Bob Dylan opined once. Hell, lots of people do that but because it’s Dylan everybody listens. Actually, he’s opined quite a few times in his long life. He’s probably still doing it now – Dawkins bless him – into a cup of warm cocoa by a roaring fireplace. (Fireplaces roar apparently. Fuck knows why.) So, anyway, what did he specifically opine about once upon a specific time? I’m getting to that. Just gotta find these quotation marks first. Ah! Here we go…
“I change during the course of a day. I wake and I’m one person, and when I go to sleep I know for certain I’m somebody else.”
Imagine if that second X had been a Y. Growing up, I could have been on the receiving end of a clenched fist had my sister been a mister. She was much kinder to me than a same sex sibling would have been. Of course, like anybody she’s not perfect, but if I list those imperfections here then I’m bound to get killed in my sleep. (Okay, not really.) Hullo, sis! (Erm, you can put that horse head down now…)
I’ve been surrounded by women my whole life. Well, to a much greater degree than men anyway. Back in my dim, distant, whiny teen phase, I remember being frightened by women, and wanting to be that rock that Simon and Garfunkel sang about so that their womanly charms wouldn’t rattle me. I craved a masculine kind of strength, a certain degree of stoic, macho immovability in the face of their distressingly compelling… well, womanliness. I wanted to be rooted deep in myself. (That sounds so wrong.)
Of course, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that I didn’t become this “ideal”. Rather, I became a tumbleweed rolling from scene to bewildering scene, trying to figure out its place in the choking dustbowl of life, and tangling uselessly around the ankles of women who were infinitely more accomplished at life than I could ever be.
I’m what some might call “an oversensitive, mewling nancy boy”. As far as they’re concerned, I’m like a vegetarian spider pretending to be a real spider that’s secretly going by the drag name of “Bambina” at the local titty bar. The fact is, they don’t have the measure of me at all. Sure, I’ve had people call me a fugly bush pig, but oversensitive? Come on now! Really, what they’re saying is, “You’re male. Don’t have feelings. If you do, you’re a girl.” I have to ask… what’s wrong with being a girl, and since when did “girl” become a pejorative? Oh, that’s right. Since always. Thanks, mankind. You’re progressive as all fuck. I’ll take my cues on how to live life from you, shall I?
Look, if having feelings – and, heaven forfend, showing them – makes me a girl then I’m proud to be so. At least female kind is in touch with its feelings. We men have missed a trick there. Women, collectively speaking, have got a rich, full, inner life going on that society by and large tries to quash. Fortunately, they’re more resilient than that, and are soft and curvy and bouncelicious enough to squeeze out of most attempts at subduing them. Yes, women can be subjugated but never ever subdued!
In this crazy, bizarro world that’s pathologically scared of them owning their own bodies and speaking their own minds, it’s still exhaustingly common for women to be treated as little more than brainless pommel horses to be ridden hard into the ground. Ugh! (And before anybody says I clearly must be a white-knighting, wowserish tart-arse who hates rumpy pumpy, lemme just say… oh, never mind. I couldn’t be arsed.)
Frankly, I’m glad of all the women who have walked through my life. My best teacher was a woman. My best boss was a woman. My best friend is a woman. Hell, even my wife is a woman! How cool is that? I feel like women “get” me more than the most men. It’s that magical “woman’s touch” that makes me want to be a better man. And although I’m not half the man I ought to be, I still wouldn’t be half the man I am now if it weren’t for that touch.
And that touch on my life continues. It reminds me that it’s okay to have feelings. It reminds me that I can cry when needed, that it’s not a peachy outcome when everyone sees me as an aggressive, heartless knob head. And, more importantly, it reminds me that demanding undying fealty from the nearest chick with an amazing rack and then bludgeoning her to death on the carpet when she doesn’t give me access to her vagina is simply not on. It’s good for us all to be reminded of stuff like that even though we shouldn’t need reminding.
So, yeah, this morning when I got out of bed Dylan’s words were doing a lazy little breaststroke through my brain. In fact, there would’ve been a spring in my step had I not been contemplating what a fraud I am by society’s warped standards of what constitutes manhood. But then I considered what my wife would say about being a man. Actually, she has said it, and many times. So has Tati. So has any woman I’ve ever cared about and looked up to. So then I found myself becoming a little less clear on the not-really-a-man thing. No, I am indeed a man. Nothing more. Nothing less. Just a biological fact. I’m a little ambiguous about the details sometimes but at least I don’t ever have to be what somebody else demands of me.
One of my fondest memories is from when I was a small child. It’s as golden as the beach I stood on before a special something entered the scene. One moment there was sand. The next moment there were crabs. They roamed around me in their hundreds – perhaps their thousands – going who knows where. They scuttled with purpose. They weren’t afraid of me and I wasn’t afraid of them. We just happened to be sharing the same space and time.
I want to be a man like that again.
by TONY SINGLE
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