I think there is only one situation in which Arabs and Israelis can really understand each other, and that’s when they are separated not by race or religion, but by gender.
It doesn’t matter whether you are an Arab or an Israeli, when the wife calls, you answer. Like, when we are shopping.
Men never give their wallets to anyone, at least not voluntarily. So why does my wife always turn to me when we're in public and usually shopping, and ask, "Hold my purse?" She doesn't really ask. And I know a reply isn't really expected.
I just reach out and take her black bag by the horns as she enters the woman's section, in search of that elusive “Size 2” in Nordstrom's along Chicago's “Magnificent Mile” on Michigan Ave.
Alison is a professional woman, which means she not only has her own career, but she doesn’t mind telling me what to do. She also raises our four-year-old son, Aaron.
Still, she spends a lot of time trying to figure out how to "collaborate" with me, which is a polite way of saying that she usually tells me what to do.
I can't figure out how she manages to do all of the things she does. Of course, it would help if I were around when she did them. But I'm never short of advice.
Still, at this moment, I'm not thinking about her achievements. I'm too busy steaming over the purse now hanging on my hand like a neon sign that screams "whipped husband."
"Jeeeez, honey," I want to protest. "They're people watching." But I don't waste my breath. Alison is too focused on the never-ending search for the perfect “Coach” bag.
I watch the empathetic glances of the other men who walk past and sympathize knowing exactly what has happened to me. I'm sure they're shaking their heads as if reading the obit pages of the New York Times.
And those women who walk by nodding. It’s in judgmental contentment. Me holding my wife's purse makes me their poster child for the “Professional Woman?”
"Can you hand me my wallet?" Alison asks, never without a collaborative question. She reaches out with her hand and doesn't even look my way.
"Ah, sure. Honey. I'll get it." I continue the phony front, and then I dutifully begin the formidable task digging through the heap of God-knows-what that fill the enormous space that makes up a woman’s purse.
Why don't I just give her my wallet? It would be easier.
I realize what I’m thinking. The thought of my wife controlling my credit card? That’s why she has her own credit card. I shiver that thought off my mind. And I work harder to find her wallet. "Here it is, sweetie," I say relieved.
I think Alison knows how I feel about "holding the purse." She doesn't hand the purse to me in order to demean me; or to put my masculinity in a relative context that elevates her above men for all the terrible things my gender has done to her gender over the years.
The art of shopping
It's not a social statement in a war between the sexes. Actually, it's not really a war because if it were, it would be a massacre!
She does it to free her hands because she is entering a space that, deep down, men fear and only women dare to brave. Shopping.
For Alison, shopping is an art form. It requires careful consideration, detailed comparison, much thought, and a husband who can collaborate and supports her by "holding the purse."
For most men like me, shopping is a fear. An obstacle course. It's a challenge to our masculinity. Like a Dart Game. You either hit the bulls-eye or you miss. Men shop with what we think is clinical precision. In. Out. Efficient. Uncaring of danger. And, usually carelessly. Without thinking. Like sex.
The less time spent shopping, the better.
Need pants? I go to a specific store -- the same one. Right to the 34-30 section. Black. Gabardine. No cuffs. What's to contemplate, compare or consider?
Of course, I am fighting a 36 waist -- which Alison carefully spells out as "w-a-s-t-e." She knows as soon as I get the pants home, I'll complain. But hey, the trauma of shopping is brought down to Zero Tolerance!
Men never return clothes that don’t fit. The wives will take them back to get one with a larger waist-line, not to do us a favor, but because they enjoy shopping. They don't bother to ask for our “receipts.” Men don't keep receipts. That would be a sign of surrender.
But that's okay. Alison is a professional woman. She knows how to maximize the return on every dollar. And she even gets the by-the-book clerk to take my pants back without a receipt.
How does she do that?
Now, if we could just change the dynamics of the Middle East conflict into teams of men versus women competing in a shopping spree, maybe we could end this whole problem.
The humiliation of the male would be a small price to pay for peace, especially in the Middle East.
Ray Hanania is an award winning Palestinian-American columnist and standup comedian and regular contributor to Ynetnews. He can be reached at www.hanania.com