This is kind of a three-part blog post series. I wrote about part of the discussion I was a part of at Wild Goose Festival on Masculinity and male identity two days ago, and yesterday, I shared the first half of the story I told during that workshop. Below is the second and last part of that story.
I’ve never killed anything, at least on purpose. The only time I ever shot a gun was when my dad took me to the range and handed over his Ruger for a few rounds. I hated it. The noise was deafening, and the recoil scared the shit out of me.
I own a pathetic amount of tools for a man in his late thirties who has owned two homes. By my age, my dad and grandparents had staked their claim on the garage as exclusively male territory by covering every wall and bit of floor space with table saws, drills, vices and every wrench – standard and metric – anyone could ever need. I have more guitars than screwdrivers, and it was only a few years ago that I finally got straight in my head what the difference between channel locks and regular pliers is.
I like potpourri; my wife digs the nickel defense.
I changed more diapers in the first month of my son’s life than my dad ever did on me. I take care of the kids when Amy goes to meetings in the evenings, and I work from home every day.
I cry every time I watch Extreme Home Makeover. Amy records every episode of Real Sports on HBO. Oh, and I always cry when I watch that too. Damn you, Bryant Gumbel.
I know how to braid hair. I also cook most of our meals, and I actually enjoy it. I went to the first year of the Lilith Fair festival, and I paid good money to get second-row tickets to an Indigo Girls concert when I was in high school. I went by myself to that concert. Wasn’t even trying to impress a date.
I’ve never been to a rodeo. Every time I even see clips from one on TV, I just end up feeling sorry for the animals.
I am an avid fan of American Idol and, though I’m ashamed to admit it, I also watch Dancing with the Stars.I think cigars are disgusting. Even the smell of one being smoked makes me want to vomit.
All of this being said, I should point out that I do possess at least a handful of prototypical male traits too:
I can tell whether a team is running man-to-man or zone defense when I’m watching a basketball game.
I can tune up a car, as long as it was built before about 1980.
I love to grill pretty much anything; I have a magnetic, primal attraction to fire.
I absolutely adore scratching myself, and I do so any time I have the opportunity.
I say “dude” reflexively far too often in casual conversation (also a dead giveaway of my whiteness).
I am obsessed with boobs. I can think of nothing negative to say about boobs whatsoever, and regardless of shape, size or age, I have yet to encounter a pair of boobs from which I can’t derive at least some modicum of enjoyment.
I am a voracious fan of all things Monty Python, and I have a special place in my heart for the Three Stooges.
I can quote every single line from any Quentin Tarantino Movie – the good ones, at least, before someone told him he had talent and got obnoxious.
I can name every artist and album name for any 80’s heavy metal song ever played. On a good day, I can also nail the year it was released, what label they were signed to and every member of the band at the time.
I enjoy scotch, even when no one is watching, and I can explain the difference between a lager, an IPA and a stout. I also consider it heresy to put a piece of fruit in a beer under any circumstances.
Another critical part of my potentially emasculated male self-image lies in the very fact that I’m involved in church. Not only that, but my wife is the one in charge and I’m in a support role. We started a church a little over five years ago in our living room, and we’ve graduated to a “big kid” building, with chairs, toilets and everything. But despite the pretty amazing diversity in our congregation with regard to age, income level, ethnicity and even religious background, the great majority of people at church are women.
Not only are men less involved in religion than women; they’re also significantly more likely to identify themselves as atheists. In many seminaries across the country – at least the ones who allow women to prepare for ministry in the pulpit – there are way more women enrolled than men. And though some churches still hedge at the idea of a female pastor, more often than not they’re facing this as an inevitable choice if they want to have trained leadership at all.
So what’s with men? We’re outnumbered in everything from church to college. Are we facing a cultural and spiritual identity crisis? If we can be in charge of everything, are we doing the equivalent of packing up our toys and going home? Or have we actually become so self-conscious and tentative about who we are as men that we’re afraid to express ourselves at all? What if guys don’t really care what it means to be a man anymore? Am I a prophet for the Fallen Man, or a bitter guy with an identity complex, licking his wounds in the public eye?
And if postmodern male identity is so up in the air, am I a man or not? How would one even begin to define what constitutes masculinity any more, if people even care? For every Dale Earnhardt these days, there’s a queer eye. For every hairy-chested icon of bygone years, there’s now a freshly manscaped boy-model to take his place. And for every charismatic preacher-man there’s a behind-the-scenes male preacher’s wife like me.