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How to find common ground and open the lines of communication

During a recent interview, I was asked a question about the essential differences between the sexes when it comes to concepts like priorities and values. The question went something like this:

“It seems you are quite a shoe shopper — do you think this is an exclusively female trait or can men be just as bad when it comes to footwear?”

I cleared my throat, filling the uncomfortable pause with an obvious delay tactic. The subject of shoes can be a touchy one, especially when approached from a gender-specific perspective. After gathering my thoughts, I responded with the following personal perspective:

“I’d have to speculate it’s most likely a singularly female trait — no doubt the result of some quirky twist in our DNA. My husband has long given up trying to understand the relationship between shoes and female chromosomes. His reluctant surrender came one day when I explained the compulsion as part of an inseparable trifecta — a love for shoes, an insatiable desire for chocolate, and the ability to flawlessly apply make-up while driving. He’s never asked me about it since.”

Pretty innocuous stuff from an innocent question — nothing all that unusual, but it got me thinking . . .

What if the age-old discussion about the differences between men and women came down to just one essential ingredient? Was it possible all the psychological studies and sociological debate over the inconsistencies and dissimilarities between the sexes were simply reflections of what we were wearing when our feet hit the pavement?

For the record, my husband owns four pairs of shoes — one each black and brown loafers, white tennis shoes, and his favorite pair of worn leather Sperry’s. He says that’s all he needs. What he really means, in my opinion, is he gets by with four pair because five different types of shoes would be extravagant, a waste of money, and . . . unmanly.

I came to the conclusion he suffers from obvious shoe deficiency (OSD for short). But can a simple case of OSD make that much difference in a person’s behavior? Based on past experience, I’m sure of it.

Pardon the personal reference, but if presented with a threat to cut my shoe stash down to four pair, there would be an immediate and unpleasant change in my temperament.

For example, I might not be inclined to pick my clothes up off the floor (or his either). I’d probably let the dirty dishes sit in the sink an extra hour or two — or maybe all night — hoping Alice from the Brady Bunch would decide to abandon her current responsibilities and suddenly appear at my door, sponge in hand.

In other words, my normally friendly disposition would take a dive straight into the dumper.

For the inexperienced in such situations … fair warning — if you believe a woman’s mood swings before we bought both the red and white pair of stiletto pumps produced more than a few radical behavioral shifts, just take away our shoes. It’s likely those previous eruptions of alternative personas will become a welcome respite compared to the Medusa you’ve just unleashed.

Consider the major step forward we could all take if the huge gulf of confusing silence that currently resides between Mars and Venus could easily be diminished to the occasional pregnant pause if more men shopped online to check out the latest Florsheims.

I’m already imagining the benefits. If a man’s closet was stocked with an adequate complement of footwear, it’s likely that, in short time, he’d be enjoying the advantages of intuition, thoughtful reflection, and sympathetic sensitivity.

Just sayin’…