It has been several decades since the myth of what a “real man” is was supposedly blown up by sociological and attitudinal shifts, yet the myth still fights hard for mental supremacy in the collective insecure consciousness of diaper-changing daddies, gadget-obsessed video gamers, and emasculated pantywaists in all shapes & forms. I feel it every time someone works on my car and explains to my stupefied (and uncaring) face the compression gadgetry of my manifold or alternator. I feel it whenever I’m writing a check in my nice clean clothes to the dirty, burly guy that just fixed the toilet. “The manly arts” may be stereotypical and even a little passé, but it doesn’t stop me, or millions like me, from looking at previous generations and wondering what the hell happened as the genes were being passed down the line.
Here are ten ways in which I’m convinced I’ve failed to uphold –and even actively worked to undermine - the centuries-long legacy of the male gender:
1. I can’t fix anything. When we bought our house, my boss told me “You’re either going to get very good at fixing things, or very good at writing checks”. He certainly was right on one count. While I’m slaving away at a computer 9 hours a day, there’s a good chance there’s someone at the house with dirty clothes and a sub-high school education who could clean my proverbial clock on anything that has to do with mechanics, paint, plumbing, construction, woodworking or even simple locksmithery. The sad realization I’ve come to is – I don’t even want to know. I mean, I can oil a squeaky door and organize a cabinet with the best of ‘em, but actually fix something complex that’s broken? Or god forbid, build something from scratch? That’s what Angie’s List is for. Bonus proof that I have failed as a male: my favorite home improvement activity is gardening, which I’m quite good at.
2. I’ve never shot a gun. I sort of have this vague idea that I might someday go to a firing range and, screaming with all the inner range I can muster (which likely isn’t much), pop a few hundred rounds into a paper target with Osama Bin Laden on it or something. Yet I pretty much hate guns. I’m the rare “libertarian” who happens to be anti-gun, and who would vote to ban handguns tomorrow. In this stance, I join 75% of American women, and further work to undermine masculinity as commonly defined.
3. I don’t know anything about cars. I’m not even interested in them. My 2000 Jetta is a piece of crap, one that my wife picked out a decade ago for herself and that I somehow inherited. I can change a tire and even know where the oil goes, but the only part of the car I’m actually interested in is the CD player and iPhone hookup. Our mechanic babbles mysterious things about our cars that sound like Esperanto to my untrained and wholly uncaring ears. Just fix it, man. I don’t even want to talk about it.
4. I hate gambling. Dudes are supposed to love gambling, right? Just head out to Vegas with the boys and drop a deuce on some blackjack while partyin’ down? Have fun. Gambling is for suckers, far as I’m concerned, and Las Vegas is the vacation home of the eternally damned. I’d rather get a colonoscopy than spend so much as five dollars on some nickel slots while some angry, made-up tart pours me a free gin & tonic. On that note….
5. I don’t drink liquor. Oh sure, I’ll have the aforementioned gin & tonic if there’s no good beer on tap nor any red wine, but when does that actually happen anymore? I don’t know – once every two years? I never got into cocktails nor mixed drinks – something about vomiting vodka on myself in the Freshman-year dorms at UC-Santa Barbara switched me to the safer beer/wine combo in a hurry. If I further disconnected myself from my real-man forebears, so be it.
6. I really don’t enjoy camping all that much. You give me a bed and a set of thick covers in a hotel, even in an EconoLodge or Motel 6, and dollars to donuts I’ll have a much better night of sleep & a far more enjoyable next day than if you make me sleep on rock-hard ground in a tent. I mean, drinking around a campfire is fun, and I even enjoy hiking and getting a great big whiff of the great outdoors. But after we’ve done all that, is it cool if I drive down the road to the Ramada?
7. I don’t play cards. This is part-and-parcel of the whole hating gambling thing, but I’m not just talking poker. I can barely understand the rules to Crazy 8’s until my 7-year-old tries to patiently explain them to me. I catch glimpses of people playing poker on TV, and I think, “Why? Why??”. It seems absolutely asinine that anyone would play this game, let alone watch it on TV. Can’t they read a book or develop an app or something? My predecessors in male-dom enjoyed long nights of cigars, whiskey and playin’ cards, or so I have been told. I don’t know a single person who does this any more, so maybe it’s not just me.
8. I hate golf. I don’t even know where or if golf fits in on the male continuum any more. I just know I can’t stand even thinking about it. Time was, groups of male cheeseballs put on cheesy clothes to play the world’s most boring “sport” for several hours under a hot sun, and then retired to the clubhouse for a post-game beer. My only mitigating factor on this one is that I’d love to join them for that beer, but I’ll gladly skip the golfing part entirely.
9. I prefer fish to steak. Red meat and masculinity theoretically go hand in hand all the way to coronary bypass surgery, but I have to admit, I’d rather eat a great salmon or a nice plate of escolar garnished with quinoa & Swiss chard than a fat pound of medium-rare sirloin & melted butter. I remember going to a work function recently at a steakhouse – a steakhouse! – and looking up from my salmon & around the circular table, only to find 7 plates of thick red meat surrounding me. I’m no vegetarian, no way, but I suspect Don Draper and other supposed classic men’s men would have dropped me from the firm for that faux pas straight away & with extreme prejudice.
10. When I finally got good at an athletic activity, it was running. Of course it was. Finesse instead of brawn. A gender-neutral sport that is egalitarian and attracts huge numbers of women (and even some men).
MITIGATING FACTORS: I love women. I love beer. I follow professional sports with the best of ‘em. I do, in fact, eat steak (after all). I don’t play video games (these undermine masculinity more than anything on my list). I’ve actually voted for Republicans a couple times. I have a friend who has awesome taxidermied deer & buffalo heads mounted on his walls – and I like it. I mow the lawn. I trim my own trees. I keep a toolbox. Uh – I think that’s about it.