Why Can’t a Woman Be More Like a Man?

posterThere are a lot of things you can use to draw lines that separate one type of person from another. Red states/blue states. Coke/Pepsi. Fried/Grilled. San Francisco Giants/Oakland A’s.

But my personal favorite line is this one: loves musicals/hates musicals. I’m in the former camp. My brothers? Latter camp. It’s a pretty good line, the kind that can neatly bisect a family.  (I’d like to add here,  for the purposes of strict historical accuracy, that those throwing up noises in the background, the ones I tried to ignore while I was concentrating on The King and I?  They were NOT my brother Ed, who loves musicals.  They were a different brother, who has not yet come forward to claim responsibility or deny involvement.) 

My own children have inherited whatever gene produces the love of musicals. Especially the youngest, who is as fond of musicals as I am and often chooses, as a conversation starter, the following type of question: “which do you like more: Mary Poppins or The Sound of Music”? You might be surprised to learn (depending on which side of the line you’re on), that this topic can take a very long time — a lifetime really — to answer satisfactorily.

But until today, when I tried to answer a series of questions posed by Mandarine about gender differences, I hadn’t realized just how handy musicals can be in sorting out tricky feminist issues. Say you want to address the interesting subject of how and why women and men differ from each other. Well, here’s your answer, both to the how and why, and it comes straight from Messrs. Lerner and Loewe.

As you’ll see, one part of the answer is that women are different from men because women haven’t yet figured out how to be more like men. I mean, more like Rex Harrison. You know, ‘enry ‘iggins.

So, here’s what Henry Higgins has to say on this subject. It helps if you sort of sing it softly to yourself. (You can find it on itunes if you’ve never heard it.) And don’t say I’m not doing anything to improve your education:

“Why Can’t a Woman Be More Like a Man?”
music by Frederick Loewe; lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner
PROFESSOR HIGGINS:
Why can’t a woman be more like a man?
Men are so honest, so thoroughly square;
Eternally noble, historically fair.
Who, when you win, will always give your back a pat.
Why can’t a woman be like that?

Why does every one do what the others do?
Can’t a woman learn to use her head?
Why do they do everything their mothers do?
Why don’t they grow up, well, like their father instead?

Why can’t a woman take after a man?
Men are so pleasant, so easy to please.
Whenever you’re with them, you’re always at ease.

Would you be slighted if I didn’t speak for hours?

COLONEL PICKERING:
Of course not.

PROFESSOR HIGGINS:
Would you be livid if I had a drink or two?

COLONEL PICKERING:
Nonsense.

PROFESSOR HIGGINS:
Would you be wounded if I never sent you flowers?

COLONEL PICKERING:
Never.

PROFESSOR HIGGINS:
Well, why can’t a woman be like you?

One man in a million may shout a bit.
Now and then, there’s one with slight defects.
One perhaps whose truthfulness you doubt a bit,
But by and large we are a marvelous sex!

Why can’t a woman take after a man?
‘Cause men are so friendly, good-natured and kind.
A better companion you never will find.

If I were hours late for dinner would you bellow?

COLONEL PICKERING:
Of course not.

PROFESSOR HIGGINS:
If I forgot your silly birthday, would you fuss?

COLONEL PICKERING:
Nonsense.

PROFESSOR HIGGINS:
Would you complain if I took out another fellow?

Pickering
Never.

PROFESSOR HIGGINS:
Why can’t a woman be like us?

[dialog]

PROFESSOR HIGGINS:
Why can’t a woman be more like a man?
Men are so decent, such regular chaps;
Ready to help you through any mishaps;
Ready to buck you up whenever you’re glum.
Why can’t a woman be a chum?

Why is thinking something women never do?
And why is logic never even tried?
Straightening up their hair is all they ever do.
Why don’t they straighten up the mess that’s inside?

Why can’t a woman behave like a man?
If I was a woman who’d been to a ball,
Been hailed as a princess by one and by all;
Would I start weeping like a bathtub overflowing,
Or carry on as if my home were in a tree?
Would I run off and never tell me where I’m going?
Why can’t a woman be like me?

