ON THE MANLY ART OF BEING MANLY
...and more of your questions answered
THE CRABBY CRITIC
Rugged masculinity is in short supply these days – at least if you believe what you see on television.
I need clarification on who is responsible for the conspiracy being perpetrated on the masculine identity these days. Whoever the culprits are, they are no more equal to the task of picking potential stud material than Shakespeare would have been adept at teaching Venus Williams how to serve doubles.
It is particularly distressing to go to the movies, turn on the television, open a magazine or browse through something as innocuous as a department store catalogue, only to be inundated with a barrage of hairless, asexual and effeminate pretty boys billed as the ideal embodiment of the North American male. If that’s our concept and aspiration for masculinity in totem, then we have bigger problems than we think.
To point to the obvious; there is nothing inherently wrong or sinister about having the “pretty boy” as a cultural type – just so long as he is not exclusively marketed as the only type. However, what I find detrimental to the self esteem of any Joe Average who does not look like Tyson Beckford in his Calvins, is the unabashed corporate push from media and advertising agencies that have physically willed every man into the clone of a sport and shave Ken doll.
I am reminded of the film, What Women Want (2000) that has Mel Gibson, as a chauvinist pig gaining unprecedented insight into the female psyche after a freak accident – okay, electrocution. Seems nothing short of ten thousand volts will wise any man up. If only I could have been in possession of such a crystal ball.
However, true to ‘guy’ form – at least in the movies - all Mel can think of is to exploit this great gift to mold himself into Mr. Right for Helen Hunt. She of course, requires no self improvement. Instead she embodies sensibility, pragmatism and practicality.
So why is she single? And why, oh why, is her chief desire to hook up with someone like Mel in the first place?
He clearly lags behind in the movie’s restructured tiers of male/female socio/sexual politics. According to What Women Want then - women don’t want real men any more than they desire a yeast infection – opting instead for the Monistat patch and some malleable peon with a functioning scrotum, who can be pushed around, lied to, or converted to their own way of thinking – a rather scary hybrid of the Manchurian Candidate meets Jane Fonda, or, what I perceive as a 'final solution' scenario resembling life after sex at the Streisand home.
Being male, I can only stand so much “reality TV”, pitting the hapless stud against fifty ravenous gold-diggers, before putting down the remote and venturing to the mall. The mall, in fact, is the zoological equivalent to these television shows; it showcases the male animal like a fish out of water in his not-so-native habitat.
Call it my sociological study if you like. I prefer the more user friendly label of ‘people watching.’ It’s not high science; just a bird’s eye into the extent to which Hollywood’s influence has influenced men in leaving their testicles in a jar at home.
As a methodology, people-watching is a great art. It forces one to reconsider just how far our cultural ideal has strayed from the Clark Gable/Humphrey Bogart, “man’s man” that used to be considered the rugged aspiration and desirable, if hyper-realistic, norm.
Today at the mall, I spot a young couple window browsing the local furniture outlet. She’s eyeing a gaudy bronzed lamp in the shape of a pineapple that vaguely resembles something from a Carmen Miranda movie.
He’s aloof toward the rather shapely brunette that smiles at him as she passes by. That obliviousness is predicated upon the fear - trained into him - that his own paramour might break a sweat and then perhaps his nose, just for looking. Personally, I’ve always adhered to the motto that, it doesn’t matter from where the appetite comes as long as one eats at home.
However, yours truly has been on the receiving end of several green-eyed monsters that would have plucked my eyes out or, at the very least, slapped me with a pair of blinders for good measure. Sadly, the amiable fellow I’m observing has already been convinced to wear his own.
“Don’t you just love that?” the woman says to her companion, as she points to the pineapple lamp.
“No,” he plainly replies.
“Too bad,” I think to myself, “Because it’s going next to that chair you’re not particularly fond of.”
I watch as this woman shuffles her beau into the shop, using well-oiled techniques to get him to whip out his plastic for yet another unwanted purchase from this current episode of “he said/she told”. And I recall a scene from one of my favorite movies; Adam’s Rib (1950), the battle-of-the-sexes screwball comedy that pits Spencer Tracy against perennial, headstrong Katharine Hepburn. Tracy wants a partner who is his genuine mate, not a competitor within the hierarchy of their coupling.
