'The differences between men and women' 

 Let's say a guy named Roger is attracted to a woman
 named Elaine.  He asks her out to a movie; she accepts; 
 they have a pretty good time. A few nights later he
 asks her out to dinner, and again they enjoy
 themselves.  They continue to see each other regularly, 
 and after a while neither one of them is seeing anybody 

 And then, one evening when they're driving home, a
 thought occurs to Elaine, and, without really thinking, 
 she says it aloud: ''Do you realize that, as of
 tonight, we've been seeing each other for exactly six 

 And then there is silence in the car. To Elaine, it 
 seems like a very loud silence. She thinks to herself: 
 Geez, I wonder if it bothers him that I said that.
 Maybe he's been feeling confined by our relationship; 
 maybe he thinks I'm trying to push him into some kind 
 of obligation that he doesn't want, or isn't sure of.

 And Roger is thinking: Gosh. Six months. 

 And Elaine is thinking: But, hey, I'm not so sure I 
 want this kind of relationship, either.  Sometimes I 
 wish I had a little more space, so I'd have time to 
 think about whether I really want us to keep going the 
 way we are, moving steadily toward . . . I mean, where 
 are we going? Are we just going to keep seeing each 
 other at this level of intimacy? Are we heading toward
 marriage? Toward children?  Toward a lifetime together? 
 Am I ready for that level of  commitment? Do I really 
 even know this person?

 And Roger is thinking: . . . so that means it was . . . 
 let's see . . . February when we started going out, 
 which was right after I had the car at the dealer's, 
 which means . . . lemme check the odometer . . . Whoa! 
 I am way overdue for an oil change here. 

 And Elaine is thinking: He's upset. I can see it on his 
 face.  Maybe I'm reading this completely wrong. Maybe 
 he wants more from our relationship, more intimacy,
 more commitment; maybe he has sensed -- even before I 
 sensed it -- that I was feeling some reservations. Yes, 
 I bet that's it. That's why he's so reluctant to say 
 anything about his own feelings. He's afraid of being 

 And Roger is thinking: And I'm gonna have them look at 
 the transmission again. I don't care what those morons 
 say, it's still not shifting right. And they better not 
 try to blame it on the cold weather this time. What cold 
 weather? It's 87 degrees out, and this thing is shifting 
 like a goddamn garbage truck, and I paid those 
 incompetent thieves $600.

 And Elaine is thinking: He's angry. And I don't blame 
 him. I'd be angry, too. God, I feel so guilty, putting 
 him through this, but I can't help the way I feel. I'm 
 just not sure.

 And Roger is thinking: They'll probably say it's only a 
 90- day warranty. That's exactly what they're gonna say, 
 the scumballs. 

 And Elaine is thinking: maybe I'm just too idealistic, 
 waiting for a knight to come riding up on his white 
 horse, when I'm sitting right next to a perfectly good 
 person, a person I enjoy being with, a person I truly 
 do care about, a person who seems to truly care about 
 me. A person who is in pain because of my self-centered, 
 schoolgirl romantic fantasy. 

 And Roger is thinking: Warranty? They want a warranty? 
 I'll give them a goddamn warranty. I'll take their
 warranty and stick it right up their . . . . . 

 ''Roger,'' Elaine says aloud. 

 ''What?'' says Roger, startled. 

 ''Please don't torture yourself like this,'' she says, 
 her eyes beginning to brim with tears. ''Maybe I should 
 never have . . . Oh God, I feel so . . .''

 (She breaks down, sobbing.)

 ''What?'' says Roger.

 ''I'm such a fool,'' Elaine sobs. ''I mean, I know 
 there's no knight. I really know that. It's silly. 
 There's no knight, and there's no horse.''

 ''There's no horse?'' says Roger. 

 ''You think I'm a fool, don't you?'' Elaine says. 

 ''No!'' says Roger, glad to finally know the correct 

 ''It's just that . . . It's that I . . . I need some 
 time,''  Elaine says.

 (There is a 15-second pause while Roger, thinking as 
 fast as he can, tries to come up with a safe response. 
 Finally he comes up with one that he thinks might

 ''Yes,'' he says.

 (Elaine, deeply moved, touches his hand.) 

 ''Oh, Roger, do you really feel that way?'' she says. 

 ''What way?'' says Roger.

 ''That way about time,'' says Elaine. 

 ''Oh,'' says Roger. ''Yes.'' 

 (Elaine turns to face him and gazes deeply into his
 eyes, causing him to become very nervous about what she 
 might say next, especially if it involves a horse. At 
 last she speaks.)

 ''Thank you, Roger,'' she says. 

 ''Thank you,'' says Roger.

 Then he takes her home, and she lies on her bed, a
 conflicted, tortured soul, and weeps until dawn, whereas 
 when Roger gets back to his place, he opens a bag of
 Doritos, turns on the TV, and immediately becomes deeply 
 involved in a rerun of a tennis match between two
 Czechoslovakians he never heard of.  A tiny voice in the 
 far recesses of his mind tells him that something major 
 was going on back there in the car, but he is pretty
 sure there is no way he would ever understand what, and 
 so he figures it's better if he doesn't think about it. 
 (This is also Roger's policy regarding world hunger.) 

 The next day Elaine will call her closest friend, or 
 perhaps two of them, and they will talk about this 
 situation for six straight hours.In painstaking detail, 
 they will analyze everything she said and everything he 
 said, going over it time and time again,  exploring 
 every word, expression, and gesture for nuances of 
 meaning, considering every possible ramification. They 
 will continue to discuss this subject, off and on, for 
 weeks, maybe months, never reaching any definite 
 conclusions, but never getting bored with it, either.

 Meanwhile, Roger, while playing racquetball one day 
 with a mutual friend of his and Elaine's, will pause 
 just before serving, frown, and say:

 ''Norm, did Elaine ever own a horse?''