04 February 2011

The Masculine Mystique

I knew little of the lives of my younger brothers and sister in our teen years for reasons of mutual disinterest and, in my case, jerkiness. What tidings I heard of the brothers in particular were strange, mostly dealing with pyrotechnics and ballistics and complex vandalism involving defunct appliances and acquaintances' yards. I did not understand these things.

I married a man, and he became the friend and enemy of these brothers. They demanded time together for the purpose of ridiculing and injuring and defeating each other. They invented structures and folkways for the purpose of better accomplishing these goals. Where vandalism decreased, pyrotechnics and ballistics swelled and overflowed the balance.

None of these men looked particularly suspect. Lean, yes, but more quarterback than linebacker. Indeed not even quarterbacks, but tennis players and speechies, Coen aficionados and history buffs and Greek tutors. Why, then, the violence? Why the idiocy? Why the inflicting and inviting of utterly pointless pain? Why the games (games!) wherein loss threatened emasculation? Why the retrieval of submarine-sized logs from a frigid Gitche Gumee, equipped only with swim trunks and a moronic will?

Girls, I'll tell you. They are practicing. In this time and place they will probably not be called upon for the ultimate trial of manhood. But they might. And they would be ready. They would know fear. They would know courage. They would suffer pain. They would prevail. They would go first. They would leave last. For us.

And so he must appear to be an imbecile, because a world safe as ours gives him little authentic opportunity to put himself to the test. For both of these things we should be grateful. In time, he will teach his sons the same, and they will learn to fight and kill and suffer and yet come home to eat the cookies we baked in their absence.

Tell him he was real tough next time he comes in all sweaty.

Cecil's voice came: "My dear Freddy, I am no athlete. As you well
remarked this very morning, 'There are some chaps who are no good for
anything but books'; I plead guilty to being such a chap, and will not
inflict myself on you."

The scales fell from Lucy's eyes. How had she stood Cecil for a
moment? He was absolutely intolerable, and the same evening she broke
off her engagement.


Gauntlets said...

I was thinking of one such game just the other day, remembering that there was once a time when the men were all outside playing it while we were all inside talking about the births of our most recent babies.

Yes, yes. This is real life.

Melrose said...

wow, this explains SO much

lisa said...

Yes, real life.

Sweat. feats. beards.
They all go together.
Oh, yes. And, babies.

Even if it's kind of a causal relationship. The men have to give us SOMETHING to talk about while we watch them (or scald our feet baking barefoot).

Front Row View said...

I've always secretly thought my husband was the only one who would seek out new ways to almost kill himself and my children with acts of daring-do. Thanks for pointing out what I have always attested to lack of maturity, an attempt to stay young, what have you and revealing it for what it really is: a man in an immasculating society desperating trying to keep his fighting skills attuned...

Reb. Mary said...

Great post :D. I have come to understand that the hooliganism of my first three children is to be tempered by occasion-appropriate civility rather than stamped out. :P This understanding has been greatly aided by my husband, who reminds me that he and his brother spent the vast majority of their formative years trying to shame, best, and generally murder one another, and are now quite good friends (with, of course, that competitive edge, which would no doubt be even more pronounced had they more time in each other's company).

I need these reminders frequently, since at 6, 4, and 2, the hooliganism is quite infrequently tempered by the civility.

Emommy said...

Perfect timing. With the Pack up against the Steelers tomorrow, I've heard every term this week remotely connected to blood, slaughter, and general annihilation. This from a pastor (and, I'm finding, not all that unique to pastors. Actually, they seem to be more competitive than normal, sweaty males. Do you find this to be so?). Thanks for the well-turned phrases that describe such seemingly boorish behavior -- because it is, in fact, for us (praise God).

etem said...

yick. should god ever give us a boy baby i'll have to call you. a lot.