I don't claim to know much about women, but one thing I do know is that you should never offer an opinion in front of one of them—even if they ask you for one. Life's too short. It just isn't worth the hassle.
Which is why, if Jen puts the kettle on and asks whether I'd prefer tea or coffee, I naturally assume it's a trick question, and insist she tells me the right answer. You might think there couldn't possibly be a wrong answer to the question would you prefer tea or coffee?, but, believe me, there can be.
Far, far worse than expressing an opinion, however, is to accuse a woman of being downright wrong: "You're wrong" is the second* most dangerous thing you can say to a woman. Trust me, don't go there.
But I forgot this golden rule when I was out with Stense last week: Stense asked me a question, I rather stupidly gave her a straight answer, she told me I was wrong, I stood my ground, she stood hers, things started to turn a bit nasty, so, of course, I eventually had to back down—even though Stense was totally wrong, and, I have to say, totally out of order.
In over 15 years of friendship, it was our first falling out. I record the momentous argument here for posterity:
"How tall are you, Rich?"
"Five foot eight."
"No you're not."
"Yes I am."
"I am! I'm five foot eight!"
"Well how tall am I, then?"
"Five foot seven, at the very most."
"No, I'm five foot eight—172 centimetres—it says so on my passport."
"OK, OK, you're right, I'm five foot seven."
(I can always tell when I'm skating on thin ice with Stense: she starts using my full name.)
OK, so maybe it wasn't exactly the world's biggest tiff, and we soon made friends again afterwards, but the episode has been niggling me ever since. Who the bloody hell did Stense think she was, telling me I didn't even know my own height?
So, on Sunday afternoon, I asked Jen to measure my height. Yes, that's right, Stense had reduced me to this: I actually stood in my bare feet with my back against the coal-hole door, while Jen made a mark on the wood. And it was all done scientifically, so that Stense couldn't possibly object: Jen stood on the bottom rung of a step-ladder to ensure that her eyes were level with the top of my head (no parallax errors there); she placed a horizontal ruler on top of my head to make sure her mark was level; she checked that my heels and toes were on the floor as she did so (no cheating!); and she measured the height of the mark above the floor with a long, metal tape measure.
And it turns out that, just as I had said, I am five foot eight inches tall.
…Well, five foot seven-and-a-half.