As a writer, or at least someone working on becoming a writer, I feel it is vital to be open and honest about who you are. Sometimes that openness may reflect positively, sometimes negatively, but it needs to be the real deal. This is me trying to do just that.
I hear the same thing from men all the time. They don’t fit the mold society often expects from its male occupants. Some of us don’t feel at home with tools in our hands, can’t build things from scratch, and aren’t comfortable with the idea of “living off the land,” you get it.
A good friend, who is quite handy, has spent months catching up on the to-do list for another friend who, like me, has zero business with tools in hand and hurts more than he helps. My unhandy friend also happens to be one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met, so it isn’t intellect that limits his ability. You may not be in the same boat as my friend and me, but there may be an area of your life different from some of your friends and family. I hope that the message is that it’s OK to be ourselves.
To be clear, this is in no way intended to cast those of you that can build, grow, repair, hunt, etc., in a negative light. On the contrary, I am envious of you and your ability to be self-reliant. My brother and I grew up in the same home, roughly the same era, same parents, went to the same schools, and had many of the same teachers, yet we ended up on opposite ends of the handy spectrum.
When people ask how I compare with my brother, I use this scenario to answer. I ask them to envision each of us being dropped in the middle of a mountain range, far from people or civilization, apart from each other. We each have a phone, a knife, and three feet of fishing line. I tell them that when the rescuers come in 24 hours, my brother will have built a five-bedroom house and a helicopter. When they come for me, they’ll find me where they left me, frozen to death while trying to get a phone signal.
We each have our unique skills. Bryan, my brother, literally invents devices to improve processes on the farm, like chainsaw sharpeners, firewood dryers, etc. He grows and hunts his food; I make reservations. I shop online.
When the guy comes out to do the service on my A/C unit, he explains what he’s doing in terms that most of you likely understand, like its second nature. The technician assumes that I know exactly what he means because I’m a man, and I have guns and tools in my house. He couldn’t be further from the truth. He may as well be reading a dictionary to me in Latin.
It isn’t that I haven’t tried. I own a ton of tools. My wife, Marian, often suggests that I stop buying new tools until I learn to use the ones I already have. It is hard to argue with that point.
I would suppose that I fit a stereotype often called a metrosexual. If given a choice between clothes/shoes or new power tools, it ain’t gonna be the tools. As an example, I remember a few years back when, on Super Bowl Sunday, a group of female friends opted to come to my house, dressed to the nines, as we enjoyed champagne and sushi while we watched the special episode of Sex and the City, which aired in the same time frame.
Later, when the first Sex and the City movie came out, my male friends had a good laugh at my expense because I went to opening night. The theater’s lobby at Phipps Plaza was packed with well-dressed, beautiful women. The laughter turned more to jealousy when they saw the pics of the group of women I was with and how they were dressed. That’s one win for the metrosexuals, I suppose.
That ties into another point; I love what are commonly called “chick flicks.” Pretty Woman, Notting Hill, The Devil Wears Prada, The Women; you get the idea. Don’t get me wrong, I will still stop and watch Dodgeball, Road House, Blazing Saddles, First Blood, Talladega Nights, and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance every time I run across them, but I also won’t skip The Holiday or Love Actually.
I love guns and love to shoot, but I don’t hunt. When I was about six, my folks gave me a bow and some arrows. I was soon bored with shooting targets and set my sights on a blue jay in a nearby bush. I drew back, let the arrow fly, and was accurate as my arrow penetrated his little body. I will never forget that bird looking at me as I tried to pull the arrow out. As it died, I knew I would never kill anything again, ever. To be clear, I have zero issues with those who hunt, and I love sharing in the feast from your kills, but it will never be me with the weapon.
I love clothes and shoes. I was into them when I was young and never lost the lust. One of my favorite times of the year was shopping for Derby outfits. I enjoyed choosing mine but even better was going to Cincinnati, Indianapolis, or Chicago to help my fashionista friends Teena and Michelle choose theirs. It isn’t a rough life, cruising through the upscale women’s stores, being pampered with attention and flutes of champagne.
I enjoy getting facials, mani/pedis, massages, and pretty much any kind of pampering. I used to joke that my idea of roughing it was slow room service at the Four Seasons.
I am also a walking contradiction in some areas. I enjoy more refined dining, no doubt. I am at home in any five-star restaurant, and I know how to load my caviar and Crème Fraiche on a blini or toast point. I make a wicked Bellini and have tried and survived pufferfish. I am much more comfortable with escargot than Julia Roberts’ character in Pretty Woman (slippery little suckers). I know which fork is for what. Oddly, I also love Spam, pork rinds, and boiled peanuts, I regularly enjoy Vienna Sausage sandwiches, and I think potted meat is a national treasure. Go figure.
One of my few traditional “guy” things is my love for motorcycles. I have been on one most of my life. That’s probably an odd passion for a guy who is like I’ve described. I enjoy a good biker bar, the camaraderie of riding with a group, and everything else. Some of my best times have been on two wheels. Last summer, I took a week-long trip across the Southeast to visit friends. One thousand seven hundred miles in six days, and I had a blast.
As anyone who knows me will attest, I love my Southern Rock. OK, pretty much anything Southern. I’m also a massive fan of head-banging rock and real country music (the older stuff, not these kids wearing skinny jeans and drinking White Claw).
If you, like me, are in no danger of building your own rocket ship or growing crops, don’t sweat it. It takes us all to make the world go around. That being said, I’m still a little jealous of y’all that can rebuild a transmission, grow crops or build a garage. If you see me trying to do something with a tool in my hand, for the love of God, stop and help me out, or at least stop me before it turns horrible.