Steeped in the sexual politics of the 1950’s, Kate ultimately gives in – at least a little – but this acquiescence doesn’t make her character any less headstrong or, for that matter, any less of a woman. Yet Tracy’s declaration has since become a sobering, prolific response to what the 1960’s laughing coined “the new woman”; a prototype of femininity that was, at least for a while, celebrated on television in “That Girl” and “Mary Tyler Moore” and touted within the annals of Helen Gurly Brown as the go-getter, be-all, see-all, take-all, assertive female that, by the end of the decade, was burning her bra under the auspicious muckraking of Gloria Steinum.
Hence ‘Men’ degenerated in their status from life partner to persona non grata; a strange dichotomy between oppressive brute and helpless child; someone who began life as a hyper-sexed predator but then regressed into an Oedipus complex – wanting little more than a mother-figure to cook, clean and share his bed. Thereafter ‘man’ was not suitable for partnership, except perhaps where heavy lifting or taking out the trash was involved. But leave one toilet seat up and watch out.
However, the woman I observed with her beaux at the mall, with a broad smile and pineapple lamp in tow, is not interested in being a mate.
She is not particularly gearing up to run as a competitor either. It is game set and match or, to use a more telling analogy, détente in the age-old struggle of love and war. She’s already achieved her goal – getting somebody else to shell out for that hideous lamp – and that is about as far as her own interest in the relationship goes. Think that I am way off base?
Consider how Cosmo, Vanity Fair, Women’s World, Good Housekeeping, et al, dedicate their readership to something along the lines of “How to get your husband to Be The Man You Want Him To Be” or perhaps, “Ten Ways to Make Him Feel He’s Important”.
That’s not the same as “being important” but it helps placate him into getting things done around the house. This collective desire to build Mr. Right from the gonads up is not a call for social improvement, though it is easily misinterpreted as such.
Rather, it is all about control. The postmodern pop culture male has been distilled into someone that I really don’t want to know, and Hollywood has been shaping that image with one emasculated sterile cuckoo after another. Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Toby McGuire, Keau Reeves, et al. Collectively they owe more to the flashy sheen of prissy china cupids - not the rugged masculinity of John Wayne or Errol Flynn.
“Good”, I can almost hear the rabid feminist chant, “Serves you right. See how you like it for a change.”
But is that really fair? Because for every self-determined female modeling herself after Jodie Foster there are at least one hundred and fifty who would rather be Marilyn Monroe, and modern man has had absolutely nothing to do with that.
and now... more of your questions...
I met a woman off the internet. We exchanged email for three months before we decided to leave our spouses for each other. She was nothing like I pictured, she did not look half as good as she did in her photos and she is unemployed. Do you think I could get my wife to take me back?
You’re a pig. There’s just no subtler way of putting it. You’re like the thief who isn’t particularly sorry he stole, but he’s frightfully upset that he got caught.
Get your wife back?
What would she want with you when you’re so easily swayed by the swill some Internet Porky put out to drag your short and curly over to her trough? You made a mistake, Ned. You toyed with a woman’s affections and there’s no reprieve once the damage has been done.
If you’re wife still has affections for you – which wouldn’t surprise me, depending on how long it’s been since you bolted from the family stable – then she might be desperate or dumb enough to give you a second chance.
My advice: if she’s either or both you get down on your knees, Piglet, and not only beg her forgiveness, but spend the next seventy to a hundred years proving you’re worthy of that faith and trust. Or just start typing sweet n’ lovelies on your keyboard again. There’s a bacon-burner born every minute – fool!
Why do people lie over the internet?
Because they can. It’s that simple. There’s a certain autonomy inherent with the internet that makes people think they can just do whatever they gosh darn please – at least, from a safe distance - and no one will be the wiser for it. That autonomy makes the internet a fertile breeding ground for con artists, stalkers and pedophiles…you know; real high class folk you’d like to bring home to mother.
Truth and honesty are in very short supply in the world today to begin with. You need the psychic premonitions of John Edwards to figure out who’s on your side and who’s not…and that’s when the person is standing directly in front of you.
