The other side

Between the years 1991 and 1999 there was a tv show I watched named “Home Improvement”. The series was a comedy about the the Taylor family told through the perspective of the patriarch Tim Taylor . Every week Tim would navigate a family issue in a pretty funny way. Often Tim would turn to his next door neighbour Wilson for some advice and as a sounding board. Wilson would stand on the other side of the fence with his face half hidden by the fence and tell Tim a story and offer some insightful wisdom about the situation the Taylor family was in.

I loved Wilsons mystery (the audience was only permitted to see half of Wilsons face), stories and advice. Wilson had a PHD in language and would often begin his stories to Tim by explaining the etymology of a word or phrase.

Tim: What a mess. [Wilson is barbecuing]
Wilson: Hi Tim!
Tim: Hi Wilson. Boy does that smell good. Baby back ribs?
Wilson: No, no, no. Squirrel. I tell you Tim. This is what it’s all about. Catch of the day cooking. Sun setting. Men standing around the campfire, telling stories. [Tim sits on the back porch]
Tim: Mind if I tell you a story, Wilson?
Wilson: Campfire’s lit, good neighbor.
Tim: Jill doesn’t get the job she wants, I tell her not to feel bad, she gets angry.
Wilson: Hm-hm-hm-hm. Hm-hm.
Tim: Alright. So then I tell her what she should do, she jumps all over me. And then walks away.
Wilson: Sounds like you were having an asymmetrical conversation.
Tim: Asymmetrical?
Wilson: Hm.
Tim: How d’you spell that?
Wilson: Let’s just say one-sided. You see Tim, by nature, men are problem solvers but Jill didn’t want you to solve her problem. [Tim comes over to the fence]
Tim: She didn’t?
Wilson: Oh, no, no. She just wanted you to listen while she shared her feelings.
Tim: Just stand there and listen? W-wouldn’t, wouldn’t that be like not doing anything?
Wilson: Sometimes the best thing you can do, Tim, is nothing.
Tim: [Grunting] Oh. Jill got mad at me because I didn’t listen to her!
Wilson: No, I think she got mad at you because you blew up the damn dishwasher.

Script excerpt from The Home Improvement Pilot Episode.
Photo by on

Wilson used the word asymmetrical to explain to Tim what was going on, Wilson gave definition but did not stop there. Defining what is going on helps but it is and should always be a starting point for humanity. I think about gender when I think about definition and why do certain parts of the population fail to recognize more than two genders.

Defining a person gender is difficult primarily because a gender is a social construct not a biological one. Society and roles in that society determine ones gender not their sex at birth. There are within the North American culture about 68 genders. Gender is how a person identifies within a culture and it matters because identity matters, it is part of who you are. I was born at a time when people born with male sexual organs were assigned a male gender and people with female sexual organs were assigned a female gender. This mattered because as the male or female grew up they were demonized for participating in acts that were designated for one gender or the other. Only men work outside and act as protectors and only women wear makeup and play with dolls and cook and clean.

Defining gender helps, however only defining gender can hurt. We need to know why you or I are the gender that we identify with. Often when we do a self review we find that we are not the gender we were assigned at birth.

Understanding the why is important we could all do well with our own Wilson type of neighbour and friend.

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