Michael O'Doherty: Strength in numbers

Men might well be sharks but women are piranhas, writes Michael O'Doherty

Michael O'Doherty

As you approach middle age, your attention span, and the time you actually have to do things, gets less and less. Days seem to get shorter, everyone wants a piece of your time, so you've got to economise somewhere.

My time-saving device for 2010 is not to go to the cinema, but simply to watch trailers online. Let's be honest, they're always the best bits, they give you an adequate snapshot of the story and characters and, in some rare cases, they actually hit on a profound truth.

Take the trailer for George Clooney's latest movie, Up in the Air. It features our star, in a two-minute-long voiceover, giving an achingly perceptive view of the human condition -- how we're weighed down by relationships, how the hassle, compromise and grief that they bring hurries us to our graves, because they prevent us from moving. "Make no mistake," he intones, "moving is living. The slower we move, the faster we die. Some animals were meant to carry each other, to live symbiotically over a lifetime ... star-crossed lovers, monogamous swans. We are not swans. We are sharks."

It's an epic piece of deconstruction, something you'd hardly expect to find in a cinematic trailer which will probably, in all honestly, be drowned out by the munching of nachos and rustling of wine-gum bags as people settle in for a night of grazing in their local multiplex. But for all its perceptiveness, its analysis of human beings as solitary predators is not totally accurate. The 'we' which Clooney refers to is, strictly speaking, only applicable to men.

It's a defining difference between the sexes that men make up their own minds, and, once they have, seek the opinion of their friends as to what they think of their new girlfriend. Women, on the other hand, put you in a holding pattern, like a Facebook friend pending confirmation, 'til they have sought the opinion of their friends.

I had the misfortune, recently, to have the death knell on a relationship struck by the woman's insistence on seeking the opinion of her friends. And they, predictably enough, didn't approve. I've never, for some reason, hit it off with friends or family. I once went out with a girl for three years before she introduced me to her mother, presumably because she guessed that she wouldn't like me. She was right.

Women, strong in isolation, are simply unstoppable in numbers. Tune into the baying, frenzied lioness pit that is TV3's Midday show, where an all-female panel devour and spit out the day's weighty topics, and you'll be too scared to watch daytime TV again. Marvel at the sexual superiority of the gladiatorial, all-female casts of Sex and the City and Desperate Housewives, shows which use men as mere pawns in the assertiveness of female superiority. But most of all, recoil in terror when women convene, over a bottle of wine, a pack of Doritos, and a shit DVD, to form their opinions on the latest men in their lives.

Both of the sexes are predators. But while men plough a lonely, solitary furrow, gathering their own thoughts and acting accordingly, women hunt in numbers, devouring their prey in a group frenzy, 'til there's nothing left. Men are sharks all right. But women are piranhas.

Michael O'Doherty is publisher of the VIP magazine group