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Saturday, 19 July 2014

On Model Manliness

I saw a construction crew, contracted for the company for which I work. They were the kind of people one would stereotype as construction worker material. Rough and rowdy, one of them was wearing the misnamed Ten-Gallon Hat, while the others used obscene language, shouted at the top of their lungs. It was like watching a jungle, as wannabe alphas fought for dominance over anyone who happened to wander into their concrete shattered domain.

And that is the proper world for a man, so many have told and recommended to me. That is real man's work.

***

Working with the mentally and physically ill, we are not always the most civil and proper. We work under stress, end our days feeling that we largely accomplished nothing, and as a means of relief often turn to gallows humor. As it often goes, if you can't laugh in the face of death, whose, then, can you laugh in?

Though it is not the most physically demanding (and what job is nowadays?) it is still taxing and tiring.

Yet, as the perception goes, my work (for men, anyway) is less admirable than others. Construction is where I should be, or in the auto industry, because if I'm not doing something with my hands, or breaking my back (with a hammer in hand, not a weak man that needs to set in his bed) than I am not living up to my manly potential.

This, I think, is another of those North and South, water and dry-land, divides that seem to be at the core of Michiganders and their perception of work and place and life in general.

In the south, a man isn't a man unless he's out breaking his back to bring home the bacon. That is a real man, and a real man is more worthy, more trustworthy, and somehow all around better than those phonies that answer phones or work in law. Smarts breeds distrust. Smart people are also lazy if you're from the southern end. 

When you travel north, a real man is someone who worked his way out of the back breaking, and is now riding the waves of his "well deserved" success. A teacher need not apply, for a man who is a teacher is not ambitious enough. Lawyers get the pass, especially if they hold a fancy public office, or know how to dodge small business taxes. Business men and auto industry white-collar are gold.

***

I think that we are still caught linking Man with Muscle and Money, no matter how much we don't want to admit it. But the facts are facts. A guy with a shovel is no more or less a man than the guy wheeling a poor old man into a hospital. Base pay does not make a man. Neither does bicep size.

That's all from Elliott at the Kitchen Table, learning how to stand and write at the same time.