The worst thing a man can do in front of women is talk about pain -- especially if these women are of a certain age.
At a party the other night, my friend Bob made the mistake of mentioning that he'd recently had outpatient surgery on his knee.
The knee, he said, was swollen and throbbing and quite painful.
Immediately, you could hear a few snickers.
"You call that pain?" his wife Judy said.
Here we go, I thought.
"I'll tell you what pain is, mister," Judy said. "Pain is 18 hours of someone-please-kill-me labor."
At this, the other women in the room seemed to perk up. Their eyes took on this strange, excited glow.
"Pain," said another woman, "is a baby the size of a footlocker inching down a birth canal with the circumference of a garden hose."
Still another woman said: "Pain is thrashing about in some godforsaken birthing room and feeling like your insides are being torn out by a team of oxen while the blood vessels in your eyes pop from all the strain."
By this point, of course, Bob was beginning to realize the full enormity of his error. He tried fleeing to another room.
But there were four other men there and we followed him into the hallway and began beating him about the head.
"What is the matter with you!" one guy yelled at Bob.
"You know they're gonna bring up childbirth!" another guy said.
I tried to get a punch in myself at this point, but Bob was backpedaling too fast. I decided to wait until he was down and then kick him.
Clearly, the poor slob had forgotten Hanson's First Law of Suffering, named after my friend, Vince Hanson, which states:
1. There is no pain greater than childbirth.
2. Only women can experience childbirth.
3. Therefore, only women can experience real pain.
Women wave this around the way the Chinese once waved Mao's Little Red Book. Therefore, if you're a man, they have very little sympathy for your pain, unless, I don't know, your arm was severed in a combine accident.
And even if your arm was severed in a combine accident, most of these women would say: "Was it cut off at the shoulder or the elbow? 'Cause if it's the elbow, it's nothing compared to when I delivered little Jason."
This, of course, is why you never hear men discuss their vasectomies in front of women.
For the record, I myself have never had a vasectomy, owing to a number of different factors, the main one being: I'm one of those people who prefers not to have anyone advance on his testicles with a hypodermic needle and scalpel.
Hey, it's a quirk of mine.
God knows where I picked it up.
In fact, I don't even like to talk about vasectomies. When other men bring up the subject of their vasectomies, the room starts spinning and I have to lie down.
The point is, a vasectomy seems like a fairly grim and uncomfortable procedure.
So you'd think that a man who endures one should be able to parlay it into some real sympathy.
Which he can never do if the subject is broached in front of women.
Men, of course, love to talk to each other about their vasectomies.
Depending upon the amount of beer being consumed, they can become extremely animated ("Then they take this huge needle, OK? And they stick it right in your . . .")
Meanwhile, men who haven't had vasectomies will listen to these stories with great interest and compassion.
These men will wince and pull their knees together and say things like: "What, they just cut it? Geez. Like it's an onion or something?"
But as soon as a woman enters the room -- BOOM! -- that's the end of the vasectomy stories.
A man could be in mid-sentence -- it could be the greatest vasectomy story ever told, the "Catch-22" of all vasectomy stories -- and he'll clam up just like that.
Then he'll say something like: "Weatherman's calling for rain."
Because men know that this heroic story of pain and the limits of human endurance will not impress a woman.
To women who have endured childbirth, a vasectomy is like a paper cut.
God, it must be great to be able to say that.
Me, I've got to lie down for a while.