Mbabane, Swaziland | 16 July 2014
A group of men and women find themselves at the entrance to heaven, the Pearly Gates.
God orders all the women to report to St Peter. This leaves two lines of men. All men who were dominated by their wives have to stand to one side. This line is 500km long. He then orders all men who were truly heads of their household to form a second line. A lone male steps up.
God said to the dominated males: “You men should be ashamed of yourselves. I created you to be the heads of your household and you let women push you around. Only one obeyed. Learn from him.”
God turned to that one man: “Tell them how you came to be the only man in this line?”
The man said: “My wife told me I must stand here.”
Tell this joke to a group of men and they are likely to laugh. Tell this joke to a group of women and they are equally likely to laugh. But it’s a fair bet that both men and women will be laughing for slightly different reasons. In fact, men and woman may laugh for the same reason: they both detect a bit of truth in the punchline.
This version of the joke was re-told by columnist James Clarke in South African newspaper The Star to hammer home his point that the battle between the sexes doesn’t have to mean war.
Reading between the lines, Clarke seems to be saying that humour – or the attempt at humour – can often diffuse the tense debate that has come to define “the battle of the sexes”.
He seems to be saying that in this age of gender mainstreaming and other such strange and vague terms, there’s nothing wrong with admitting to and appreciating the differences between men and women.
He seems to be saying that, sometimes, even the most serious of topics will be better served with a pinch of salt and a knowing (and respectful, of course) tongue through the cheek.
Admittedly, this is easier for a male to write – as men are much less likely to be victims of heinous crimes and discrimination born from nothing more than an outdated view that men should dominate over women.
Speaking of which, let’s return to God. I wonder what He has to say about all this. Luckily for us Clarke offers another yarn, originally told by comedian Mark Palmer.
One day in the Garden of Eden, Eve calls out to God: “Lord, I have a problem!”
“What’s the problem, Eve?”
“Lord, I know you created me and provided this beautiful garden and all of these wonderful animals and that comedic snake, but I’m just not happy.”
“Why is that, Eve?”
“Lord, I am lonely, and I’m sick to death of apples.”
“Well Eve, in that case I have a solution. I shall create a man for you.”
“What’s a man, Lord?”
“This man will be a flawed creature, with many bad traits. He’ll lie, cheat and be vain; all in all, he’ll give you a hard time. But… he’ll be bigger, faster, and will like to hunt and kill things. Yet he will see to your physical needs. He will be witless and will revel in childish things like fighting and kicking a ball about. He won’t be too smart, so he’ll probably need your advice to think properly.”
“Sounds great,” says Eve, “but what’s the catch, Lord?”
“You can have him on one condition: you’ll have to let him believe that I made him first. Just remember that it’s our little secret. You know, woman to woman.”
This column was originally published in the Times of Swaziland on 14 July 2014