There are hours, days, even weeks, or months where the concept of defining who or what I am against some arbitrary measure of manhood doesn’t even flicker across my senses. Even the phrase “measuring manhood” is loaded with the humour of the playground and the imagery of testosterone-addled youths looking for any excuse to prove dominance or alleged maturity.
And yet, in the introspection of counselling, and especially in darker moments, concepts of masculinity and perceived worth have often spun round in ever decreasing circles and given me pause for thought. Our household is one where I am not the biggest financial provider at this moment, and I contribute with cooking and cleaning and a thousand small touches instead. The desire to provide for those I love can feel thwarted if I only acknowledge the financial aspect of support, forgetting the value of just being there and running the household, cracking awful jokes and picking people up when they need a hand.
I like to tell myself I’m an intelligent, educated and reasonably self-aware individual who sidesteps stereotypes of masculinity; and yet I can and do derive a certain caveman-like satisfaction in barbecues, beer, uncomplicated visceral humour involving bodily functions and sex. Not necessarily all at the same time, but also not necessarily as entirely mutually exclusive activities.
This is probably why I had no problem picking up this book in the library, enjoying the joke, and taking it home to flip through with Lady M. We duly spent a good half hour or so curled up and giggling at the categories and descriptions of different “manly” and “anti-manly” activities and the points associated with them.
Activities such as starting fires, getting a table in a restaurant without booking, flying a plane in an emergency, unblocking a toilet, or investigating strange noises in the night are all defined, rated, and embellished in a strange cod hyper macho sarcastic tone that is a sheer subversive joy. The anti-manly penalties to your manliness total include sleepovers, cocktails, rom-coms, and watching The Notebook.
Lady M joked we could use the book to work out who the bitch is in our house, but we gave up scoring in favour of acknowledging Lady P’s contention that we’re already awesome, and that if you need a book to tell you how manly you are, you’ve already surrendered your man card whatever gender you identify as.