Sunday, April 10, 2011

Guys and Dowels

Arabesque with screwdriver. Don't try this at home.

Overheard in the mens locker room: "Well I feel good. I bought tools today."
All heads turn. Looks of envy abound.
"wadja get?" Someone asks.
"Oh I picked up a dualspeed-variabletorque-quadedged-interchangeablefintoozler." Sighs waft through the assemblage.
"So you'll be cutting some serious wood then?"
He shrugs to this. "Well I guess I better find SOMETHING to cut." All nod.

Or this one: "I'll be a few minutes. Go on ahead and get a table."
“Sure thing. You want the same 'ol?"
"Yeah but with double hash browns and extra sour cream."
Then, to himself, after his friend leaves: "I gotta lift more weights - the pounds just aren't coming off...."
During the Winter Olympics they all became instant experts on even the most arcane events. "Oh he should've taken the high line out of turn 13, sets you up for that mogul jump." All nod. "Uh-huh/yeah/sure thing/sad really," etc. Now I know these guys - hell I shower with them all the time - and I know that the closest they've come to getting air on a ski slope is when they fall off the lift.

"What'd the doctor say?" “He said I should take it easy and that I shouldn't stress my joints."
"Hmmm. Ready for some racquetball?"
"Yeah! Two games out of three?"

Everytime one of these exchanges floats by I give my skull a good thunk to make sure I heard it right. How's that? You said you're working 70 hours a week so you can enjoy life more?! Hello? And sometimes I don't know whether to laugh, cry, or thwack them with a
towel tip:
"So then she accuses me of being uncommunicative!"
"Whadja say to that?"
"I didn't say anything!"

And sometimes I just check in my shorts to confirm that yes, I am one of these poor saps. These (gulp) are my brothers (shudder). Somehow though I feel that I failed 'guy training'. I'm proud of that frankly, but I still feel like a pigeon without a hole sometimes.

As much as I blather on about the equality of the sexes it feels hypocritical to point out differences, but I don't believe women spout this kind of macho nonsense in their locker room. Of course, they won't let me in find out.

Men labor under two handicaps:
1) A reluctance to question their brethrens views, lest it be seen as an attack, and
2) The tendency to announce everything definitively, like a subway conductor calling off the stops.
Exaggeration? Hardly. Try this test: Go to any food order counter (fast food, ice cream, espresso, etc.), get a table near the register and listen to how the sexes order. Most men are clear, concise, declarative: "I WILL have the lime sherbet swirl with the rainbow gummi bears on top." Like feeding the munchies was a sacred vow. Men talk to counterhelp like they are defending their homeland.

Most women are inclusive, flexible, inquisitive. "May I have a hunk of raw meat and a salt shaker, please? Thanks. Does it take a lot of hairspray to hold your hat way up there? No? Hmmm." Even if the rest of it is an act the basic unconscious language choices are more open and friendly. And that makes all the difference.

Now if you carry both of these sketches out to the extreme you get some real problems. (You might also recognize the last person you broke up with.) If you hang out in fast food joints like I do, you've probably seen this scenario: big family enters, finds table, dad pouts with kids, mom stands in line, gets all the food (so much for the hunter-gatherer theory), returns to the brooding brood, waits patiently, and has whatever is left after everyone else has chosen. All are abusing mom's flexibility, including mom. Is she happy? No. Is she empowered? No. Is dad happy with her? Sure. But does he respect her....?

So I am a card-carrying sensitive male, if that's okay with you. It is a mixed-blessing to be sure. The second worst thing a woman can do to a guy - #1 is pointing and laughing - is to proclaim them 'safe'. I wish I could lose count of the times gorgeous women have cried on my shoulder over some Cro-magnon who treats them bad, and then say to me: "You're such a good FRIEND! Why can't I meet anyone like YOU?" (*sigh*)

Now that I've presented my feminist/humanist/wimp credentials I must confess to some recessive male traits. They must be genetic for I have tried to distance myself from the boneheads in the locker room....who stand at the sinks for 30 minutes....complaining that
women are vain and spend too much time in the bathroom....while carefully combing over a bald spot the size of a dinner plate. Hear me then for I occasionally testosterone:

- I confess that I like to weed-eat the yard. Mowing is okay, but one feels more connected to the slaughter of plant-life when one can wield the weapon of whack one-handed. It’s Dartagnian vs. Mother Nature, until I run sever the extension cord in a shower of sparks.
- I confess that I will lift anything I am asked to. Bat your eyes and coyly point to the stove and SHAZAM! I'm there. I may be at the chiropractor tomorrow but today that easy smile-will-stay-in-place!
- Occasionally I black out and come to in the middle of the tool department at Sears, staring raptly at a 2,000 piece ratchet set with slack-jaw rapture like it was the Sistine Chapel ceiling or something. Eventually my rational mind will come back online and
remind me that A) Ratcheting is guaranteed death by stress for lefties, and 2) My sister had a full, happy, and satisfying life and her only tools were a medium slot screwdriver and a bag of rubber bands.
- Like most men I tend to want to solve your problems rather than just listen to them, especially if I am hearing them go by over and over again, like a NASCAR race.

On the whole though I want to sneak up to the entire male gender, snap 'em in the collective butt with my towel and yell: "Would you just grow up?" But then they'd just throw me out of their locker room, and even though I like women better, they won't let me in theirs.

Maybe I'll shower at home.

Angus McMahan


  1. S'kay, after an entire adult life as a paratrooper, sniper, infantryman, tracked vehicle commander, tactical response team member, etc, ad-nauseum, ad-infinitum, I still don't belong to the "REAL MAN" club either.

    I bake, read for pleasure, garden, and am kept by cats. My eyes glaze over when I am stuck listening to other guys go on and on about sports, cars, tools, hunting, and fishing.

    Sigh...guess I'll just take up knitting or something.

  2. Well, I live with an expert knitter, and although not very "manly", knitting is nonetheless very cool - and a great way to meet chicks. ;-)