Note: We continued this week’s breather from saving the world with a little piece we wrote as part of a letter several years ago. We don’t remember what it was that got us thinking, but still seems applicable. Enjoy.
I sat down today to write a story about what is like to be a man. It seemed like such a simple and clear idea when it came to me that I thought it would be a piece of cake. I’d write about the trials and tribulations, the coming of age, the conflicting signals that a young boy gets as he slowly turns into a man. But the more I thought of it, the harder it became. I’d seen the same story a thousand times in other places. How could I have anything fresh to say about a topic that has been around as long as there have been men?
I made a few abortive attempts. They came off preachy, or macho, or full of the self important angst that underscores those Robert Bly drumathons. I thought to myself that there must be more than that. I listed some of the statistical nuggets in my head. I threw in a couple of one-liners that seemed to sum up one particular aspect or another of being a man. In the end I realized one essential truth – that being a man is usually not much like a story. Being a man is more like the list itself – full of statistics and one liners and particularly of contradictions.
So here is my list, in all of its testosterone-infused glory:
- Being a man is having women assume that you have accrued societal power and prestige by the simple virtue of having external plumbing.
- Being a man is having women tell you that you should be more like them and less like yourself.
- Being a man is acting as the punchline in every sitcom with a domestic setting.
- Being a man is being told to be more sensitive and caring while simultaneously being encouraged to be strong and silent.
- Being a man is having to pay for dinner…always.
- Being a man is sometimes being a Dad and showing your children – male or female – what men can be.
- Being a man is always having to make the first move.
- Being a man is facing the assumption that all men are alike.
- Being a man is having a shorter life span.
- Being a man means sometimes having to fight something that you neither started nor want.
- Being a man means being invisible during pregnancies, but sticking with it anyway.
- Being a man is always having to put the toilet seat down when women never bother to leave it up for you.
- Being a man is politely holding a door for anyone, but being accused by many female recipients of the kindness of being condescending.
- Being a man is being expected to watch sports, whether you want to or not.
- Being a man is being defined by what you do rather than who you are.
But most of all, being a man means facing all those things, and more, for yourself rather than for anyone else. Being a man is having strength in all its forms – with all it’s rewards and its drawbacks. In the end, men and women are completely different at the same time they are nearly the same.
And that is not something that is bad or good, it just is.