"There are two kinds of men," Maddie finally offered. Maddie's older brother Bernard and I had been talking about women and relationships and she had been quietly listening. Finally, inevitably, Bernard and I stopped to catch our breath and she was able to talk without interrupting.
"Yes," she nodded. "Men who don't have a clue about women and men who don't have a clue that they don't have a clue about women."
I wanted to respond. I was not sure what to say.
Bernard's confusion did less to silence him. "Oh c'mon, Maddie. That's a cheap shot. There are men who have a clue."
"Really," she raised an eyebrow.
"Sure. There are women happy with the guy they are with. They even say as much."
"They are with men who don't have a clue that they don't have a clue." The way she said this did not seem to allow the least questioning on our part. "Those men are sometimes easier to be with." She paused. "Sometimes."
"What do you mean?"
"Well," she paused, her finger tracing patterns in some spilt salt on the table, "men who don't have a clue tend to give up. They are like deer in the headlights. Or potatoes on the couch. They don't try anymore because they haven't a clue about what does or doesn't work or what to say or what not to say. Men who realize how little they realize might be less delusional, but they are not really better.
"Now men who haven't a clue that they don't have a clue can actually be coaxed into doing certain things. They are easier to engage. They say the wrong things but they can be coached into saying some approximation of the right thing. They do the wrong things but ... well at least they still engage with you. Handled properly, they can be enjoyable company."
Bernard and I sat quietly for the first time all evening. I had suddenly lost all confidence about what I could say.
"Is knowing that there are just these two types of men the first clue," I finally asked.
Maddie laughed. "Oh Ron," she said. "You know, there might be hope for you yet."
"You think there is hope for me to actually get a clue," I asked, my voice betraying my hope more than I had wanted.
Maddie laughed even harder. "No, silly. I'm just saying that there is a chance that you might be one of those men whose sense of delusion could be put to good use." And then she laughed again. I did not.