WASHINGTON — I think it's nuts that the International Olympic Committee is going to convene a group of medical experts to try to come up with a surefire scientific test to identify who is male and who is female. Surely there are much cheaper and simpler ways to do this.
A reader named Worth Cooley-Prost wrote in to suggest one: Instruct subject to remove a pair of socks from the top drawer of a dresser. If subject leaves drawer open, subject is male.
I like this test, but it might not be 100 percent conclusive. Gina Barreca and I came up with some backups.
• Leave the athlete in a room with a vending machine that has a bag of Crunchy Cheez Doodles hung up on a spiral and waiting to drop. All men — and only men — will rock the box.
• Ask the subject to tell you, correct to the nearest 500 miles, the current odometer reading of his or her car. All men can do this. Women can do this only at the actual moment they are driving the car out of the dealer showroom.
• Give the athlete a stack of photos of seven babies. Then shuffle the pack and ask the athlete to put them back in the original order. There is not a man alive who can do this.
• Present a folded road map to the athlete and ask him or her to find someplace on it. A man will hand back the map refolded perfectly. A woman will fold it any which way, leaving it all lumpy and billowy, and not care.
• Offer the athlete two muffins of almost equal size. The female will always take the smaller one. The male will always take the larger one or, more likely, both.
• Give the athlete a cold can of beer and instruct him or her to go right into the bathroom to take a quick shower. Once you hear that the shower curtain has been drawn and the water is running, go into the bathroom. If the can of beer is not on any visible surface, the athlete is a man.
• Bring the subject to a department store with instructions to find the "Linens" department without asking for help. A woman will do this within three minutes. After 45 minutes, you will find the man wandering around aimlessly in electronics.
• Present the athlete with a stack of 1,700 greeting cards and ask him or her to select the three that are the "most fun." Observe the instantaneous reaction. Only a woman will smile.
• Wear a sweater of a very specific color. Ask the athlete what color it is. If the athlete says "pink," the athlete is a man. Any of these responses identifies a woman: "coral," "peach," "salmon," "pumpkin," "nasturtium," "seashell," "apricot," "coral-peach," "peach-pumpkin," "salmony-coral-seashellesque," etc.
• Present a fully stocked refrigerator. Ask the athlete to locate the Jarlsberg cheese. If the Jarlsberg cheese is ever located, the athlete is a woman.
• Quietly but devastatingly . . . fart. A woman will squirm, make a face and do everything possible through her bearing, posture, attitude and subtle change in her tone of voice to register that she is aware of the faux pas, is discomfited by it, but is definitely not the author of it, while doing or saying nothing that could possibly be construed as an accusation, even though there are only two of you in the room. A man will laugh.
• Inform the subject that there is something hanging precipitously out of one nostril. If the subject immediately and embarrassedly produces a handkerchief, the subject is female. If the subject whips out a cell phone and takes a picture . . .
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