Browed but not beaten

23rd September 2011 at 01:00

Never trust a man to do your shopping. Ask a bloke to pick up something nice for tea and he will come home with a computer game and a tile cutter from BQ.

Yesterday I sent mine out to buy tweezers. New tweezers became an urgent necessity after my eyebrows started using my menopause as an excuse for a rave. They took full advantage of a depilation-free summer and managed to cross the Rubicon and the bridge of my nose simultaneously.

My husband made it to the chemist but came back with the feminine-care equivalent of barbecue tongs. They are great for picking up sausages, but not so good at plucking a finely arched brow. Their huge galvanised steel feet could as easily support the Forth Road Bridge as nip out nubbly hairs. I'd have been better off trying to isolate the stragglers with two coconut shells on some string. As a result I am going to have to face Year 9 with a monobrow the length of a scarf.

But I know there is no point in being upset at my husband's shoddy shopping because - as teachers are well aware - males and females perceive the world in different ways, and the things that matter to women don't necessarily matter to men.

Take parenting sick children, for instance. When my youngest had a fever, I spent an anxious night holding on for NHS Direct, frantically tapping the words "swine flu", "high temperature" and "we're all going to die" into Google while my husband popped out for a DVD. As I struggled in the dark, blindly spooning Calpol into my son's left ear and wondering whether the car's empty tank would make it to AE, he dozed off watching the credits. New dads are the worst at shirking sick-bed duties. Experienced fathers tend to be much more helpful since they have twigged that an untreated croupy cough can screw up their Friday night shag.

Domestically, my husband and I are also poles apart. In the kitchen, I scrub and bleach every available surface, while he cultivates new life forms in the butter and keeps his fishing maggots in the fridge. He doesn't notice ketchup frills on bottles or the egg white that lurks in the sink. All the mess that irritates me has been shielded by some Klingon cloaking device so it doesn't appear on his radar.

Years ago we came to blows when he removed an empty fabric conditioner bottle and used it as a makeshift urinal in the garden shed. He then brought the full bottle back into the house and left it on top of a loaded washing machine. No prizes for guessing what happened next. As money was tight, I had to resort to a boil wash and giving him a bollocking. At playgroup the following week, while the other children radiated spring freshness and hints of summer breeze, my poor bairns went in smelling faintly of twat's wee.

So, given that men and women are driven by such different desires, the news that boys still trail behind girls in the top GCSE grades should come as no surprise. What's more interesting is why this performance gap is reversed in the workplace. This suggests that boys view their GCSE exams like their dads see polishing cooker hoods or fetching a pair of tweezers: an insignificant domestic task not worthy of their attention. But once they start battling for management roles or clamouring to get in the Cabinet, that's when their A* efforts will put them streets ahead.

Anne Thrope (Ms) is a secondary teacher in the north of England.

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