On the net anyone can claim to be anything – and usual do – simply because there’s no accountability on their part to actually prove what they say. I could report that I look like Jamie Foxx and have been dating Hillary Clinton for the past four months. Hell, with today’s Photoshop technologies I could even give you pictorial proof to support such an outrageous claim, just to satisfy your naïveté.
Bottom line: I WOULD NOT TRUST ANYTHING ANYONE may say to you over the net – especially if it’s manifested in the form of a romantic overture, business investment, or email announcement that you just won some Thunderball Lottery in Naples.
The crabby critic
Dear Crabby Critic:
What makes you so crabby?
To answer your question, there are a lot of things that irritate me in the world today. I’ll try to list some of the bigger ones. I don’t usually sweat the small stuff. So let’s get started with my top ten.
1) Common sense: where is it? Why is logic never even tried? Occasionally I find someone who uses their head for more than applications of make up or shaving, but most of the time I find people just adopt a Machiavellian principle
…you know “do whatever feels good” and forget that that sort of incongruous methodology comes with a litany of side effects – most of them easily avoidable if one would only use the sense God gave a lemon.
2) Beautiful people who think that ‘looks’ are everything. Actually, I have mixed feelings toward these airheads. To quote Judge Judy: “Beauty fades, dumb is forever.”
The trouble is, cute people always think it’ll never happen to them. More to the point, they sort of figure that the world owes them something because they are too sexy for their species. Most will wind up fat, alcoholic and depressed the minute a wrinkle appears – or simply indulge their superficial whims in a series of botched plastic surgery attempts to remain twenty-one forever.
3) Celebrities behaving badly. Notice I don’t refer to them as ‘stars’.
We don’t have stars today. The distinction is subtle but noteworthy. Stars were known primarily for their on camera body of work. If any part of a stars private life was leaked to the press in the good ol’ days it was generally a fairytale fabrication released by their studio that helped support the myth that these folk were somehow superhuman or at the very least, living a perfect existence.
Today's celeb’ isn’t known for their body of work. Name me 10 films off the top of your head that any celeb’ has been in. You probably can’t.
Star - John Wayne made more than 200 films. Now that’s what I call a body of work.
Today’s celeb’ isn’t mythical. They’re repulsive. They thrive on shock value. They’re just common people with a bank account…and, by my estimation, an undeserving one for the most part.
Honestly, if I were earning $21 million a picture I could think of about 21 million other things to do with it then get high on crack, rent prostitutes, go through a string of meaningless affairs/marriages, and wind up at the end of my career begging for change as a forgotten has been on somebody else's 'where are they now' telethon.
4) While we’re on the subject of Hollywood – today’s movies in general piss me off. They’re not hand crafted story telling with great personalities, like the movies from the 1930s, 40s or 50s. Here’s what bothers me most about today’s movie making:
a) the scripts: I’ve written several so I know of what I speak. Today’s film dialogue has no spark. Romantic comedies are trite, contrived and dumb. The melodrama’s nonexistent or boring as hell.
(b) The action flick has been reduced to nothing more than a bunch of computer generated crap and obnoxiously loud 5.1 soundtracks that do not stimulate, but accost the ear drum.
(c) Remakes, remakes, remakes. Are their no original ideas left in Hollywood?
(d) Television to film transplants: I don’t want to see a premise that barely was tolerable on the small tube for an hour (minus commercial interruption) stretched to a two hour film that in no way recaptures the excitement of my fond recollections and, more often than not, bastardizes them with truly awful acting. The Dukes of Hazzard movie and Bewitched with Nicole Kidman fall into this category.
(e) the price of admission: with nearly everything being done in a computer, movies should be cheaper to go and see. They’re not. In Canada we pay $11.50 for a single admission to go to the movies. For that price I better get a floor show and lap dance from the female starlet featured in the film. If we were talking about going to see films like Gone With The Wind or Ben-Hur I wouldn’t be squawking. But Rumor Has It… and Annapolis are not worth their weight in ticket stubs.
(f) camera jitter - why does every two hours movie have to take on the color and flavoring of a six minute music video. Well, the answers simple - it takes a really good actor to hold his own if the camera just sits there and allows him/her to give a performance. It's much easier to take some fop in stretch pants and chop together something that vaguely resembles a performance using computerized editing tools as though they were a Ginsu.
And Hollywood wonders why nobody’s going to the movies any more?!?!?
