Friday, July 20, 2007

My Life As A Man

The wife came back from the salon today and, as often happens after one of these excursions, she attempted to measure how receptive I might be to doing something similar.

“Would you ever have something like that done? You could get a massage.”

I snort derisively.

“Or they could wax you. You’d feel cooler and more comfortable.”

Or I could dress up in a pretty pink tutu.

I don’t like to admit this to too many people very often, but in many ways, I am a man.

It’s something I’ve battled with my whole life. I’ve tried to cultivate a rarified air and ignore the crass obviousness of locker room talk, opting instead to drop references to obscure writers and unknown composers.

I abjure the latest results of any competition involving the local sports consortium and drink only on rare social occasions, and then only in a very dignified way (i.e., staying above the table). I refuse to participate in catcalls, wolf whistles, or similar demonstrations of social ineptitude.

And yet, I have to admit, there are things about me that I cannot change which, for all intents and purposes, land squarely in the man column.

The obliviousness to fashion. The reluctance to purchase new underwear. The ability to sleep at a moment’s notice for hours on end. The calloused hand that gives away the frequent presence of a remote.

And, in my deepest, darkest moments, the suspicion that my vociferous championing of feminist causes is really only sincere and dependable above the waist.

So a Y chromosome is definitely present.

By and large, however, it’s been a struggle to appear manly. That is to say, you wouldn’t know I was a man to look at me.

Much of my life has been spent attempting to identify masculine behavior in an attempt to emulate it.

I tried smoking, but it never took. I couldn’t get the hang of breathing in the smoke and, instead, puffed away like one of those smoking monkey toys.

I learned to drive a car, which I was made to understand was something of a manly pursuit, but invariably found it more than a little nerve wracking to venture into the passing lane.

When I was with other men, I’d throw some slang and improper English into my speech, just to show that I wasn’t some kind of sissy.

And, at my most desperate, I’d say to no one in particular something like “Hey, how about them (local sports team)?”

It never really worked, but my good faith efforts were usually met with understanding and tolerance, even if I wasn’t invited to watch “the big game” over at somebody’s house.

Just to give you some idea of how difficult this battle can sometimes be, I can remember this one time when we were attending the big Book Expo in New York.

There were famous authors present by the score, all eager to shake your hand and deface their latest work. I remember the wife meeting Al Gore and, at one point, seeing Heidi Fleiss who looked positively cadaverous.

Now I can’t remember what the book was now, but Harvey Fierstein was there to plug something or other.

When we got to the front of the line we said hello and chatted, and in the course of the conversation, a fine point about a movie musical came up.

Not that this discussion ever became heated, but we both dug our heels in about this particular point, each insisting that the other was mistaken.

No one was persuaded over to the other’s point of view so we agreed to disagree, although the wife insisted that I was, indeed, the more informed party where this topic was concerned.

As we walked away with our newly signed books, she leaned over to me and said, “My god. You just out-gayed Harvey Fierstein.”

And the struggle continues.


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