Learning to be Maleby Jacquelyn Jackson on Jul. 06, 2011, under Uncategorized
I was watching a rerun of Cheers the other night – the one titled “Jumping Jerks” where Norm, Cliff and Woody pretend to parachute out of an airplane and then lie about it at the bar, inspiring Sam to go up again with them and, still not jumping, lying it about it again to Fraser, Rebecca and Carla. Although the guys did finally jump, it was a comment of Fraser’s that caught my ear: I applaud your bravery, but I must say I thought we had advanced beyond the notion that a real man is one who risks his life in pointless confrontations with death. I though we had pretty much accepted that a real man is someone who makes gobs and gobs of money, like me…Well, see you later sisters.“
I have been pondering masculinity of late, realizing how essential it is for this world to have men deeply rooted and self-confident about what it means to be a man. If you hang around Jungian circles very much, you accept the notion that we all have inside us male and female tendencies. As Walt Whitman put it, “I celebrate myself, And what I assume you shall assume, For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”
The laws of physics tell us that all that atom-sharing is a mathematical reality. So learning-to-be-female and learning-to-be-male are clearly a shared journey. And as tough (and dangerous) as it can be to venture into the world as a female, being male is no walk in the park.
With male members of Congress resigning for engaging in the adolescent folly of texting soft-porn images, and presidents remembered for semen-stained dresses and strange encounters with cigars, and where governors of very large states have whole separate families, notions of strong, healthy masculinity seem to be a notion in search of instruction.
At a dinner party a few weeks ago, I sat between two Peters – my husband and the husband of a dear friend. There were eight of us that night, celebrating the birth of one of those friends with a lobster feast at Blue Fin.
The talk turned to grilling – clearly my husband’s domain. We had just bought ribs, and I had no idea how to prep or cook them and turns out the other Peter (not my husband) was a huge barbecue aficionado. I innocently asked the non-husband Peter the how-to’s of barbecuing ribs and could feel the quiet tugging at my elbow of my own husband’s concern, ire, consternation, or was he just plain pissed?
I listened intently and asked a few questions but knew I had hit a sore point with my own husband, who is intelligent, grounded, secure and wonderful. But I always know when I accidentally hit That Point, when I have inadvertently stumbled into the place I better damn well respect: the heart of masculinity. I think of it as a dark cave, an alien land to me that I do not fully understand, but do fully respect as an ancient part of him -entwined forever in his DNA – those pieces of atom that are the hairy, hunting, spear-throwing protectors that my own DNA needs to feel safe.
I remembered a comment my own Peter made a few years ago when they first installed traffic lights at the merge lanes onto major freeways. “They take away every shred of our maleness,” he quipped, not wanting some damned light to monitor his ability to step on that gas, maneuver his way into the herds of bison, I mean cars, barreling beside us.
Not sure what all this means but as a female I deeply respect and need whatever that ancient masculine roar is – and I very much wish there were many more chances for men to let that part rip in ways that do not involve guns, earning money or abuse of females. A much better world it would be for us all.