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Explaining to Mindy Kaling Why Men Take So Long To Tie Our Own Shoes

Posted April 6, 2014

Dear Mindy,

In your mostly charming book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, there is a short screed complaining about why men take so long to tie their shoes. This is a gross generalization. Though it is 98% true, it is gross because it glosses over the reason for our sloth, and underlines your fundamental misinterpretation of how men work.

Though I'm pretty confident with my skill to tie my shoes, at a brisk pace, I understand there are other places in the home where I might look around helplessly, stunned, as if someone asked me to quickly calculate the area under the curve of the Liberty Bell, whereas I've only been asked to locate the large, white, gallon milk jug in the refrigerator.

Because I have two sons, I have observed where this inability to tie shoes originates. Both are old enough to tie their own shoes. One is a fourth grader, and he still asks for help, and I say no, in a polite manner, like "why should I tie your shoes, when you know fucking long division better than I do?" This fourth grader's mother will rush in and tie his shoes while she's answering her email and making his lunch in her other hand. I've seen girls in his grade tie his shoes for him. Every time this happens it reenforces a fundamental lesson for my son, a future man: if you mask your laziness with helplessness, you'll go far, especially if you have long eyelashes.

As a comedy writer I have few natural skills: most of them boil down to cultivating friendships with the kind of people who give me free weed. I'm also pretty good at using a map and compass, and training dogs to be obedient, skills that would make me a great nineteenth century yeoman.

One thing men are universally good at: starting projects, and then promptly abandoning them. This weekend I needed to dismantle our gardening box where we grew strawberries because the wood had rotted and the dog was getting into it. (An otherwise well-behaved hound.) I started to take apart the garden box, and when I got to the part where I'd left exposed, tetanus-ridden nails all over the backyard, I looked up and realized I had to mow the lawn. I got 50% through that when I saw that a few early-season dandelions, and those fuckers had to be put down, so I left the lawnmower in a place where it could get conveniently rained on, so the blade would rust and I'd have a project for another day. A lot more happened, but not a single one of these projects got finished, and I ended up in the neighbor's back yard with a pickaxe.

Tying shoelaces slowly is a perfect time to plot all of the above scheming.

My wife and mother of my children, in contrast, is a fucking superhero. She's a smart, ambitious businesswoman, she finds time to work out and spend time with friends, and makes sure she's available to cook dinner for the kids.

I have my moments where I can similarly impress and bewilder my wife: specifically, when we go camping, and I can set up the tent, inflate the kayaks for an evening paddle and cook dinner in ten minutes. That makes me impressive two days out of the year. Our skill sets do not compare: I can light a pretty good campfire; she is running companies, training for a triathlon, and can make babies come out of her body.

Modern men are all lost boys: every woman we date is smarter than we are, and works harder, because she still has to prove herself within a forest of lazy penis-having Americans. Women make more money than we do, and still have the time and energy to raise babies, then schedule summer camps and become corporate mentors. On the other hand I'm really, really catching up on my Netflix queue.

Men slowly tie our shoes because we want to hoist up the white flag of surrender: we want you to be our mothers.

This does not mean that we want to sleep with our mothers. That is disgusting. We want to sleep with you, girlfriend or wife, or more honestly the hot, young, airbrushed version of you that we keep in our memory that suspiciously looks like the cover of Maxim that we imagine you were in before you knew us.

As we tie our shoes so slowly you want to kill yourself, it is because we are prepping you for a lifetime of helplessness.

If we spend ten minutes tying our shoes or a half hour trying to remember how to start the dishwasher, this is about us expressing our vulnerability to the woman we believe can save us. The next time you are exasperated by a man who cannot seem to make the rabbit go around the hole (I'm talking about shoelaces, not intercourse. If that's a problem it's time to cut and run), don't lose your patience. That man is telling you that you could be his superhero. If you can tell him where he left his wallet, he will probably propose.



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