Nsl .staudw Pddw alh jarrt koagp;e—oh, sorry, I forgot to switch to Dvorak keyboarding. I’ve given up QWERTY typing, that tanglefoot kludge laid out by Christopher Sholes in the 1870s to prevent the mechanical hammers from jamming in the prototype that became the Remington typewriter. Making the switch made for a frustrating three weeks, and yet here I am today, typing away like Proust on an Adderall bender. (And I’ll tell you this: As someone who writes for a living, once you try bareback Dvorak you never crave Trojans QWERTY again.)
The QWERTY keyboard on a hammerless laptop is what archaeologists call a “skeuomorph”—a design feature carried over from an old technology to a new one for no functional reason except to shield us from the shock of the new. It’s why digital cameras make the (artificial) sound of a shutter snapping when you take a picture. It’s why cigarette filters are printed with a cork pattern and why “marble” notebooks are printed with faux leather grain. It’s why hubcaps have wagon-wheel spokes, Levi’s have a watch pocket, movie screens have theater curtains, and Vanna White still selects the letters on Wheel of Fortune with a noblesse oblige wave of her hand, even though touch screens replaced the old rotating-letter-kabob set in 1997. There’s no reason why Vanna still has a job other than to stand upright in designer gowns and clap, to smooth our transition, to make us feel Mom is still watching us perform well. That’s the great terror underlying male put-downs like “bitch” and “shrill” and “humorless” and “strident,” that the crowd whose stiff-fingered beauty-pageant-contestant applause men get used to is suddenly frighteningly displeased.
Sure, individual men’s lives have dignity and purpose and human worth. But from a cynical, heartless, evolutionarily strategic perspective, men are the great letter-turners of sexual reproduction. Twenty women plus one man plus one year equals 20 babies. The opposite isn’t the true. The only reason there’s an even sex ratio of women born to men is because the ones who survive infancy are supposed to tooth and claw each other until the best one’s left standing. Talk about skeuomorphs—men have nipples because they’re left over from the XX chromosomal template, and the testosterone bath they stew their internal organs in over a lifetime renders them vulnerable to cancer, heart disease, and barroom fights. That’s why they’ve evolved thick brows and big jaws—to prevent other guys from breaking their faces. (Starvation because you can’t chew your Paleo diet is no joke to an Australopithecus.)
Geisha skeuomorphs like Vanna are the great reassurers that there will always be a woman, like your mom cheering on the soccer sidelines, to applaud your most mundane tasks (I’d like to buy a vowel!). That women will keep choosing men who won’t pick up their socks in favor of lesbian marriages where (as studies have proved) both partners will share housework more equally. That, in a world full of day planners and calendars and BlackBerrys, men can still rely on their wives to say, “Don’t you have a dental appointment today?” There’s no reason for the watch pocket on the Levi’s and there’s no need to keep the role of Mrs. Applauder. Women: Upgrade yourselves. Don’t worry, your hammers won’t jam.