Of all the apocryphal questions that women ask men - and this list includes such beauties as "Do you really love me?", "Do I look fat in this dress?" and (after you've spent the night before getting madly drunk) "Do you remember what you said to me last night?" - the absolute worst has to be: "Notice anything different?".
Such an innocent sounding question that. So casual, so by-the-way. Like a gently tossed grenade. You smile. You say something like "Of course!" trying to drag out the words while speculation spins in your head like a roulette wheel. It's probably a new hair style, you think. But it could be new nailpolish. Or new glasses. Or just glasses (did she wear glasses before?). Or a new dress. Or new shoes. Or a new purse. Or a new outlook on life. Or maybe it's a trick question and there's nothing different.  Hell, it could be anything. She's still waiting for an answer, looking increasingly sceptical. You hazard a guess. Obviously, you get it wrong, thereby proving that your relationship / friendship is nothing but a hollow shell, that you neglect her, take her completely for granted, and don't appreciate her at all. I mean, how could anyone NOT see that she was using a new shade of mascara.
I don't get this. I mean, who in his right mind spends time memorising the colour, length and shape of hair of all the women of his acquaintance. What do I care if your hair is short, shoulder length, waist length, ankle length, third-vertebrae-counting-from-the-tip-of-the-coccyx length? Or whether it's straight, wavy, curly, or fluctuating sinusoidally? I don't even know what a split-end is (though I've always imagined it as a Hydra like creature - you know - Hercules the mighty Hairdresser's trying to give you your fortnightly trim, but every time he cuts a hair two new ones sprout up in its place), so there's no way I'm going to notice if you got them fixed.
You'd think women would be appreciative of the fact that one could see beyond the way they looked , that one didn't think of them as over-excited mannequins, that one actually cared about their opinions more than about their hair. Yet we continue to be haunted by this obsessive need to pay attention to appearances, to notice, to compliment .
Not that women are the only ones guilty of this kind of attention seeking, of course. Watching La Moustache the other day (it's a brilliant film, btw - like watching a French version of Murakami) made me think about the fallacy of assuming that just because someone loves us or is interested in us they must be paying close attention to every detail about us. The movie itself is more concerned with the question of whether the main protagonist actually had a moustache in the first place, of whether he's just hallucinating, but I kept thinking - so you shaved off your moustache and your partner didn't notice. So what? Is your facial hair really so important a part of who you are that her blindness to it makes you doubt her feelings for you?
Now if it was something truly important that the other person didn't notice - Like say, you were sitting in a coffee shop reading Dancing in Odessa and your boyfriend / girlfriend walked in and didn't ask you who this Kaminsky person was and what the poems were like - then you'd have a real reason to be upset. But all this pettifogging about hair and clothes and 'look' is so redundant. It always reminds me of those 'spot the difference' puzzles they used to print in the papers - you know the ones where you'd have two drawings of this guy standing on the deck of a ship and in one the island would have two trees and in the other it would have only one and there'd be some 22 other such differences and you were supposed to spot all of them. And all the while what I was really interested in was - why was this guy out there on the ship in the first place. Why was he staring wistfully towards this desert island with its one / two trees, with his cap / hat pulled down low over his eyes. Had he signed up with the Navy to get over his heartbreak? Was there someone on the ship looking for him and was he trying to avoid letting them get a good look at his face? Here was a man living through an intense and suspense-filled moment; who cared whether the funnel of the ship he was on had one stripe or two.
 A classic double-barelled question that - confuting the issue of whether she looks fat with the agency of the dress in achieving that effect.
 People who say women don't enjoy quizzing don't know what they're talking about. Women, in my experience, are natural quizmasters. They secretly hope you'll manage to figure out the right answer, but meanwhile, they love watching you squirm.
 In my younger, more naive days, I once made the mistake of telling someone I was dating how I wasn't interested in the way she looked. I wasn't with her because I thought she was good looking, I said, I was with her because I thought she was intelligent and interesting and funny and because we had so many shared interests. I spent the next fortnight having to apologise.
 Obviously, you shouldn't even think about offering honest criticism. Make an articulate case for why you don't like it (whatever it is) and you'll immediately be accused of having a negative attitude and being dismissive of everything she tries to do - all of which is linked, of course, to your own male insecurity which makes it impossible for you to celebrate a woman's achievement (said achievement, being, of course, her new earrings).