An American-born-and-raised Caucasian woman who’d been married to a Hong Kong-born-and-raised Asian man recently said to me, “There were some big cultural differences between us, but the biggest was gender.”

I’d never before thought of “how men act” or “what women think” as “men’s culture” and “women’s culture.” But it makes sense. It must, because the woman is working toward a Ph.D., so she’s clearly smart.

Cultural differences between men and women could explain a lot about how spouses of opposite genders treat each other.*

Women’s culture: Get together and talk about what’s going on in your life.
Men’s culture: Get together to watch a football game and call each other “dumbass.”

It works great, as long as the people involved know when to tuck their respective cultures into their respective back pockets. For example, when a woman is telling a man about what’s going on in her life, he has to remember not to call her “dumbass.”

No matter what.

But women have to understand that the way men commiserate is not meaningless. In context, at least. I don’t call every guy “dumbass.” Only my best buds. It’s shorthand for “There exists between us a tacit compact that neither of us shall aggress upon the other, for we are fast members of a tribe who will defend one another unto death.”

Or until the last beer is gone.

On the other hand, I believe that other aspects of culture—ethnic, generational, religious—also play a role in shaping how any man or woman treats a lover or spouse.

For example, I know a woman who was once told by an older woman, “You married an Italian man? Then you must have a drawer full of lingerie.” I happen to know for a fact that that is not a generational thing, but an ethnic thing. Speaking on behalf of my paisanos, I can tell you that any living Italian guy between the ages of thirteen and ninety-whatever likes to see a lady dressed in, well, as little as possible—but if she’s wearing something, it might as well be sexy.

Even here, though, intergender cultural issues arise. Because, maybe he likes to see her in a thong—but that’s one of the last things she wants to strap onto her body.

Which is exactly why a woman needs a whole drawer full of lingerie. You know: Options.

Wait—what was I talking about? Oh, yeah—male/female cultural differences. I’m no Ph.D., but here’s how I suggest a guy can close the gap: Tell her you like her ass. And that she’s not a dumb one.

* What about same-gender spouses? The woman I spoke with, who’s been single for a while, said, “I’ve talked with lesbians about this, and I believe the reason I complain about men is that I don’t date women.”

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