I am beginning to worry about losing my masculinity. Sometimes, when I wake up in the morning, I find it cowering in the corner behind our bathroom wastebasket. So I throw it back on and try to carry on with manly functions like tossing the caber during the day. But this is becoming increasingly difficult and my masculinity, feeling threatened, slinks away again while I’m asleep, probably looking for someone like Fabio to become attached to.
For years my masculinity was safely intact. I had a good paying job in the telecommunications industry, an industry where many former employees have been downgraded to medical experiment volunteers. I had a good salary that provided for my family, sufficient enough for my wife to stay at home to raise the kids.
My masculinity was in great form when our first child, a boy, was born. When our second and third children also turned out to be boys, my masculine feelings were at an all time high. Unlike my two older brothers, who only have one boy each, I had given the world three Burn boys, although technically, all that pushing that my wife did helped.
But I didn’t let my ego get the better of me. I certainly didn’t remind my brothers at family get-togethers that, with my three sons, the next generation of Burn men to carry on the family line had more than doubled from two to five. No, I would remind our mother.
Anyway, my masculinity took its first hit when I lost my job along with about 18 million other telecommunication employees. But I didn’t let this get me down. No sir! I did what any man would do after bawling his eyes out for three days; I started my own consulting company.
Running your own consulting company is an extremely challenging and manly endeavour, one that requires gallons of sweat, one that requires great feats of manly handshaking, one that requires an enormous amount of patience between contracts, one that requires fending off the creditors with assurances that the cheques are in the mail.
So it came to pass that my wife decided to return to school to refresh her nursing skills in order to help out with the finances. A faint squeal from my masculinity was barely registered by my brain.
As the weeks have passed since my wife started school, I have noticed small, yet subtle, changes in my masculine behavior. For example, when my wife brought up a ham from the freezer for me to cook for dinner that night, I thought to myself that scalloped potatoes would go great with that ham. My masculinity registered its alarm at this thought. You can imagine my surprise when I later discovered that the ham was in fact a roast of pork. Undaunted, I went ahead with the scalloped potatoes idea, which turned out very fine thank you very much, and was just glad that I didn’t commit this culinary faux-pas with company expected for dinner.
And then the other day, entirely on my own initiative, I decided to do the groceries. What an experience. The price of groceries, especially cookies, is exorbitant. I am going to have to start reading all those grocery flyers that I used to routinely use for starting campfires. There were also lots of other men in the grocery aisles with their masculinity hanging precariously onto the grocery cart.
As I was putting away the groceries, easily a third of which were cookies for the boys lunches, I thought that to save money, I would bake my own chocolate chip cookies. My masculinity winced at this notion, but I forged ahead and made three-dozen cookies that, like the cars in the movie, were “gone in forty seconds” when the boys got home from school. So I baked another batch and hid them in a safe place where the children would never think to look: the laundry hamper.
The other day after Mass, I was telling a group of ladies about my new daily routine of cooking, baking, cleaning, etc. They listened with great interest as I explained that the best way to remove grass stains is to first “spray” it, then “wash” it. I saw them later huddled together casting sidelong glances at me. I think that they were debating on whether or not to invite me to Women’s Fellowship to get me out of the house more often. If they do, I will make some butter tarts.
Of course, my wife has been very supportive during all of this. She tells me that, “No, that apron doesn’t make your hips look wide,” and, “I’ll bring you home some flowers tomorrow, if I remember.”
So I’ve come to accept my new role in life and have become comfortable with hanging up my masculinity next to my housecoat in the closet. I bring it out for the occasional pressing for the day when I’m going to need it again.
I better get going now; Trading Places is coming on.
Nick Burn is a freelance writer, husband, father of three, engineer, teacher, and webmaster for the Canadian Catholic Information Network. In his spare time (hah!), he enjoys camping, skiing and reading.