Manliness


"Manliness might qualify as the most misunderstood identity."


I always wondered how one becomes One Of The Guys or A Good Old Boy. Maybe my invitation got lost in the mail or perhaps I (gulp!) never qualified. I know that I never submitted an application, but I sort of expected someone to approach me with an invitation. After all, I am a guy, a good guy; aging, perhaps even old, though admittedly no longer a boy. Can I confess that I never fully identified with the gender stereotypes supposedly appropriate for a person of my gender and my age? I look ridiculous in a hard hat and feel simply silly behind the wheel of any truck. I fear all power tools. I don't hunt. I do drink beer, though. Doesn't that count?

I proved to be an unreliable breadwinner, but tried not to take that very personally. I've lived exclusively with strong-willed women, each of whom proved to be more than a counterbalance for any deficiency I contributed to the unions.
I've always done most of the grocery shopping and cooking, and never felt put upon to do at least my share of cleaning around the house, except for dusting, which I consider picky and largely unnecessary. I'm a crappy mechanic, usually deferring mechanical mysteries to The Muse, who's much better suited to those dark arts than I'll ever be. I've been trying to program the drip irrigation system's control computer for two years. I still manually turn on and off the damned thing, though it's theoretically capable of periodically turning itself on and off without my intervention. The user interface borrowed heavily from the control panel of the original lunar landing module.

I do not reliably track mud inside, maybe because I'm responsible for mopping the floors. I do not slam doors or carry an overburden of angst around in my neck. I pick up after myself, thank you, except for the odd pile of books and magazines which are supposed to be kept in tottering piles. Hardware stores intimidate me. So do bars. I try to treat everyone except White Supremacists with a respectful deference, though Republicans generally have to earn my respect. I'm not a Christian, good or otherwise, and subscribe to The Founders' opinion where religion is concerned. It's each person's own damned business unless that person happens to be an evangelical who's convinced that their religion is really my damned business, in which case, I might work hard to convince them otherwise. This, of course, never works, so I just end up keeping my distance from them.

I think of as deplorable anyone who treats others as arm candy or sex objects. I must have flunked leering. I always considered 'jocks' to be deep down superficial and rather stupid. I've always tried to treat women with a respectful deference unless I fell in love with them. Then, I turned what I hope was enduringly stupid, but never exploitative. I never expected to be fortunate enough to hook up with or marry anyone. Nobody told me that being a white male came with certain privileges, so I fear that I've almost completely failed to exploit most all of them, whatever they were. In my young adulthood, I grew my hair very long and lived in a small town where I was treated with all the suspicion of an escaped slave in the antebellum South. I declined the invitation to become a Mason, and only joined the Chamber of Commerce at The Muse's insistence, though I never once felt comfortable there. The guys at the counter in the diner still seem to eye me suspiciously.

I'm clearly not a part of the crew and wouldn't have the first clue what to do to move any job forward. I watched a roofing crew and a paving crew working in the neighborhood yesterday, and I marveled at how each managed to sort of seamlessly contribute to each effort. Nobody stood over them directing their activity. Everyone just seemed to know what to do, and did that, cooperating when necessary and working independently when required. I couldn't quite catch the choreographer directing either effort, though I suspect he spoke in subtle signals I could not discern. I couldn't determine who was in charge. I always suspected that real men somehow always knew who was in charge, that they could quietly engage without ever needing to be told what to do. I've always needed more supervision than that, but also always resisted any sort of supervision.

Whatever gender I might be, I seem incapable of exuding the cues of genuine Manliness. I exhibit little of anybody's team spirit. I thought Rambo was a sad clown. I believe that the military is generally unnecessary, a form of performance art reserved for those tangled up in some gender identity crisis much different than mine. They holler, I whimper. It might be that whimpering is a high form of the manly arts, equal or even superior to hollering, though not One Of The Guys or any self-respecting Good Old Boy ever publicly touts his whimpering skills. Manliness might qualify as the most misunderstood identity.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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