Dummkopf Chronicles

A trip down nostalgia lane:


One summer when  I was about ten, my parents rented a house for us on the ocean in Annisquam MA. Every day for a month, my older sister and I watched our little brothers and played on the beach with the kids next door while my mom “laid out” on a tin foil-covered lawn chair up at the house. We were of course allowed to go in the water, using our “common sense,” and we’d spend hours and hours making sand castles and playing mermaids and “baseball players’ wives”(sic!) until hunger would eventually drive us back up to the house for lunch. We’d sneak an episode of All My Children – Tara was engaged to Phil the Viet Nam vet – or we’d watch the Watergate hearings for a while. The grown-up TV was riveting, somehow, but sometimes we’d just make crank phone calls to the neighbors. The telephone in that creaky house had an old-fashioned party line, so we could sometimes hear their conversations. But we’d always drift back down to the beach while my mom was still chilling on her lawn chair or – more likely – shopping, cooking, and doing laundry ’round the clock for us brats, and, honestly, none of this seemed out of the ordinary, including the fact that my dad didn’t have a vacation at all and continued to commute two hours each day to his job seeing patients at the hospital, so we could have a summer at the ocean.

But I do remember one memorable time when my father accompanied us to the beach: a young man was making his way towards the water, dragging a lawn mower across the sand behind him. My father always wore a suit (except once, when he was Superman at my halloween party), and in my memories, he’s on that beach in a short sleeved white dress shirt and tie, like Ed Harris in Apollo 13, when we come upon this nincompoop  trying to start the lawn mower. On the sand. Heading for the shoreline. My dad asked the young man what his intentions were and the young man said: ‘I want to see if this lawnmower goes in the water.’ And my dad paused and replied – I remember this very clearly: ‘Son, do you know what a “Dummkopf’ is?


The point being… Look, I’m not trying to pick another fight here (or here) but I’m wondering if I might have been a little hasty a couple weeks ago with my sunny outlook on Y chromosome carriers.

Recall: I love men. I do. I’m exceptionally pro on quite a few men. And I don’t have to hog the stage, man-wise, by the way: it’s totally fine with me if there are things men do, on average, better than women. I don’t have a problem with that. I’m open to some biological explanations of sex differences. Mind you, I’m pretty certain a lot of the current explanatory story about how women and men “are” will look laughable in a few decades – the assumption that nubile, attractive females are evolutionarily primed to seek, I dunno, this man as a sexual partner, for example. I can imagine a point where that assumption might need a little retooling:

Noted Hottie, Rupert Murdoch

But these Just So stories about sex and gender don’t make me too crazy, I’m willing to take them out for a test spin, even willing to live with them for a while. Hey, I can own up to a few of my own retro predilections  – and why not? Sexual dimorphism has worked quite nicely for me.


Sexual dimorphism in World of Warcraft characters: Wired Magazine

And yet… could I be forgiven for wondering if maybe the End of Men really is nigh, after all?

Exhibit A:

“...According to an affidavit, Mr. Drinan used his laptop to connect to the airplane’s WiFi service and view porn on the flight. A person nearby allegedly saw him touching himself. The startled passenger notified a flight attendant and Drinan was asked to ‘put his pants back together.’ At the time the male flight attendant talked with Drinan, the defendant’s genitalia was totally exposed,” according to the release.

A totally different guy, self-described “jack of all trades,” leaving an Australia courthouse after being convicted of public indecency, also on a plane.

So, kids, here’s today’s quiz! We can all agree that women can be idiots/weirdos etc. etc., too – don’t shoot me –  But I’m just curious: When was the last time you saw a woman having trouble “putting her pants back together” on public transportation?

About ErikaChristakis

Yale Lecturer in early childhood education/Licensed teacher/Former preschool director/author. In possession of: unmarketable bachelor’s degree (Harvard, anthropology), semi-marketable graduate degrees (public health, education…). Rewarding career at the intersection of family, society, and schools (including long stint in parenting vortex). Forging a new path to connect all of the above.
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5 Responses to Dummkopf Chronicles

  1. Dummkopf. One of my favorite words. Since ‘Hogan’s Heroes.’

  2. David Hussar says:

    “When was the last time you saw a woman having trouble “putting her pants back together” on public transportation?” Just a Google search away, see:
    http://miami.cbslocal.com/2012/06/21/400-pound-woman-arrested-for-wearing-birthday-suit-on-bus-bench/ AND http://youtu.be/AhOLx9FO5KM

    • Okay, hahaha. Thanks for writing, Dave. But come on! I think we can still give the boys the laurel wreath for this category of behavior.

      (Actually, when i lived in Bangladesh, you’d very, very occasionally see a “crazy” woman with wild, straggly hair full of twigs etc walking around completely naked. These women were clearly psychotic, by all appearances, but it struck me as so interesting — and profoundly sad — that in a culture where women’s bodies are so taboo and so vigilantly guarded/surveilled/controlled, a “crazy” person would manifest her mental illness through stripping publicly.

      So.. as I say repeatedly, I’m not necessarily making biologically essentialist arguments here, just opening my eyes and taking note of a few things. And don’t you think the rare times when American women are caught ‘flashing,’or exposing themselves or whatever you want to call it, it’s more likely to be picked up in the news? I bet if you polled EVERY single woman you know, she’d tell you at least one story of a time she saw a man whip out his ‘junk’ on a subway. I can think of three or four incidents just off the top of my head from my youth. (Mercifully, one of the advantages of middle age is one’s declining value as a target for public penis exposure.) Your own niece found a guy jerking off in our car port last year on the way home from school. Charming! And while I did call the police on that dude, these episodes don’t generally make front-page news. Just a saying’ Cheers! You always can count on push-back from me. 🙂 Thanks for writing.

  3. Daphne says:

    I now have a picture of your dad in a bathing suit, shirt and tie ready to go for a dip in the ocean. Thanks for that. Really. It made me laugh.

  4. Cathi Carol says:

    That there are still so many women who have bought into the delusion that culture = nature, the sales pitch of intellectual inequality between the sexes, who think it’s funny or charming to put down their own sex (or the other sex) is uncanny.

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