What is a woman?

By Tom Purcell, Special to the Katy Times
Posted 4/6/22

I’m glad there’s widespread confusion about what a woman is. I’ve been confused my entire life.

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What is a woman?


I’m glad there’s widespread confusion about what a woman is. I’ve been confused my entire life.

In the most basic sense, the difference between a male and a female is that a female has two X chromosomes and a male has an X and a Y chromosome—or, in my experience, a “WHY” chromosome?

I was raised an only boy with five sisters. All my sisters ever said to me was:

Why did you eat all the graham crackers?

Why can’t you stop picking your nose?

Why don’t you ever change the toilet paper roll when the toilet paper runs out?

I love my sisters, and we had lots of laughter growing up in our lively house, but I was an agitation to them most of the time—especially when they caught me using their toothbrushes.

They refused to sit next to their “icky, stinky” brother in our station wagon, so my Dad banished me to the third seat—the one that faced backwards, which kept me in a perpetual state of motion sickness.

To his credit, my father advanced gender-neutral clothing four decades before it was fashionable—though he was motivated by cost savings.

Despite my having five sisters, he made me wear hand-me-downs. It wasn’t too bad most of the year, but I must tell you, Easter Sunday was unpleasant.

Do you know how hard it is to outrun the neighborhood bully with your panty hose bunching up on you and your bonnet flopping in the wind?

When I grew up in the ‘70s, bullies were everywhere in our suburban neighborhood.

Since I had no older brother to teach me how to fight, my sisters taught me.

I’ll never forget my first scuffle. After a bully shoved me, I looked him dead in the eye and I said, “You are soooooooo immature!”

Luckily, my sister, Kris, blossomed into one of the toughest street fighters in our neighborhood.

When Terry Leper busted up my go-cart, she pummeled him until he blubbered like a baby.

She was barely 5’3” and 100 pounds against Leper’s 6-foot 180-plus pound frame. How she overpowered him is anyone’s guess, but Leper’s reign of terror ended that day.

Then the next day Kris tattled on me for failing to put the toilet seat down.

The point is, I never knew what was coming from my sisters. Every day brought new surprises. But I was never as perplexed as my dad was.

He was forever saying things that caused my sisters and mother to get angry with him. He never understood what he did wrong.

When the feathered Farrah Fawcett look was in style — and my sisters persuaded me to be the first kid at St. Germaine to sport teen-pop-star David Cassidy’s famous shag haircut — all of us spent way too much time shampooing and conditioning our hair in the shower.

The water, gas and electric bills were astronomical.

When my dad pleaded for the umpteenth time for us to cut back on our shower time, one or more of my sisters would storm out of the room, slamming a door or two.

“For godssakes, Betty, what did I do?” my dad said, hopelessly befuddled by the women in his life.

So it’s refreshing that so many others, including a Supreme Court nominee, are as now as confused as my father and I have long been about what a woman is.

Tom Purcell is an author and humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Email him at Tom@TomPurcell.com.


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