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For most of our lives, we males have been hearing about what it takes to be considered “a real man.” These types of comments typically come from friends, family, the media or during some heart-wrenching family drama in which a father sits on the edge of his troubled teenager’s bed and sagely delivers one of a series of Real Man Clichés (RMC’s) such as, “A real man stands up for himself, son” or “A real man takes care of his family,” or “A real man carves out his own glory holes.”
I’ve always found “Real Man Clichés” (RMC’s) largely to be a simplistic view of gender identity, as if there was only one way for a male to be. I also think they can be insulting to women, as if women don’t also stand up for themselves and/or take care of their families. So neither RMC trait has anything to do with masculinity.
There are a million of these bogus RMC’s, like the oft-touted fallacies that real men don’t cry, real men don’t ask for directions and real men don’t cross their legs. And I really can’t stand how—whenever I order a Pina colada from the bar—there’s always some nearby Real Man Wannabe to inform me that, “real men should not order foo-foo drinks” when, in fact, real men should order whatever the fuck they want to order and not care what anyone thinks about it.
The list of Real Man Clichés is long and irritating and mostly bullshit. Indeed, as far as I can tell, there really only is one real, true RMC. This is to say, only one observation about men that is always true while at the same time being always not true about women, which is this: Real Men Are Very Good at Throwing and Catching Things a Lot.
I’m not talking about throwing and catching in sports. I’m talking about every day inanimate objects: car keys, phones, remotes, knickknacks. Indeed, men learn at an early age that we must successfully throw and catch things back-and-forth if we do not want to be thought a sissy. Like when you’re hanging out with your pals at recess, eating candy and talking sports, and somebody tosses you a jawbreaker and you miss it, or, you throw something badly to someone then, well, every man reading this article knows what happens next. Sure as if your name was Poindexter, they will tear you apart like a pack of wolves.
“Nice throw, Spaz! Does your boyfriend usually do the pitching?
“But, but—but it was a bad catch!”
“Nah, it was way over his head! Get him boys!”
Of course, this scenario only has to happen a couple of times before you vow to never let it happen again. And so—like all men—you master the skill of throwing and catching everyday objects because your manhood—nay your life—depends on it.
Now, as previously mentioned, in order for “Real Men Are Very Good at Throwing and Catching Things a Lot” to be a bonafide RMC, it must apply to men only, not women. And it is a proven, scientific fact that “Chicks Can’t Catch or Throw Things for Shit.” Nothing against them mind you. There’s just no social penalty for women who can’t throw and/or catch everyday, inanimate objects. It was only two days ago my friend “Debbie” shattered a bottle of ketchup against the wall. The woman simply cannot grasp the concept of arc—you know, lobbing things high and slow to give the receiver time to adjust. She whipped it hard, with all the arc of a line drive double play, causing it to careen off my shoulder and explode behind me, splattering ketchup on the wall like a CSI shotgun homicide scene.
And then there’s The Mother, who lurches in terror at the mere thought of having to catch something. It was on Christmas morning that she nearly killed the Baby Jesus.
“Will you pass the remote?” The Mother asked when we retreated to the living room after our traditional Christmas morning feast. But mom was out of reach. And being that my stomach was over-stuffed from the break-feast, getting up and bringing it to her was out of the question. So I decided to chance a throw.
“No, no—don’t do that,” she winced in terror.
“Don’t worry, mom,” I said. “I will lob it slow and high for you. You can’t miss.”
But the anxiety rendered her spastic. Instead of waiting for the remote to fall into her hands, she jabbed her closed fist into the air and punched the remote back toward me, over my head and into the ceramic nativity scene blinking on the piano behind me. The remote barreled through the display like a bowling ball, knocking over Mary, Joseph, a lamb, all Three Kings and...
“Gaaack!” The Mother screamed. “You toppled the manger!”
“Me?! Are you for real? It was a perfect throw!”
We approach to assess the damage. The nativity scene is like a bombing aftermath. Broken pieces are scattered about. Joseph is lying on his back, decapitated, The Virgin is bleeding out face first in the hay, and an oxen is munching on the dismembered limbs of the Magi. To our surprise, however, Jesus is unharmed; he’s just sitting beside the upturned manger, smiling and holding the remote in his little baby hands. Yup, apparently Jesus made a diving catch! And then, with a slow, high arc, he drops a perfect pass into my arms—which I catch without so much as a bobble—because, as the RMC goes, that’s how real men do.