High Fidelity

Women with candles have replaced women with cats as the new sad thing.

-Sex & the City

Do women hate men?" my plumber asked as he was leaving my house last week, apropos of nothing in particular. He was there to snake my drain and clear the disposal (and no those aren't euphemisms), but I guess he was just making conversation and I struck him (accurately) as someone who'd have an opinion about everything.

I took my time in trying to formulate a thoughtful response, which was finally the carefully considered, "NoWho else would we get to hook up our stereos?"

This past weekend changed my mind.

My house was pretty much stacked with men, floor to ceiling, but all were so incapacitated by heartbreak that they were incapable of the simplest stereotypically testosterone-fueled tasks, like setting up my tiny little new bookshelf Aiwa (for would-be burglars: they're about a hundred bucks at Sam's Club so head on out there and save yourself a dog-mauling).

For the hi-fi hookup, I had to wait for the usual Sunday Supper group of wimmenfolk.

Yes, it DID take four women, two bottles of wine, a hammer, multiple pairs of reading glasses, and several flashlights (all with nearly-dead batteries)and one girl DID throw up afterwards (but we think she might have been hung over, as opposed to having her digestive system overcome by the task at hand).

Based on this weekend, and a lifetime of similar episodes, I'm really not sure that men and women are really as different as Oprah might make us out to be.

Take the Heartbreak Guys, for example, who are currently taking turns camping out at my house (and who shall remain nameless).

The therapy prescribed for their recovery was pretty much exactly what my girlfriends and I do for each other when we're getting over failed relationships (as opposed to the oh-so-common "successful" relationships we see so much of).

First, all telephones and communications devices (cells, blackberries, whatever) must be stored in the fridge, preferably hidden behind a camouflaging scrim of produce (this prevents the heartbroken from making any ill-advised calls, emails, or text messages; friends don't let friends dial drunk). Second, comfort food must be supplied in abundance, along with any menu that incorporates endorphins (in this case, stuffed poblano peppers provided some heat and helped temper the sugar high created by the chocolate).

A course of rigorous shopping was also necessary (after the credit cards had been temporarily confiscated to reduce the chance of permanent damage), but instead of boutiques or shoes, the routes for male shopping therapy are populated by the likes of HH Gregg, Home Depot, and Circuit City.

All radical changes to appearance (for example, shaving one's head) were vetoed, but hair CUTS were prescribed for two weeks from the breakup date (by then, change'll do you good).

Booty calls were absolutely prohibited, or more accurately, postponed. (Codicil: no nudity until the tears have stopped; those are a downer for everybody.)

Another thing I found out along the way is that men also frequently want to stay up all night talking-whereas I used to think that behavior was relegated to chicks, or potheads (not a mutually exclusive group, I realize).

At some point, medication will probably be warranted, and as a clergy friend says of me, "Hey if you can't trust her to prescribe mood elevators and painkillers, who can you trust?"

Turning to women, I've noticed that they are uncannily similar to men in their drinking habits-something I've observed as a designated driver and hostess to frequent sleepovers which tend to turn my house into an approximate replica of the Playboy Mansion-with half naked women draped over every available surface. Before I go to bed, I hand out t-shirts and trash cans. When I wake up, I find odd things in my fridge, like half-empty champagne bottles with the tops duct-taped shut. It isn't terribly different from life at the fraternity house in college (where I did not, legally, liveif the Dean is reading this).

Sure, there are differences, but I still find we're more alike than not. (One exception: I've noticed my wingmen back ME up much better than they support their male buddies. If a guy's interested in me, they'll talk up my assets. If a girl expresses interest in one of their guy buddies, their response is invariably, "Oh, he's gay," and if she follows that up with any sort of dismay or doubt, this is met with, "soooo gay.")

The most obvious common ground I've observed lately is that everybody-men and women-seems pretty much equally mystified when a relationship concludes, as if somebody just dropped a safe on their head.

That's where I'm different: a pessimist always expects the worst. I don't suffer any less than they do (I take to my bed; wrap myself in a shawl; refuse all food and drink; and register at Prada)-I just take some small consolation in the luxury of saying "at least I saw it coming."

Somebody cautioned me a while back (I guess by way of disclaimer/warning label so he'll be absolved when he commits some truly unforgivable atrocity), "these things never end happily," to which I could only respond, "Uhhhh duh. Almost nothing ends happily. If everybody was happy, it wouldn't be ending."

I say, set the bar for success as low as you can. If you get out without gunplay, you've done ok. Forewarned, forearmed. Literally.

I've never been one to need a man (play with? yes; need? no), and even less so now that I can count on my girlfriends to help with traditionally male tasks.

This weekend, I think we're gonna hang paintings (since my very first housewarming gift, naturally, was a stud finder and I've been meaning to break it in).