After years of scientific analogy, I've come to a profound conclusion. There is a difference between males and females. (In case you're interested, I reached this conclusion not by observing the behavior of chimpanzees in a research laboratory, but by observing the behavior of my own two kids, which is basically the same thing as observing chimpanzees, but without the benefit of a cage.)
Anyway, because I happen to have one boy and one girl, I was able to accumulate some pretty accurate data in my comparison of the two sexes, and the bottom line is that boys and girls are as different as skunks and skateboards – and nothing bears this out more definitively than the way that they play.
I have evidence to support my theory. It happened on a recent visit to the lake. The couple we were with had permitted their two young granddaughters to each invite a friend for the weekend, which made a sum total of four little girls swimming in the lake. One giant inner tube was tossed into the water to entertain them, and for hours on end the girls took turns jumping off the dock into the hole in tube, or they all four perched on its edge and seesawed up and down until one of them fell off.
Now I happen to know from personal experience that had there been four chimpanzees, oops, I mean boys instead, the game would have been totally different. Rather than congenial sharing, boys would have fought to conquer the tube. To control the tube. To own the tube. From the male perspective, competition is everything. In fact, for a group of boys, nothing is worse than a mom announcing that there is, "plenty for everybody", because where there is no need for competition, there is no fun.
For reasons unknown to anyone, boys attack any game with physical, and somewhat random, aggression. Girls on the other hand, see chaos around them, and feel a need to bring it into order.
Years ago when my son was in the fourth grade, he and his three buddies spent half the summer digging an enormous hole in a nearby vacant lot and covering it with a big piece of plywood. The hole was used as a spaceship. Or a foxhole. Or a submarine. Or a battle fort. But mostly it was used to stash paintballs and soda cans. Then the unthinkable happened. Three neighborhood girls wanted to join in the fun.
Reluctantly, the hole went coed. It was a disaster. First the girls gave it a name, "Fort Lucky", which they painted on a huge sign with flour-leaf clovers and horseshoes. Next they posted a list of rules ("Use the secret password when you enter", and "No spitting"). Within an hour my son came stomping through my front door and slumped into a chair. "It's ruined, Mom", he said in disgust. "There are Pound Puppies and My Little Ponies all over the place!" Then with tears welling up in his eyes, he yelled, "And what's the point of having a fort if you can't spit in it?"
Occasionally, in an effort to change these innate male/female differences, some "forward thinking" parents will actually try reversing the toys their boys and girls play with, but it never works.
Whatever toy you hand to a girl will be given a name, spoken softly to, and nurtured. Give her a dump truck, and she'll create a family riding inside, singing happily on their way to the mall. On the other hand, whatever toy you hand to a boy will either become a weapon or a vehicle, complete with appropriate sound effects. Give a boy a Barbie and Ken, and he'll immediately switch their heads and hurl them screaming off a cliff.
Over the years, the evidence I have found around my house just goes further toward proving my point. For instance, I have discovered a dead moth, gently wrapped in a tissue, lying on the windowsill. My daughter's explanation? "His mommy will come back and get him when he wakes up from his nap." Conversely, I have opened my freezer door and found a GI Joe half submerged in a bowl of frozen spinach. According to my son, the poor fellow died in a "radioactively contaminated swamp."
You know, there are some folks who would turn us all into one big unisex. Not me. I like things just the way they are. In fact, it's that perfect balance between "Seek and Destroy" and "Search and Rescue" that makes the world interesting. Don't you agree? Vive la difference!