Can't Change A Tire? You're NOT A Real Man Then!!!
Being a semi feminine, metrosexual male of the millennium with strong and independent opinions I usually find myself in conversations that surround the “Have To’s” and the “Do’s and Don’ts” of what a man is, should know, should be, and/or isn’t altogether. I often times have to defend my stance that being a feminine man doesn’t exclude me from having the right to be identified as a “real man” let alone a “man” at all! I also find myself defending that femininity is not a telltale sign of homosexuality nor is masculinity (especially in this day and age) a telltale sign of heterosexuality! However, despite my dialogues and debates most of my friends still see the gender role argument from the same stereotypical, bigoted and prejudice societal view: Women are from Venus and Men are from Mars!
I have a slew of female friends whom I listen to often and in many ways can understand on a level that most men don’t. This comes from growing up around a lot of women and having an emotional and mental maturity and sensitivity level that merits a deeper look at how they function, feel, and think. On the flip side I also have a lot of male friends who are uber masculine, alpha male types to whom I also listen to; trying to gain an understanding of a type of man I myself do not claim to be or identify with. These traits have always allowed me to look at a situation, conversation, or problem subjectively as I am often the one that friends come to for advice or a venting hear simply because, as they put it, I understand.
It was a wonderful Sunday afternoon after church in which my Bestie, Brother and I decided to grab a bite to eat. Brother is a pancake whore so we decided that IHOP would be the best bet. In the midst of conversations about how church was, how Praise and Worship went and a few other things the oddest and most unmerited of subjects fell upon our table.
“I think every man should know how to change a tire!”
“Really? Why?” I responded.
“It just saves time and money.”
“Yea I think it’s bad if a man doesn’t know how to change a tire. Like that’s something every man NEEDS to know,” Bestie chimed in.
I paused. A NEED? Really? Was it like air or food or water wihtout which I would die? I had to know!
“Is it really a need?” I asked.
“Well what if you’re stuck on the side of a road by yourself in the middle of nowhere and there’s no AAA? What are you going to do? Just stand there and wait for someone to come and help you?” Brother rebutted.
“Well of course not! In the one in a million chance that I’m stuck in the middle of nowhere with no AAA..."
Which is absurd, AAA is everywhere LOL! But I continued on,
"...I’d figure it out and go along my way.”
“That’s bad Dan,” said Bestie, “Every man NEEDS to know how to change a tire. It’s part of what a man is supposed to know how to do." She quipped.
And there was that word again: NEED. I didn't understand why they kept saying it was a need. My face looked puzzled being that 1: I don’t necessarily know how to change a tire and they both knew it! 2: I’m STILL a man either way! And 3: I’m sure if I absolutely HAD to I could figure it out (as I have done once or twice in the past). However, the most shocking and jarring portion of this debate was that both Brother and Bestie (a man and a woman) felt like knowing how to change a tire was a NEED reserved entirely for a man. That in some way knowing how to take a bad tire off a car and put a good one on was a Right-of-Passage to manhood. I had a scenario for them both.
“So if you had a husband who was a lawyer and a wife who was a mechanic and they got stuck on the side of the road with no AAA, is the expectation for the man to change the tire simply because he’s a man? Or should the woman who is qualified to work on cars, knows how to change a tire properly (and most likely swiftly), and enjoys what she does be the one to do it?”
Without hesitation Bestie responded,
“He’s a man so he’s expected to do it!”
I knew that the conversation was at a point where we simply had to agree to disagree but my cursed need to understand and have things make sense just wouldn’t stop bugging me. I knew that Bestie grew up with a father who was the bread winner, the handy man, the fix-it guy and therefore engraining into Bestie that there are certain things a man SHOULD know how to do. It is, as Bestie and Brother put it, a NEED! Changing a tire, changing the oil, fixing the sink, etc. These were all things that in Bestie’s conditioning equated to manhood. They were things she would go through life expecting any man in her life to be able to accomplish or at least try to accomplish before, in fact, realizing that a professional was needed for the job.
Brother on the other hand (who IS a mechanic and loves cars incessantly) feels that it saves time and money when you know how to do something yourself, especially like changing a tire. Self-resilience was his motto. However, I didn’t grow up in a house where daddy was the handy, fix-it guy. I didn't grow up with a dad at all! I grew up (for the majority of my childhood) watching my mother handle the "manly" tasks. And the tasks that she didn’t know how to do were reserved for someone who had the skill set to do so. It was my conditioning and upbringing that had me believing that a job is best done by the one who is most qualified. If you have a love for cars by all means work on cars! If you LOVE to paint buildings, get you some buckets and brushes and paint till your hearts content! I didn’t understand why both Brother and Bestie felt like knowing how to change a tire was a NEED! Something that’s really helpful and good to know? ABOSLUTELY! But a NEED?! I just didn’t get it.
I took the next few milliseconds thinking about what would be considered a “Need”. Cooking? Cleaning? Knowing how to dress? Knowing how to read or write? And then I stopped. I realized no matter WHAT the thing is we could consider a ‘need’, the NEED to know how to do it is always relative to the person it will ultimately affect. Something like knowing how to cook might be considered a need for people but if you’re content with spending money and eating out every day then it might not seem like a NEED for you. Especially if you can afford it. Or maybe you have your own personal chef or a spouse who loves to cook which negates you HAVING to know how to do so. What we feel are NEEDS in our lives are not necessarily so for others in their lives and shouldn’t then become societal staples for what defines us as Men and Women.
The reality of the conversation was that I was offended at the thought that me not knowing how to do something erased my right to be called a "real" Man. Much like a woman would be offended if someone said her lack of knowing how to cook in some way erased her right to be called or considered a "real" Woman. Society has tricked us into believing that “This” thing or “That” thing is NEEDED to define our roles of life or our roles in a relationship. And although I agree that there SHOULD BE a role played I don’t agree that society gets to choose what that role is!
We all have choices and beliefs of our own that dictate who we are, who we’re going to be and ultimately who we want to become. So why force one another to live by a standard that works only for us? What if that standard doesn’t work for others? And before I get hit with all of the bible thumping, spiritual scholars let me be very clear! This is not an attack on your religious or political beliefs! It’s simply an observation on how we as people are so quick to force everyone into this nice and rather untidy box that everyone else was tricked into being put into.
I shouldn’t be defined, as a man, by whether or not I know how to change a tire!
**DISCLAIMER** If you haven't realized at this point in the blog that the "tire" is a metaphor, PLEASE stop reading....
I should be defined, in the theoretical sense, as a man by my character, my choices, and my overall demeanor! I acknowledge the splitting of hairs that is sure to come as the physicality of being a MALE (one who has penis) is argued but if you decide to split that particular hair then I’m sad to say that this entire blog is above your intellectual pay grade!
All in all I understand that Brother and Bestie STILL love me, STILL consider me a man and in NO WAY were trying to offend me; they were simply expressing opinions and beliefs that worked for them and were, in some small way, an expectation for those who entered their lives. However they did cause me to look deeper into this age ideal that Women are from Venus and Men are from Mars. I think the healthy conclusion is that even if men and women come from different worlds we ALL can look to better our lives and ourselves while looking to find a middle ground and meet in a place between both planets where there is room for options: EARTH!