And that, Dear Reader, is all I have to say tonight.

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21 thoughts on “Why Can’t a Woman Be More Like a Man?

  1. Hi bloglily,

    I love My Fair Lady and that song in particular… I grew up on that record and the Weavers at Carnegie Hall, of all things. Talk about influences during one’s formative years. That must be why I’m so eternally noble, historically fair.

    Regards

  2. I love that musical and song too, although I have to say that I vote on the side of Mary Poppins in the debate. However, I also truly love the song Eliza sings when she finally tells ‘enry ‘iggins to go stuff it:

    “You dear friend who talks so well,
    You can go to
    Hartford, Hereford and Hampshire!

    They can still rule the land without you,
    Windsor Castle will stand without you
    So go back in your shell, I can do bloody well
    Without you!”

    I Could Have Danced All Night!”

    “Words, words, words, I’m so SICK of words, Is that all you blighters can do?”

  3. I’m afraid I’m on the other side of the line. Many have quite nice stories and pleasant music, but every time they switch from one to the other I get irritated. Better make it a play or make it an opera.

  4. Oh… I love musicals. I don’t think I’ve ever asked my kids about that, but I know Mom loves them too. So does Alyssa. I remember Dad playing the music from The King and I when we were little.

    So what do I have have three copies of? The King and I. That has to be Aly’s favorite musical.

    She wasn’t as fond of My Fair Lady or Fiddler on the Roof. But The Sound of Music was a hit. Anything with Julie Andrews. 🙂

    I’ll have to ask Andrew about it.

  5. I have done the lighting for several amatuer stage productions of musicals. I love the interplay of words and music. Calmaity Jane, Fiddler, Show Boat, Kiss me Kate, and all the professional shows I have attended. Mmmmm. Doris Day “Secret Love” ahhhhhhhhh – – –
    Having said that, I have the hairs on the back of my neck rising. Have a look at my “Illustrated Limerick (3)” which I posted earlier today. There are unknown connections within the blogosphere.

  6. I am most definitely a musical-lover, the theater’s version of comfort food, and My Fair Lady is my favorite, or is it The King and I, or Man of La Mancha, or The Sound of Music, or Fiddler on the Roof, or…?

  7. I just saw My Fair Lady not two weeks ago… now I will be hopelessly lost singing this song in my head for the next two! 😉 heehee

    Do your kids like Pirates of Penzance? I couldn’t possibly pick a favorite musical, but that’s certainly one of the best!

  8. I just saw a production of My Fair Lady two weeks ago, too, JLB– are you from Cleveland too, or is there a national resurrection of interest in that show? Well, it was delightful. Those lyrics are just splendid– I was marveling at them all over again.

    Love Pirates of Penzance! Love West Side Story! Adore The Pajama Game! Fortunately, my daughter loves them all, as well.

    Has anyone ever heard of a musical named Maggie May? I think that was the name; completely unrelated to the Rod Stewart song. Heard an LP of it a million years ago and still, one of the songs haunts me.

  9. I am not really into musicals – kind of neutral, really. I like the stories and the settings and the dancing, but for some reason find the singing a little irritating. But that’s just me – and it seems like you’ve found a whole lot of like-minded fans!

  10. I love a good musical, but my husband sniggers every time someone breaks into song, and I find that off-putting. It was fun to see the lyrics written out and reading through them brought back such vivid memories of watching the film with the delightfully belligerent Rex Harrison in the lead (probably less delightful in real life). Several years ago now I wrote a paper for an academic conference that suggested that one ‘masculine’ trait was to want to see the tenets of masculinity reflected back in the world around them. I never thought to quote this, but maybe I should have done!

  11. Lily,

    As one of your brothers, you’ll be amazed to hear that I love musicals too. Of course, I’ve seen My Fair Lady in London (I love that song about why can’t a woman be more like a man – makes me laugh every time). I’ve probably seen every big musical playing in London for the past 10 years, and am going to Mamma Mia (again) in December.

