Got a Lemon? Stephanie Brush, Author of Men: An Owner's Manual, Will Help You Fix Your Fella

updated 08/06/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/06/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

For seven years, free-lance writer Stephanie Brush churned out sensible articles for women's magazines, things like Mud: Hot Stuff for Tense Muscles and From Flab to Fit to Financial Independence. Then a couple of years ago she cracked. Brush felt a desperate need to write humor, and the world, she felt, desperately needed a guide to modern co-habitation. The result is Men: An Owner's Manual (Linden Press/Simon & Schuster, $11.95), a warped but compassionate look at everything from Italian Men ("They feel they're the only men whose pants fit properly") to Extremely Sloppy Men ("As long as they can find their TV, they feel they have a mooring in the universe") to Oral Sex, Cosmopolitan's Bachelor of the Month, Arguing Technique, Cash Machine Therapy and Snoring ("Most men only snore in one position. It is the only one you will be physically unable to move him out of"). "Looking down from heaven," wrote an enthusiastic Los Angeles Times reviewer, "Robert Benchley and S.J. Perelman must be beaming."

Brush, 29, a native of Cleveland who attended Northwestern University, lives in Manhattan and is "semiseriously hanging out with" a Nice Young Man. Brush talked with Associate Editor Cutler Durkee, a practicing male.

Why live with a man?

Well, one of the major reasons is safety. You read in self-defense manuals that if you're living alone and there's a knock at the door, you're supposed to yell, "I'll get it, Bruce!" for the benefit of whatever pervert is lurking outside. But if there's a real Bruce available, why fight him off? Also there's the question of aesthetics. All male roommates first thing in the morning look rumpled and adorable. All female roommates at 7:30 in the morning look like Lon Chaney. No one knows why this is true, but it is.

How can you tell whether you're living together or just visiting a lot?

The first hint is that his mother calls and actually speaks to you, instead of just saying, "Is Petey there?" Or you go to the Safeway and buy a full dozen eggs, instead of ripping the box in half. Or you regularly accept invitations in the "we," even though you're not the Queen of England.

Why get married?

Married people get better dishes and feel comfortable referring to knives and forks as "flatware."

What should you call the man you live with?

Besides Al? Well, let's say you're at a party. You can introduce him as "My guy," but you sound like one of Martha and the Vandellas. Or you can say, "This is my old man," but you sound like Grace Slick. Grace Slick 10 years ago. You can say, "This is my boyfriend," but everyone will think your parents are still waiting up for you in Fair Lawn, N.J.

How about calling him honeybunch?

I think people would throw up. You can also say, "This is my lover," but that only sounds plausible if his name is something like Xavier.

What's a High-Concept Man?

That's a guy—a cowboy, a heart surgeon, a fireman—whom you can describe in three words or less so that your friends get an instant idea of what he looks like and how much money he makes. Most High-Concept Men don't work out, however—the cowboys on TV ads are Hungarian models with names you can't pronounce—and heart surgeons all want to be God, except that it would involve a cut in pay. But I can't think of a single negative thing to say about firemen. They're perfect. They're patient, they never yell at their dalmatians and they always call you Miss, which is something even gynecologists have dispensed with.

How do you know if the man you're living with is excessively neat?

There are several signs, but the most obvious is that there will be Air-wick refills where most normal men keep their pornography.

Do all men keep pornography?

All men. Even judges. Even FBI men. Especially FBI men. Generally anything in a sock drawer that is not a sock is pornography.

Do men like cooking?

Surprisingly men don't mind cooking per se, as long as they don't have to use a cookbook. Cookbooks are for sissies. And the books are always ordering you to "puree this" or "saute that." A man looks at that and says, "Oh, yeah? Who's gonna make me?"

Should men be allowed to "bond"?

Absolutely. It's important for grown men to get together with no women around and do close, intimate things like putting out lighted cigarettes on each other's arms, watching rigged sporting events on television and belching competitively. The other thing they do is tell each other how bald they are, which a woman can never understand. No woman has ever looked a close friend in the eye and said, "My, you're looking quite the grizzled hag today, Betty."

Are men really superior in any way?

In some areas. For example, most men can throw a softball or a large rock farther than a woman can, and on that basis alone it's obvious men deserve to be president of AT&T.

Do men appreciate funny women?

If you ever read the Bachelor of the Month column in Cosmopolitan you know that what men really want is "a woman with a sense of humor"—and not just because it's very crude to say, "I go for giganto tits." But what you have to face is that a woman with a sense of humor isn't a woman who makes jokes, it's a woman who laughs at jokes. Let's say you just whipped off the greatest one-liner since Jack Benny went off radio. A man's gonna put his hands on his hips and say, "I see, so now we're getting sarcastic." If you catch yourself trying to be funny, bag it. Walk into the bathroom, lock the door and practice saying into the mirror over and over, "So, these two flamingos walk into a bar..." until you get it out of your system.

When should you end a relationship?

Never. Hang on at all costs. Men are just too hard to come by, and first dates are the pits.

That sounds almost positive.

Men want love just as much as women do. Yes, I know it's hard to believe, especially when the greatest compliment your guy can muster is that you're a vast improvement over the years he spent in the dark watching midget wrestling on VHF.

But it's true.

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