I recently went to see the Pixar movie “Inside Out” with my wife, Lilly, her husband, my other daughter Abby, and her fiancé. Since turning fifty, I have developed the disturbing habit of crying much more frequently as I had in the past. I am not one to sob out loud, but in my effort to hide my emotions, I tend to quake, or vibrate uncontrollably during these times. This movie had me setting off Richter scales throughout the southeast, causing my kids to make sport of me. When I told my friend Marcus about it, he said, “You cried like a little bitch, didn’t you?” I couldn’t deny it. This was our view of the masculine world.
Here is another recent example. My wife came with me to the shoulder doctor. I needed surgery for an impingement of my rotator cuff due to a bone spur on my shoulder blade. The doctor asked me to stand up and places his hands at his sides. He lifts his arms forward in a 180 degree arc until he is signaling for a touchdown. He asks me to do the same which I do, without blinking. He then lifts his hands from the same starting position, this time with the arc out to his sides. Again, I repeat the test. The doctor looks at my wife with a kind of, “What is he doing here? I thought he was in pain” look. I get what is going on and tell the doctor, “Oh that hurt like a son-of-a-bitch. By the time I got a quarter of the way up. It felt like a knife in my shoulder.”
On the way out, my wife asked me why I didn’t tell the doctor when I was in pain. After all, that’s why we had come in the first place. I explained to her that I couldn’t show that I wasn’t at least as tough as he was. She looked at me with a momentary expression of horror, then shook her head and moved toward the car. This is an offshoot of the male need to assess other males, even if a hundred miles from a basketball court, with the internal thought, “This chump can’t guard me.”
I admit to being a sexist pig at times. The “Who would you sleep with” game that I occasionally play with Tyrone would be an example. An example might be “Jennifer Lopez or Beyonce?” When we were younger, we would debate about such nonsense, considering all of the possible reasons that we might choose one over the other in the unlikely event that such an opportunity might arise. In our minimal defense, this game is merely a thought exercise in the form of a sophomoric challenge. My male friends and I also continue to see the gender world through eighteen-year-old eyes, which I assume, is some sort of genetic trick played more on men at the expense of women. In any case, at our current advanced age, the game is pretty much used only for comedy these days, such as “Janet Reno or Madeline Albright?” or “Lena Dunham or Malala?”
The tough part was when my daughters began dating. They appeared to be pretty naïve about the lengths that boys would go to get into the pants of girls. I warned them of some of these depravities, but they just didn’t buy it. Now it was time for me to be a man. I had to tell them I wasn’t just speculating about these things. I had to tell them that I had done them.
Now, Lilly has a PhD in Sociology. I respect her credentials even though I still do not always agree with her regarding gender issues. The main point of contention is that she feels I am being unfair to women when I downplay the masculinity of certain men. Here is an example: I’ll be watching a soccer game on a distant television in a restaurant. A player has an opponent run past him and take the ball away. The first player dives to the ground and writhes around as though he had been stabbed by the opponent. If I say “Get up, you pussy!” she might consider that offensive to women.
Ironically, I actually prefer Women’s soccer because women tend not do such an offensive thing. They just keep playing, even after getting legitimately knocked down. This type of behavior has become so rampant in sports that Hockey and Basketball have begun legislating it out with “embellishment” penalties and “flopping” fines respectively. I agree that it is offensive, but not to women. I don’t think that “less manly” necessarily means “more womanly”.
I am not insensitive. Lilly and I frequently share examples and discussions over sexist messages in the media. Since I know that she uses them occasionally in her lectures, I send examples to her. She shares some with me, but we don’t always agree on where the line of offense is. I also will let humorous examples go, while she can find them even more offensive. I come from a different time as well. Just like the NHL and NBA have had to change their rules, things are changing for us coming possibly faster than I can handle. Not only are their new gender issues, but LGBT issues as well. A friend recently took a sensitivity training class that included pansexuality. Based on their explanation to me, I feel that they may need to repeat the course.
In any case, my goal is to try to continue to evolve and hope that the changing world we live in will be patient with me.