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October 14, 2008

A shout-out to the boys

October 14. Day 106.

I just came across this newsflash on CNN:
About one in seven men has a combination of genes -- one new and one first discovered in 2001 -- that increases his risk of male pattern baldness sevenfold, compared to men without the combination.

It's a scientific finding that won't grow hair on your head. But it could lead to better testing for a susceptibility to male pattern baldness, a problem that affects 40 million men in the United States. (Continue reading.)
There we go again. The syndrom-ization of a normal physical attribute. Turn it into a "risky" ailment that "affects" people and suddenly, it's marketable! Diagnosable!


Don't get me wrong: I have nothing against people, male or female, who decide to curtail or counteract hairloss. And the research itself is worthwhile. But the reporter's wording is so... well, let me put it this way. Would this headline fly? "Researchers identify gene responsible for [fat ankles/big butts/thin lips/a-cups], a problem that affects 40 million women"

Incidentally, here's a hello to all the men out there.

One friend, a researcher living in Paris, recently dashed off this note when I mentioned the Salon story: "very interesting--has lots of applications for men as well, no?"

I know what I think, but what do you think, oh reader?

This project may be by a woman who asks, but there's no reason it can't be about, and for, men too. No? Sure, we're socialized differently. Sure, men are statistically more likely to ask. But perhaps some men feel they are implicitly or explicitly pressured to ask, even if they'd rather not. So maybe that's a downer. And for every woman who asks, there's probably a man who doesn't. And for every man who asks, there's might be a woman sitting next to him at work, or sleeping next to him in bed, or snoring in the crib down the hall, who might not. So of course I'm glad if they're interested in these questions -- both the daily askings and larger issues.

I'd love to hear from readers of either gender (or both...): What's your take on men and negotiation? Do they experience a different set of pressures that come with the freedom (read: expectation) to negotiate? Is there a version of the pushover/bitch dichotomy in the male sphere -- that is, any double standards for what we allow women to ask about while deriding men for the same questions? And, besides directions (whatever -- every man I know asks for directions, even those with GPS's), what questions would men dare not ask? Just a few thoughts I've had recently. Or, share your own!

Speaking of asking, today I wrote a much more compelling and focused email to JetBlue's upper echelons. After no answer the first round, by now I suspect this will also fall on deaf ears, but it's a much better shot. Must. Persevere.

I owe it all to Slick, who is La Sorella's boyfriend and a master negotiator. He told me what I need to say, how to say it, who to say it to. Even suggested a few tricks for getting a hold of the CEO, as a last ditch effort. (I may have to get over my fear of cold calling, if I'm serious about becoming a better asker...)

When I'm in Seattle, I hope to interview Slick about his secrets for: getting the best available hotel room upgrade every time, snagging free stuff at restaurants, and negotiating one's way to better pay and perks. Stay tuned.
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