    Ed

  12. Fencer, Eternally noble historically fair you, indeed!
    Ms. Magic Hands — I’d never really thought before you mentioned it how the lyrics from the other songs so perfectly answer the challenge of Why Can’t a Woman Be More Like a Man.
    Hello Edwin, Thank you for weighing in on the merits and demerits of this particular art (in quotes!) form. I see what you mean about the switch from words to music.
    Sue, I’ve never shown the boys the King and I! I remember watching it on Thanksgiving when we were small.
    Archie — I had no idea! The depth of experience out there in the blog world is sometimes astonishing. And the illustrated limerick? Wonderful.
    Dear Emily — More great titles. I think we’re going to go on a musical spree over the holidays. (Isn’t that what they’re for?)
    Jade — The Pirates of Penzance is completely unknown in our house. But not for long….
    Kristen, Did you hear back about Maggie May? I’d like to know what that song is if you do locate it.
    Hello Charlotte — You and Edwin are the proud standard bearers of the perfectly legitimate, why on earth are they singing in the rain, position.
    Litlove, For some reason, the image of your husband sniggering and you being a bit put off by it completely cracks me up. It was like that throughout my childhood as I stared dreamily at Audrey Hepburn or Julie Andrews and imagined I was one of them and my brothers hooted in the background.

    ED!! I had no idea you shared that gene. Wasn’t that you making the throwing up noises during the King and I? Could it have been Tom all alone and I never noticed it was only one brother? I know it wasn’t Mike, because he was too little to give me a hard time.

    Happy Thanksgiving by the way. Email me and tell me what you guys are doing, when you have a chance.

  13. I’ll volunteer my husband to join Charlotte and Edwin while I settle in happily with the other musical-lovers — I’m still in the doghouse for dragging him to see Chicago on the big screen on his birthday, four and a half years ago.

  14. So when we call over to Tom’s house we should ask him about the musical gene. We know Dad has it. 🙂 He also has the classical music gene which I *don’t* have.

    It took me 20 years to actually start liking country music.

  15. Hi Lily,

    I don’t remember ever seeing The King and I with you, so it must have been Tom making the throwing-up noises (although if I was 14 I wouldn’t put anything past me 😉

    Could you e-mail me your latest e-mail address? I lost it when my laptop hard drive died.

    Ed

  16. Dear Bloglily

    I’ve been a fan of “The King and I’ for many years. Another all time favourite is “The Court Jester” with Danny Kaye. Both my husband and I remembered this fondly from our childhoods, and when one day in the 1970’s it appeared at a suburban theatre we both took the afternoon off work to go and delight in it. About ten years ago it was shown on TV, so we were able to tape it and have since shared it wiuth many friends.

  17. See what happens when you show up late — you get blamed! I am not a fan of musicals in general. I can, however, probably sing most of the tunes in Fiddler (what a powerful bunch of numbers)–and a good story. I regret to tell you that I have never seen “The King and I” but will take the blame as it probably had more to do with giving one’s sister a difficult time than a reflection on the piece. For me at least, the music often has more value than the story–it helped that Dad played the songs over and over and over and over and over and over and over…Music becomes the icing on our memories and with time the two often merge–it is a nice gift.

  18. I’m in the ‘love musicals’ camp and My Fair Lady was not only the first one I saw but the one that cemented my love for both musicals and Audrey Hepburn. My 15 year old niece has recently discovered the joys of musicals and classic films making this year’s Christmas presents very fun to buy for her.

  19. Oh my, I turn my back for a moment to post some poems and a picture of the bay bridge and MORE musical lovers appear. Tom — no blame! I’m going to netflix Fiddler on the Roof, which is a wonderful movie. Hi Carl — Audrey Hepburn is so marvelous. It’s hard to believe she’s a member of the same human race that claims ordinary mortals among its members.

    Ruth — I don’t know the Court Jester. It sounds like one to rent!

    Hello Ed, I emailed you! And i think maybe you & tom can be considered blameless, now that you’ve both come out of the closet on your love of the art form.

    Oh Kerryn, That’s so funny! I liked Chicago — but I suppose if it’s not your thing, then that one is REALLY not going to work for you.

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