Inspired by Michael’s list of what conventional wisdom says are unmanly traits, I decided to list my own as well. Like Michael, I also believe a man is constituted by the inside rather than the outside. Thank goodness, too, or else I might always remain a boy. Here goes:
1. I can’t use a grill. Propane, charcoal, nor even hibachi, I am utterly clueless about cooking over an open flame. I haven’t willfully avoided learning the skill; rather, several circumstances have contributed to my ignorance. At the age guys might first learn to flame-broil meat over heat, I lived only with my mom and my younger brother, two people also unfamiliar with the art of outdoor food preparation. In college, I lived in on-campus housing, which of course forbade open flames, seeing as university students seem to set enough things on fire without giving them a reason to use lighter fluid. Since graduation, I’ve lived exclusively in apartments except for a nine-month period in which my diet consisted mainly of Dairy Queen and Little Debbies. Now I’m at the point where I’m either too embarrassed to ask someone to teach me or I’d rather just eat someone else’s cooking. So my children, should I ever have them, will be destined for a life of steak from Outback.
2. Coffee is undrinkable to me. I know other men who don’t drink coffee, and I know most women drink it, but I still associate coffee with manliness. From cowpokes drinking it scalding and black in those old Western movies to soldiers savoring a steaming cup during reprieves from battle in military movies, it seems like drinking coffee hot, strong, and black reflects manliness. Still, I just can’t bear to dump any down my hatch, irrespective of the fact that it might put hair on my chest. In my defense, I don’t drink any hot drinks, chai tea latte or otherwise. I’m too impatient—can’t wait for any hot beverage to cool down to a non-second-degree burn temperature.
3. I’ve read pretty much all of the Babysitter Club book series, one book from the Confessions of a Shopaholic series, and at least one romance novel. (I can’t remember the title…no doubt it included some combination of the words “hot” and “forbidden”.) Part of my unmanly tastes is due to my proclivity for reading any book I could get my hands on as a kid, while the other part of my tastes is explained by my really getting caught up in those little babysitters’ lives. However, I’ve made up for this by reading my power drill manual cover to cover.
4. Speaking of power drills—I’m average to below average mechanically. And I’m not just self-deprecating: I took an aptitude test earlier this summer, and I scored in the 45th-50th percentile in manipulating tools. Consequently, I have crooked shelves, unhung picture frames, and a power saw that’s never left its box. (It was a gift…I’m self-aware enough not to buy a tool that spins a sharpened metal disk at 4000 rpm.)
5. I once shaved my legs with regularity. Is it just me, or does high school seem to actually encourage weirdness? I’m still not sure what I was thinking. Though I have to admit that I liked the feeling of crawling under the sheets with smooth legs…wait, don’t tell me, I already know: TMI.
6. Guns kind of freak me out. This one’s strange because I loved and shot all manner of firearms up through my early twenties. Now the thought of shooting one gives me the shakes, and the thought of owning one is inconceivable. (Well, except for writing that sentence just made me conceive of it…hmmm, I guess I should say the thought of owning one will never be consummated with actually bringing one into my house.) In all seriousness, I think my fear is actually quite rational—it seems to me that I’m much more likely to accidentally shoot myself with my own gun that use it to protect myself. I do own two BB guns, though, and I still have both my eyes.
7. I’ve never completed a pull-up. This has bothered me since those socially brutal Presidential Physical Fitness Tests President Reagan cruelly imposed on elementary school children in the 80s. P.E. class in second grade on those days was so crappy I’d have rather been repeating the unit on square dancing. Twenty-four years later and pulling off a pull-up is still as impossible as refusing a mint chocolate chip shake from Braum’s. However, I find solace in the fact that I can still run faster than most pregnant women.
8. I yell at referees, umpires, and all sports officials. This one is particularly unconscionable since I’ve been a baseball umpire at the junior high/high school level. I think there are few situations in which a man can acceptably raise his voice, and the perceived failure of the person humbly trying to maintain the integrity of the games we love is NOT one of those situations. No time is the maxim “everybody makes mistakes” more important to remember than when a ref botches a call. I can assure you that the official is beating himself or herself up enough with hearing a cavalcade of boos from you and me. OK, off my soapbox. (I realize this one is internal, not external, but confession is the first part to recovery, right?)
9. I occasionally use a version of man makeup. Nivea makes this cream specifically for dudes to put under our eyes when they’re puffy or dark. In addition to a dashing grin, irresistible charm, and a deft ability to gleek on command, I also inherited from my ancestors eyes which tend to puff or grow dark half-moons. So this kind of “grooming” is at least marginally justifiable for me. Admittedly, I could forego this practice, but you’d only replace your disdain for me with slack-jawed horror when I showed up at your house at 8 am.
10. I can’t even manage a round number for this list.