I had a cup of coffee with my friend Jordan the other day. He’s in his late 20s and getting married in June.
He told me, “We don’t fight very much, but I’m learning about a lot of things that don’t work very well with her.”
“Like when she’s telling me about her problems and I jump in to tell her how to fix them.”
Another silent pause.
“Yep. Could have told you that. None of the women in my life ever want me to fix their emotions or relationships or injustices either. They just want me to listen and keep quiet.
Another silent pause before I continue
"They only ever want me to actually fix things if it’s like a car that won’t start. Or a toilet that won’t flush. Or the cat looks like it’s going to die. Or a spider needs stepping on (silence) And except for smashing spiders, I never was any good at fixing that other stuff. I usually just make it worse. (more silence) Even with the spiders, sometimes they run away from me and hide and I can’t find them. And that’s the worst…having to report back that the spider is still lurking in the room. If that happens, we’re back at one of those emotional/anger things they don’t want me to fix. If I let a spider get away, it's like I’m the one who created spiders in the first place…”
Another silent pause.
“Yeah…I know what you mean…”
Long silence as we ponder and sip our coffee.
We were both thinking that Jordan now has just a little over three months to get rid of everything he learned about “manliness” during what will soon be known as ‘his previous life.’ All little boys grow up with something we might call, “The Art of Manliness.” No one tells us that it is all a crock… until we meet our wives.
There is actually a website called “The Art of Manliness.” It features a number of articles and podcasts. I read the one entitled, The Ten Physical Skills Every Man Should Master. I knew it might humiliate me, but I read it anyway.
The first skill is balance. The author says he practices walking on a two by four he keeps in his living room. Not sure if he walks on the flat side or the narrow side. Also not sure why his wife lets him keep a two by four lying around in the living room.
His second skill is running, which I can do if I have on the right shoes… and I haven’t just eaten… and can see the necessity of it… like if I start to cross a busy street and a truck comes rolling toward me faster than I calculated…
Third is crawling. I suppose he means do it in the crawl space under the house so you can check out what's going wrong. I can do that, but don’t fancy it.
The next six are jumping, climbing, lifting, carrying, throwing, and catching. I’m okay on all those.
The tenth one, however, is traversing. By the drawing it looks like I’m supposed to hang upside down on a pole, then inch by inch scootch my way over a river or a canyon. No way. So I'm not a perfect ten. The only one who ever told me I had to be perfect was Jesus, and I’m pretty sure his definition of "perfect" doesn’t include dripping like a possum off a horizontal pole.
I then went on to check out the article on “How to Make the Perfect Irish Coffee.” It calls for whiskey, cream, sugar, and coffee. But since I get grumpy if my coffee isn’t plain black, I didn’t see the point in reading further.
Then there was “Why You Should Go to Church Even if You’re Not Sure of Your Beliefs.” But since I’m the pastor and doing most of the talking, it might create less of a ruckus if I let someone else fill in on those Sundays when I’ve lost my religion.
Finally, I found an article: “100 Things Every Man Should be Able to Do.” It included: shine your shoes, give a speech, sharpen a knife, change a flat tire, grill with charcoal, paddle a canoe, parallel park, build a campfire, navigate with a map, grow your own food, cook eggs, drive in snow, always know north, fell a tree, make pancakes from scratch, drive a stick shift, entertain yourself without a cell phone, throw a ball, cook bacon, jump start a car, write a letter, and tell a story… all of which I recall teaching my daughters to do. Since these are allegedly all manly things, I hope I wasn't causing gender confusion in my children.
Also including in all these 'man' things is sewing a button (which I never quite got the hang of... and usually will make a deal with a daughter: one spider-squishing for one button-installation); hanging a picture (there’s nothing to know because the person you are hanging it for will micromanage every move you make); shuffle cards (I can’t really shuffle cards but I can crawl on the floor and pick them all up after I’ve made a mess trying); write in cursive (it's getting worse every year... and it wasn't very good when I was at my peak); dress for the occasion (the only power I’ve have around the women in my life is the on-going threat to embarrass them in public with my clothing choices); play one song on the guitar (I only learned one song on the guitar, Amazing Grace, and I play so slowly that by the time I get to the last verse, “when we’ve been there ten thousand years” it seems like we’ve been at it that long); whistle (never have been able to do it); and dance (I’m pretty sure I have dyslexic feet).
According to the list, a man ought to be able to wet shave his beard and tie his necktie. It looks like those may be the only two things I missed out on by not having sons. Maybe my grandson will let me show him those things.
The writer also asserted that a man ought to be able to iron clothes (which I seldom do because a woman once told me that if I get my clothes out of the dryer in a timely manner and hang them up, they will probably look better than if I try to iron them. Note: the writer did not say a man should do his own laundry, but I have been doing that now for 50 years.) Unclogging a toilet is on the list. But if it were me, I’d also add clean the toilets. Changing diapers is on the list of 100, as is knowing how to buy a suit for yourself. I find both to be unpleasant, but I can do them when I have to.
There are about twenty things on the list of 100 that I can’t do (or won’t.) But because I’m manly, I won’t embarrass myself by telling you what they are.
I do take issue with one thing on the list. It says a manly man ought to be able to predict the weather. What the heck! Even the TV weather lady can’t get it right.
But hey. We manly men know we can fix or predict anything. And if what we come up with doesn’t suit you… well…it must not have been that important.