He ate the chicken nachos, almost all of them, minus the one I plucked off his plate. I was hungry. Only not for food. I told my friend last night, over a basket of chips and salsa, that it seems rather rare to encounter a genuine display of masculinity these days. In answer, he grabbed a heavy flowerpot and heaved it over his head.
Not bad. At least it was something.
With technology and conveniences and all our manual labor covered with a flip of a switch or push of a button, you would think we had somehow circumvented the need for plain, basic, brute human strength. We don't kill and skin our food before eating it. We defrost, nuke and repeat. For lawns we have self-propelled motors. For personal protection we have guns. For stubborn jars we have kitchen aids from The Pampered Chef to pop the top.
Who needs men to be physical men anymore?
This week I interviewed an old friend. He heads up a local mission and is, in my opinion, the epitome of the masculine male - staunch integrity, mental sharpness, problem solver, follower of Jesus (that's the big one, ps), and physically dangerous. The man can kick the majority of the world's keisters. He has a six-degree black belt in Kyokyushin-kai, third-degree in Tae Kwon Do, first-degree in Okinawawn Shuri-te, and first-degree rank in the sword-weilding art of Iaido.
The first time I ever met him he offered to carry me home. Now, grant it, the circumstances were unusual. He took my photographer and I to a few extreme locations to shoot poverty and homelessness in the city. Being the girl scout that I am, I was prepared for anything in my sandals, which quickly attracted every sticktight in the five-mile wilderness. (For those unfamiliar with "sticktights", they are spiked spawns of the devil that masquerade as plant seeds.) Every two minutes, I was peeling these suckers off my feet and getting my fingers bloody in the process. Eventually, realizing we may never make it home due to my choice of footwear, he simply said, "Do I need to just carry you?"
During our recent conversation, he said something rather profound and I haven't stopped thinking about it all week.
"When the book 'Wild at Heart' came out, I started getting all these calls to come speak at men's groups and luncheons. Men had finally realized it was okay for them to be men," he said.
They didn't know it before? Apparently not.
As my nacho-eating friend explained last night, men have been under chickafication (my word, not his) since grade school. He said men are taught not to compete, not to be proud of being the best, not to strive for excellence in masculine roles. How many movies demonize the captain of the football team while glorifying the gawky, awkward, spindly outcast? The men with the most physical acumen are always the stupid, bully types, i.e. the best is the worst, the strongest the cruelest. Never forget that, as if Hollywood would let you.
And if they didn't convince you with teenage minidramas, they'll be sure and get you in the wartime movie where soldiers are really bloodthirsty mass murderers, i.e. tough guys who fight for justice are evil.
I didn't doubt my friend's recollection of school. I still remember back in high school when finding a guy who would "cry at movies" was the thing. I never got that. If I'm crying at a movie and he's crying at a movie, who lends me their shoulder? I want a shoulder, dang it.
Last weekend, a few friends and I went to a rodeo. I sat on that hard bench surrounded by the smell of manure, and took in the sights, those sights being men roping calves at incredible speeds, riding bulls at breakneck speeds, and giving the audience a small taste of what happens when wild men mix with wild beasts.
I'll be going back.
I'm not sure how we got here, where men get manicures and facials, women sport bulging biceps, and we're all stuck at a Sadie Hawkins dance with no one taking the lead and no one following. That makes for a truly terrible turn around the floor.
As an independent female of the self-reliant sort, I have no qualms about men being physically superior, men taking the lead, men fixing the gutters on my house (really no qualms about the last one, fyi). How is not encouraging men to be the fullness of themselves, the fullness of their - God bless 'em - physical prowess, a sign of strength by females? How is that complimentary to either of us? As a capable woman, I'm confident enough in my own right not to deny a man confidence in his. I call that truly feminine feminism.
If you want an idea of a world void of the defining qualities of one opposite sex, imagine a world without much color, without softness and sweet smells, without tenderness, without nurturing, without glamour or refinement, without giddiness, without girlishness, without someone to make a dwelling place a home. That would be life without femininity.
Now imagine life without masculinity. Or at least in short supply. Look familiar?
So, my earlier question, who needs men to be men? Absolutely everyone. Even men. And in the meantime, you'll find me sitting on an uncomfortable bench at the nearest rodeo.