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Published: Thursday, 10/29/2009

In era of equality there are plenty of 'manly men'

BY REG HENRY

ONE of the things that people notice about me is my man's man aura. It would be boasting to suggest that people say I am ruggedly handsome but they do think I am ruggedly homely.

The rumpled look is my favored style. As life rubs up against me in all its roughness, my clothing assumes a naturally worn and tattered appearance. Socks are sometimes mismatched, shoes scuffed.

Not for me the precious no-hair-out-of-place look. In fact, my hair is permanently out of place. Long ago, most of it fled my head and is now vacationing in a place unknown.

Like all manly men, meat and potatoes are my favored nourishment.

There's nothing better to my mind than getting together with other manly fellows to play sports, talk sports, and make manly sporting noises.

This is not to say that any of us dislike or disrespect women. Au contraire! In fact, we love them so much we frequently absent ourselves from their company in order not to give them further offense.

This strikes me as the natural way of things. It is what the earliest man did when he first saw his spouse put up curtains in the cave. Knowing what was good for him, he would have approved this innovation and then excused himself with polite grunts to see what the Neanderthals were up to.

You may wonder what this has to do with our modern era. As it happens, our President, not exactly embraced as everyman by his critics, is now being criticized for being everyman by his erstwhile supporters. A story in the New York Times on Sunday asked the burning question: "Does the White House feel like a frat house?"

The previous occupant of the White House - now forgotten to history except as a dull ache where opportunity once existed - was considered the very model of the modern male generic, what with his vain swaggering and well-meaning cluelessness. His was a frat house like no other, with Dick Cheney in charge of the ceremonial paddle.

And now Barack Obama is being accused of the same sort of thing. According to The Times, women's advocates and liberal bloggers are criticizing him for hosting a high-level basketball game with no female players.

As if this were not horror enough, other offenses are cited, such as male White House staffers who have the habit of calling each other "dude."

Fair-minded people would certainly wish that some women in the White House were called "dudette," although perhaps not Michelle Obama or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who might not take it well, in fact might very well slug someone.

The odd thing is that this criticism of Mr. Obama running a frat White House might be the only thing pleasing about him in the eyes of his testosterone-crazed critics. These days you don't have to stroll far to find out what the Neanderthals are up to - you just stay home and watch Glenn Beck.

It occurred to me that perhaps the Democrats have discovered their own evil-genius spin-doctor, who is set on recasting the Great Compromiser as the Commander-in-Chief Guy in order to give him the common touch.

But no sooner than the alleged presidential frat house story appeared, his chief domestic policy adviser, Melody Barnes, played golf in a foursome with the President, an honor lately reserved for guys. I just hope that the Iranians and Russians do not take notice of this weakness.

Before I, Mr. Dude, go home and face the wrath of Mrs. Dude, it is important for me to say that I strongly support gender equality in all things. Women can do everything a man can and can do it better, as they will tell you.

But here's one of the many inconvenient facts of life - men and women drive each other nuts when subjected to long exposure to each other's company.

For their part, women need their quiet time, their off-duty book clubs, their quilting circles, their tennis clinics and yoga.

Men need their sports, their beer, and the opportunity to make noises. The sexes should not live in perennial proximity any more than in permanent isolation.

Take it from Mr. Dude: No need to call a full-court press because the President plays hoops with the guys. It's not a man's world anymore, but a man can dream and shoot.

Reg Henry is deputy editorial page editor for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Contact rhenry@ post-gazette.com



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