happy. And it all begins with debate on a subject dear to many a woman's - or is it a girl's? - heart.

Woman vs. Girl.
Proper respect vs. crass sexism, or Mature and wily vs. innocent and exciting?
 Date: 04/10/00

Happiness struck when she least expected it.
Does this call for self-flagellation, or is the situation not so dire?
 Date: 04/10/00

Personal ads in cyberspace:
The cure for superficial bar talk! A miracle waiting to happen! Yee-haw!
 Date: 04/10/00

He's very elusive of late, she never sees him.
She thinks he might be cheating. Innocent or guilty?
 Date: 04/10/00

She's close to being borderline obsessed.
Only a crush, or a prime excuse for exquisite drama?
 Date: 04/10/00

From last week...

Boyfriend is a born-again liar.
Should she take the highroad or hunker down and help him out?
 Date: 04/03/00

Dream-lady's cat throws him into asthma fits.
Simple case of allergy medication, or woman-cat-man love triangle?
 Date: 04/03/00

Is there a simple rule about which color rose for what occasion?
Or is a rose is a rose is a rose?
 Date: 04/03/00

He keeps calling and calling, he just doesn't get it...
Should she let him down easy or yank out the plug?
 Date: 04/03/00

Correspondent questions the social value of "significant other."
Anarchist, revisionist, or clueless?
 Date: 04/03/00

Woman vs. Girl

Dear Conversely,

Email to a Friend A friend of mine and I had a long discussion the other day about calling women 'girls' and calling men 'boys.' She seems to think that calling a woman a girl is bad, that it has sexist connotations. I on the other hand believe that calling women 'women' is the same as saying they're old, or too mature, or something that's not fun and exciting. I call all women my age, and some older than me, 'girls.' But I don't mean to insult, it just feels right.

My friend also thinks it's OK to call men 'boys,' because it's universally accepted or something. I don't have any problem with being called a boy, but it does seem to me like she's applying a double standard? What do you think?

Her view:

Dear Boy,

As a woman I prefer the term 'woman' by all who do not know me extremely well. For example, my family calls my sister and me 'the girls,' and this is fine. My boyfriend calls me 'girl' and my close girlfriends call me 'girlie.' If I were in my office and one of my team members called me 'a girl who is working on his case,' I would spread rumors that this guy was a sexist pig and all women should avoid working with him. In summary, here's the simple rule: use 'girl' only for those you know very well in a personal way - for the rest: 'woman,' without exception.

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His view:

Dear Boy,

Like you, I prefer using 'girl' to 'woman.' I find that I use 'woman' as my default, because it denotes a detached respect, a formal aloofness in the absence of better information. However, I also use 'woman' intentionally, when I want to emphasize qualities that I don't associate with 'girl': a sublime proficiency at wearing makeup, a wily sexual allure, or having a better job than I.

And yet, admirable as these traits are to me, I won't call the person I'm dating my 'womanfriend.' I still prefer using 'girl.' Granted, insecure women might be offended by girl because it can be interpreted to mean: immature, naive, impatient, whinny, and unsophisticated. Adjectives that, incidentally, describe many of the women my friends have dated - which in an earlier stage of life led me to conclude that was the reason they were called girlfriends.

To me though, 'girl' is more than just a young woman; it implies something appealing, an essence of youth with a taste of clean skin, a beautiful butt on a bicycle riding through campus on a sunny spring day. 'Girl' is less cynical, less jaded about men, and even if she says 'men are pigs' she doesn't really believe it (yet). 'Girl' has innocence about it, it has promise.

So, I am inconclusive. One day she's a girl, another she's a woman. The only rule I follow is that a man never calls himself 'boy,' nor does a woman call herself 'girl.' The cheesy connotations are entirely unacceptable.

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