5) The crucifixion of Samuel Alito. It’s time the Democrats did something constructive instead of bashing the reputation of a salt of the earth like Mr. Alito as though he were the anti-Christ. Even if Alito did not approve of Roe VS Wade (which has been the grenade that Ted Kennedy and his rabble have affixed their lynch pin to) that wouldn’t mean that women seeking abortions would be forced to find a backroom physician to remedy their predicament with a coat hanger.
And anyway, there’s really nothing about Alito’s past judicial record to suggest he’d become the Gestapo of the Supreme Court that Democrats suggest he will become if and when he gets voted in. If anything Alito is TOO GOOD for the Supreme Court. He’s a retiring, diplomatic and reserved family man, caught in a culture that supports audacious, autocratic free love. If I were in his shoes – win or lose – I’d take a baseball bat to Uncle Ted after the senate hearings.
6) Bush bashing: this is the lowest form of democracy at work.
7) Bill and Hillary Clinton: Neither is fit to hold political office. Cumulatively, the two have gone on record for a litany of illegal practices: everything from pilfering White House china after decamping 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to having been involved (at some level) in the murder of Vince Foster.
And let’s not forget darling Monica – the gal who transformed a seat of great power into the ‘five’ll get you ten’ love in. Still, with all this scandal behind them, both Clintons are repeatedly called on to speak to students at colleges and universities across the country.
If I were an alumnist at an institution contemplating a Clinton lecture, I’d want my donation money back. I’d also demand that all female faculty and students wear their chastity belts on the day of...Billie’s proven himself a guy NOT to be trusted!
8) People who suggest to me that I ought to go out and get a real job simply because they’re not happy with theirs. Jealousy for anyone who can articulate more than two thoughts and still scratch his butt is the leading cause of most people giving in or giving up on their dreams. That’s criminal.
That’s also the reason why there’s some great actress out their in the Ozarks who’ll never be discovered while Britney Spears is getting paid big bucks to direct her first film! Frank Capra, George Cukor, Vic Fleming, et al. – I know you guys are turning over in your graves over that one!
9) American Idol. Honestly, who do they think they’re kidding? I don’t see any of the previous ‘stars’ of that series making any headway in the recording industry. Ruben isn’t rocking any major venues that I’ve seen advertised.
Bo Bice is a moderate success but not a very publicized one (a shame, since I figure he’s the only guy of the lot who might have any real staying power and/or talent.) No, the ‘stars’ of idol are not the performers, but the judges – particularly Simon, whose natural pomposity has concurred that he is God’s gift to the recording industry and Paula Abdul.
10) Men and women who don’t respect their spouses or significant others. Here’s my take. If they're good enough to sleep with, then they deserve all of your time, honor, respect and understanding.
I meet and know of so many couples today who have decided that the other person in their lives is either a bothersome appendage or merely useful to look after the kids and do the heavy lifting. In both cases, there’s a service that could provide for those needs and with far less hassle – if that’s the only reason one is hanging onto their ball and chain.
Oh, and by the way, if that’s how you misperceive your other half – as the ‘ball and chain’ - it’s time to get paroled.
The crabby critic
I work at a travel stop. Our store has Valentine's Day stuff on display like stuffed animals and candy. The truckers are always buying all the other sales girl’s presents because they are pretty. I'm not pretty. No one ever buys me anything. I hate not being the pretty one. What can I do about this? I can't stop crying and don't want to go to work anymore.Ugly In Texas
You’re probably not THAT ugly. But you do sound like a gal with real self esteem problems. I’ll tell you what I told another person in a similar situation: you have to own self esteem to live it. Look at yourself in the mirror – not the physical self – but the soul self. Then, say to yourself “I’m worth it. Screw anyone who doesn’t think so.” People can read insecurity better than they can read the instructions on how to change a flat on the highway.
Your question is a bit double-edged. What is it exactly that you want: to be liked in general, or, to be banged by a trucker? When you’re insecure it seems as though everyone else’s life is moving in an upward/forward direction while yours is standing still, or (perish the thought) rolling downhill. That’s a myth in your own mind.
