FOR OUR purposes here, let's assume you are a guy, whether you are or not.
Let's also assume that you are reading the comics, whether you do or not.
And let's finally assume that the strip you are reading is "Calvin and Hobbes," which is absolutely slaying you because, well, 6-year-old Calvin is in the midst of another school-day fantasy.
You catch your breath from laughing, then turn to your wife/your Significant Other/your female companion/any woman within earshot. "Hey," you offer congenially, "did you see 'Calvin' today?"
"I don't read it," comes the cold-blooded reply. "It's a guy thing."
A guy thing? What could be more universally humorous and gender-transcendent than "Calvin and Hobbes"? You are stunned, speechless, dazed and confused. You think back to your childhood, and it hits you: Girls never liked the Three Stooges, either.
All of which leads you to wonder, in a non-sexist, philosophical sort of way, if hope exists for the female sense of humor.
Yet this "guy thing" notion goes far beyond mere considerations of humor. Take baseball, for example. With very few exceptions, the hellbent-for-leather baseball fans I have known -- the ones who join the rotisserie leagues and traffic in vintage, thousand-dollar baseball cards -- have been male.
Sure, practically everybody enjoys the pleasant ambience of a day at the ballpark, but start explaining the rudiments of the double steal and nine women out of 10 will glaze over on you.
Beer is a guy thing. Plenty of women drink beer, but more of them seem to like wine or exotic-looking drinks brimming with fruit. Guys like beer -- draft beer. A keg of draft beer, that's a real guy thing.
What about video games? I recently attended the World Nintendo Championships in Los Angeles, and only two of the 90 finalists were women. Walk into any video arcade (if you can find one anymore) and see how many females are playing. Zip.
Heavy metal music is a consummate guy thing.
Science fiction? Guy thing.
Cars? Guy thing.
Comic books? Guy thing.
Belching? Guy thing.
All generalizations, of course. I'm sure that somewhere in this big, varied world exists a "Calvin and Hobbes"-appreciating, Three Stooges-loving, double steal-analyzing, draft beer-drinking, Nintendo-playing, heavy metal-listening, science fiction-reading, car-tinkering, comic book-collecting, belching woman; maybe even two or three.
But men who fit that description are a dime a dozen, which doesn't say much for the male of the species.
The latest guy-thing trend concerns the TV remote control. Introduce a remote to a man and a woman watching television together, and the guy will attach himself to it like some carnivorous barnacle.
Not only that, he will instantly master the art of changing channels every 3.7 seconds, simultaneously watching two baseball games (it's more efficient than you think), "ESPN Sportscenter," CNN and a rerun of "The Fugitive" on A&E;, all the while keeping a lascivious eye peeled for the new Divinyls video on MTV.
It's all quite confusing, until you're reminded that the average male attention span does not measurably increase from, oh, the third grade on. (There's something about the advent of cursive ++ writing that causes some sort of brain-matter lockdown.)
Many men have attempted in recent years to come to grips with the so-called "negative side" of guy-ness, the side which tends to promulgate underwear-strewn squalor, hockey and gas-guzzling automobiles. That introspection has led to the development of the "sensitive male," a peculiarly 1980s creature prone to self-help books, paternity leaves, political correctness and other enlightened, annoying behaviors.
That, in turn, has led to the "men's movement," which encourages men to "find themselves" by gathering for a weekend in an isolated wooded area to beat on drums, sweat and scream primally.
So, guys will be guys. The ultimate guy thing? War. It seems men are always plotting it, and women wondering why.
Like I said: It doesn't say much for the male of the species.