Snips and Snails by Jamie Kirkpatrick


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According to Roud Folk Song Index #182, little boys are made of “snips and snails and puppy dog tails.” Little girls fare a bit better: they’re made of “sugar and spice and everything nice.” Leaving aside any questions that might arise as a result of more politically correct modern gender connotations, I guess it’s safe to say that maybe—just maybe—we (men and women) really do come from different planets.

But I’m not convinced. Yes: Mars and Venus are different planets with different attributes, but in the end, they’re both heavenly bodies that share space in our little solar system. So why can’t we just get along, too?

There’s a lot of election-year talk about a “gender gap” and candidates from both sides of the gender aisle are seeking to exploit some measure of gender advantage. (Well, some candidates, anyway; one candidate in particular seems to have taken a wholly different tack by doing everything he can to alienate women. But that’s another story.) There’s also the nagging question of unequal pay for men and women recently highlighted by the US Women’s National Soccer Team who win more—a lot more!—than their male counterparts but are paid considerably less despite the fact that the women produced $20 million more revenue than the men last year. (To add insult to injury, the per diem for a female soccer player is $10/day less than for a player on the men’s team.) Anyway, the point is, as James Brown put it, “this is a man’s world” or at least it is on the soccer pitch and (I suspect) on almost every other pitch, too.

But why is it so? One can posit all kinds of reasons—in the past, women had less access to higher education, they opt out of the work force for longer periods of time, they work fewer hours because of their domestic responsibilities—but in the end, these reasons all ring hollow and seem to put the blame on women themselves. That just doesn’t make sense to me; it’s like blaming Jill for Jack’s clumsy tumble down the hill. No; it seems to me that men are the more likely culprits. We’re so busy with our snips and snails that we take either conscious or unconscious advantage of the sugar and spice nature of women so that we have more time to chase all manner of puppy dog tails.

Take Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, for example. Those two, along with all the other rough and tumble men who made up the Corps of Discovery, went on a two-and-a-half-year jaunt in search of all manner of snips and snails. But they might not have made it home to tell their tale were it not for their Shoshone guide Sacagewea who pushed the boys over the Continental Divide, on to the Pacific Ocean, and right into the history books all the while keeping Touissant Charbonnau warm at night. (It’s important to note that for her trouble, Sacagewa was posthumously inducted in the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 1977 and even given her very own one dollar coin. I bet if she had been a man, it would have been a $5 coin.)

Women earn 79 cents for every dollar earned by men. Enough of that! Just pay everybody—men and women—fairly and equally: doctors, lawyers, Indian Chiefs, and soccer players. Make one big tasty olla podrida made of snips and snails and sugar and spice, all stirred with a puppy dog’s tale and served with everything nice.

Please pass the salt.

After careers in both international development (Special Olympics) and secondary education (Landon School), Jamie Kirkpatrick bought a home on the Eastern Shore in 2011. Now he’s a happily married freelance writer and photographer who plays golf and the bagpipes with equal facility. Jamie’s writing and photography have appeared in The Baltimore Sun and The Philadelphia Inquirer. He is currently at work on a new book called “Musing Right Along.

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