Nobody ever has it all. And here’s a thought peeled from the pages of Judge Judy – “Beauty fades. Dumb is forever.” I’d rather be smart than pretty, because knowledge is something that time can’t take from you (well, okay, if you get Alzheimer’s, maybe) – but unlike looks, which are guaranteed to go before you can say, “I think I need some Botox.”
Unless you look like Nanny McPhee I’d say there’s still hope that with the right cosmetologist and a bit of confidence you too can pass for above average at the next staff Christmas party.
Good luck, and remember, keep the faith in yourself. You’re worth it.
The crabby critic
I always thought my husband liked the way I look but lately he’s been hinting that maybe I might want to consider plastic surgery; breast enhancement, lypo on my thighs, and do something with my nose. I’m afraid of surgery of any kind but my husband says he’s seen a lot of stuff done on an out-patient basis by watching the Health Channel.
Linda in Fresno
Then, tell him to go and have the surgery. Let’s be real about one thing – even out-patient operations under the most benign and sterile of conditions carry a slight risk of death. Recall that ‘First Wive’s Club’ author Olivia Goldsmith checked in for what she thought would be a routine face lift and died! What a waste of talent and for what; to look – not young again (which is the myth that all plastic surgeons promise), but to look like some middle-age gal who’s obviously had plastic surgery.
Johnnie Carson said it best when he hosted the Oscars many years ago and quipped, “I see a lot of new faces…especially on the old faces.” Most recent celebrity horror stories include: Meg Ryan’s lips, post collagen, that are reminiscent of someone who lost a fight with their vacuum cleaner, Joan Rivers, who looks Chinese, and Michael Jackson , who – let’s be honest - doesn’t even look human! More like a latex bauble-head. And these guys can afford California’s very best. Unless you or your hubby is pulling in a six figure income, you’re not going to be able to afford that level of …..‘a-hem’….quality.
If you want to be poked and plucked like some Thanksgiving turkey – I suppose you’ll go ahead. Personally, I don’t think cosmetic surgery should be made affordable or legal to anyone who hasn’t been involved in some sort of tragically disfiguring disease or injury. It’s becoming too easy to go under the knife simply because we’re not satisfied at seeing a few wrinkles cropping up around the eyes.
And since when has it become taboo to get one’s chunky butt on an exer-cycle or do some cardio and weights to whittle down the undesirable parts.
As for your breasts – they’re going to get big and floppy with age. Besides, big breasts might look good on a Playboy centerfold, but just ask the woman who has to contend with the discomfort of lugging those melons around twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week if she’d rather not be and ‘A’ cup than a double D – to say nothing of finding sweaters, coats, T-shirts, etc. in your size. Remember, no runway model tops out with a set of cans that Ricky Ricardo could play Ba-ba-loo on.
As for your husband – I doubt you married Apollo or Achilles (and let’s be honest, the latter probably had badly calloused heels from all that sprinting about). My advice for your hubby would be for you to tell him that when he gets a face transplant, hair plugs and a vasectomy, you’ll get your boobs done.
If he refuses, you could always break his nose. Then at least someone will have a reason to get the surgery. Keep your chin up, dear…both of them. And don’t give in to someone else’s vanity. If you think you look good – having never seen you, I’m willing to side with that personal assessment and say, leave well enough alone.
The crabby critic
Why are some men pigs? Why do they only want the pretty ones and then dump them after they sleep with them? Why do men stare at women like they are pieces of meat anyway?
Why are some women sluts?
Answer: just goes with the territory of being a woman…if one is so inclined.
Same holds true for men. Some treat women disrespectfully because they just think they’re entitled. That doesn’t mean that they are. But on that score, it’s you women who have all the power. All you have to do to a guy who’s treating you like a side of beef is stand up to him and say something like “Get a clue, Sherlock. Just because I’ve got boobs doesn’t mean I am one. Take your tragically sexist head out of your macho ass and go back to jerking off in front of your centerfolds, because I’ll never be able to satisfy what I can’t respect.” Really, it’s that simple.
You sound like you’ve been ridden hard and put up wet…more than once…and you’re tired of it. Good for you. My only add on is: what the hell took you so long, girl?!?!?
