Originally Published February 3, 1997
If you’ve seen the NBC sitcom “Men Behaving Badly,” Sandra Beckwith says you’re already familiar with her field of study.
The editor of The Do(o)little Report, a bimonthly newsletter that answers the musical question, “Why can’t a man be more like a woman?,” says the TV show touches the same nerve as her newsletter’s popular “Stupid Men Tricks” column.
“When the commercials for ‘Men Behaving Badly’ started running last summer, it reminded me of my ‘Stupid Men Tricks,’ ” Beckwith says. “I can’t tell you how many people have seen the show and asked if it was based on my newsletter. The trick where the man dries his underwear in a microwave oven? For all I know, the producer does this himself.”
Coincidentally, Harvey Myman, an executive producer of “Men Behaving Badly,” is a subscriber and fan of The Do(o)little Report. “I subscribed to it at the same time I was reading a lot of books on the subject,” Myman says. “It speaks to the fact that both she and we speak to a matter of hard-wired male behavior.”
As for the underwear in the microwave trick, that was only seen in a promo, not an actual episode and no, he hasn’t tried it at home.
Beckwith has enjoyed a great deal of notoriety and visibility thanks to The Do(o)little Report, including stories in USA Today and The Wall Street Journal and an appearance on “The Montel Williams Show.” The newsletter — which boasts more than 5,000 subscribers — also led to a 1995 book, Why Can’t A Man Be More Like A Woman (Kensington).
The Do(o)little Report, now in its fourth year, is not a male-bashing circus or a sociological dissertation. Beckwith is a happily married, witty mother of two daughters, ages 9 and 6, who sees herself performing a public service. “One of the purposes of the newsletter is to show women the reasons men do the things they do,” Beckwith explains. “If you understand the behavior, you’ll become more tolerant.”
She got started four years ago when she noticed that women were becoming more vocal about the things that bothered them in their relationships with men.
“Women are earning more money so they’re no longer afraid of biting the hand that feeds them,” she says. “The rent is no longer at stake if he doesn’t like what she says. I didn’t think the behavior of men is any worse today than 30 years ago — we’re just talking about it more.”
The real hit of The Do(o)little Report — which takes its name and joie de vie from My Fair Lady‘s Eliza Doolittle — is the “Stupid Men Tricks” column. The following tricks from Beckwith’s newsletter were fodder for a relay race she hosted on the syndicated talk show “Crook & Chase”:
Wrapping a gift with foil instead of wrapping paper. (It eliminates tape because foil clings to a box.)
Repairing torn jeans with a stapler.
Preparing for a trip to the coin laundry by pouring detergent into the pockets of jeans. (So men don’t have to carry a box of detergent.)
Enjoying whipped cream with pie by taking a bite of pie then squirting whipped cream directly in the man’s mouth. (Saves time, right?)
Beckwith’s favorite “Stupid Men Trick” of all-time was the guy who, rather than throw out a pair of socks that had a hole on the ankle, used a Magic Marker that matched his socks and colored in his ankle.
“I would never do that,” she says. “But I’m a woman. Men call in these tricks with great pride. They want to see their tricks in print.”
The Do(o)little Report transcends gender and generations, as Beckwith’s older daughter demonstrated a few years ago.
“She came into my office,” Beckwith recalls, “and said, ‘I have an idea for your newsletter: Why do men spend so much time in the bathroom? Daddy goes in there with the newspaper and I don’t think that he’s ever going to come out!’ “
Beckwith thinks her daughters will be better adjusted adults for the lessons they’ll one day learn in The Do(o)little Report.
“Men and women are different,” she says. “You have to understand the differences. And sometimes, the differences can really make you laugh.”
© 2008 by Bob Andelman. All rights reserved.
Copyright 2008 Will Eisner: A Spirited Life by Bob Andelman