What I find appalling about most women today is how much they put up with from the word go. Time and again I see women friends of mine out on a first date with some guy who’s calling them ‘baby’ or ‘sweets’ or ‘honey’ or some other term of endearment but in such a way as its meant to make them feel like stupid, oversexed Barbie Dolls awaiting his pleasure. And time again those same women just roll their eyes and take it, or worse, go out on more than one date with that jerk. I’ve even had some of my female friends in prolonged relationships with these village idiots and in one instance, she married the Bozo!
If there’s one thing ALL women should know about ALL men it’s this: a guy is not a house. What? By this I mean that you can’t renovate what you don’t like after the mortgage has been signed. You can’t change, fix or alter anything either. A lot of women don’t get this. They find some stud who’s superficially attractive…you know, or hung like a pony or sporting very deep pockets…and then they just throw up their hands when he embarrasses them in public and say – “yeah, well I know he’s mean, but it’s only when he drinks. I can fix that.”
“Well, yes, he does treat me like I’m ‘knockers a la carte’ but I can fix that.”
“Okay, he did hit me once, but he said he wouldn’t do it again. I can fix that.”
“It’ll be different because he’s with me.”
“I’ll complete him.”
“I’ll change him.”
NO YOU WON’T!!!!!
Ladies, guess what? You are not Super Girl. You don’t have the Jedi mind trick down pat.
YOU CAN’T CHANGE A MAN, but especially IF HE DOESN’T WANT TO CHANGE FOR YOU.
If he’s a jerk on the first date he’ll be a jerk on the second and the third.
Now, there’s one addendum to this ‘Can’t Change Men’ philosophy, and it’s this: sometimes you’ll get a guy who treats you right, right from the start and suddenly, two months, six months, a year into the relationship he decides to get a little fresh with you because he thinks you won’t mind.
You have the right to say to him with all the stored up confidence, respect and mutual understanding you have both cultivated from the moment you laid eyes and hands on one another – “You know, that’s really hurtful” or “That’s not appreciated. I expected more of you” or something that’ll let him know that he’s impacted you in a way that is unacceptable.
If he’s the right kind of guy he’ll apologize for that misstep. He’ll say, “You know, I don’t know what got into me. I respect you. I love you. I’m sorry I said something as stupid as that.”
But if he just looks at you and says, “Hey, it’s no big deal” then maybe it really is time to move on.
But just remember this: respect is a two way street. You can’t go around calling him a turkey and making fun of the size of his giblets and then expect that he’ll excuse it all just because you’re a woman. Treat your guy the way you want to be treated and expect as much in return.
Finally, I don’t want you to be mad about your experience any longer. You gals carry around emotional baggage like it’s a badge of honor. It’s not. Furthermore, it will be perceived as totally unattractive by whatever fella you hook up with next. No man wants a little shrew for a girlfriend. And you can say, “Well yes, but I’m determined not to get burned again” and that’s commendable, just as long as you don’t stick the same red hot poker into some guy who doesn’t know where you’re coming from, and, more to the point, had no part in getting you to that place that you’re consternating at.
You’re rid of your pig.
Now go find a guy who doesn’t treat you like one.
The crabby critic
What’s the best way to commit a murder?
-Jeff from Arkansas
Even if I knew (which I don’t) I certainly wouldn’t be publicizing it – here or anywhere else. It’s not that kind of website. And anyway, if you really want to know the truth, there is NO such thing as the perfect murder. You might find a way to beat the rap of one…although, if you’re writing in to a website for a “how to” you mustn’t be very bright.
Don’t you think the police would eventually check your internet records?!?!? HEELLLLOOOOO!
All this aside: even if you were successful - eventually you’d be overcome with guilt, remorse, anxiety and all those other lovely emotions that find one contemplating tall buildings and high bridges for themselves once the terrible deed has been done. My advice: forget about killing anyone or anything and find some other hobby to indulge your free time. I suggest Tiddly-Winks.
The crabby critic
What’s the best way to commit suicide?
- Jeff from Arkansas
You must be a lot of fun at a party. Such morbid curiosities. Are you by any chance into the Goth scene, vampires, the torture of small children and animals, and own a subscription to ‘Whips N’ Chains Monthly’?
Here’s my advice: You want to know what’s the best way to commit suicide?!?
Become a writer!
(WARNING: to anyone in Arkansas who knows this character: keep all sharp objects out of reach and don’t make sudden movements or eye contact.)