A Story for Valentine’s Day
It is February, the month when St. Valentine most passionately plies his trade. You know: hearts and flowers, candy and love, dates in fancy restaurants, and marriage proposals. But in today’s world of 2023, when gender identity is more liberally expressed than ever before (at least in some places on the planet); when a person might not identify with the gender designated on the original birth certificate, and/or might not express such an assigned gender, Valentine’s Day more closely symbolizes the reality of the human experience.
Or, as the Marriage Equality advocates in support of same-sex marriage state: Love is love!
Now, just imagine for a moment that the gender “roles” assigned us for so long, are reversed. Voilà! Men are now women, and women are now men, at least when it comes to the parts we have historically played, whether or not we ever wanted to. The roles to which we have been assigned by . . . men mostly.
So, it is Here Comes the Groom, All Dressed in Black as the blushing groom walks down the aisle to meet his bride who, along with the preacher and the best woman, has snuck in from the side door. The best mister and the flower boy have preceded the groom down the aisle.
Wearing a veil to indicate his modesty, the groom barely sees the rose petals ahead of him – or the years – as his father escorts him to meet his bride. The groom goes second in reciting his wedding vows.
And after the minister (a woman, of course) says: I now pronounce you wife and husband, the bride is informed that she may kiss her groom, so she raises his veil, takes him in her arms, and kisses him.
This act is followed by the clergywoman’s introduction of them as: Mrs. and Mr.
It is the man who conceives and has the morning sickness, the dietary urges, the weight gain, the backache, the exhaustion, the rib kicking, and the roller coaster ride called labor.
And after the little boy has pushed his way out of his father’s body, the mother, sheathed in a surgical gown, stands over the new father and kisses his perspiring forehead and proclaims: Well done! All the while thinking: Too bad it’s a boy.
Still, the new daddy will attempt to improve his son’s lot in the world beyond what he, himself, has achieved.
It is the man, despite his college degree, who does a full day’s work outside the home for less than a full day’s pay (in comparison to what his woman gets). Then he must come home and work some more. The kids and wife expect it of him. He is the culinary expert, maintenance supervisor, and chauffeur.
He listens to his wife’s complaints about her boss, about her desire to take off to the South Seas with Brad Pitt, about her worries concerning where their money is going. He listens and shares little of himself with her because she does not really seem to hear him when he tries to tell her of his heart’s desire.
And sometimes, if she feels like it, she hits him.
He occasionally has lunch with the other guys, or calls them up just to chat – and they make conversation, instead of business deals. Innermost thoughts get expressed. They tell stories, share hopes. They cry when they feel like it. And they aren’t ashamed of feeling like it.
They wonder why women sometimes are insensitive to the needs of men. Why women have to brutalize men. Why they have to turn them into sexual objects or gods; why they can’t see them for what they are: as human beings trying to do the best they can.
The separated or divorced men wonder why their exes refuse to pay the court-ordered alimony.
But the guys laugh, too: sharing stories about PTA meetings, Cub Scout cookie sales, church bazaars, their sons’ overnight pajama parties, and the flower arranging lectures.
The men go to dream workshops and aerobic classes; weight loss support groups and cooking demonstrations; they discuss politics, realizing that this is the Year of the Male; they work for causes: like the Equal Rights Amendment (for males), like Choice, like Raises Not Roses, like adequate daycare in the workplace, and like paternity leave.
They write letters to the congresswomen, hoping that their representatives will hear what they have to say in opposition to wars and guns – real ones as well as toy ones.
They venture into what the women previously have thought of as their sacrosanct areas: the guys are now pumping iron, learning karate, and running marathons. They are becoming bullfighters and astronauts, talk-show hosts and brain surgeons.
The men are questioning why the deity is referred to as “She” and why in some churches only women are allowed to perform holy rites.
The guys are smoking more and dying younger.
But mostly they see their women die first – dying of heart attacks and strokes caused by fat-clogged arteries and over-stressed nerves due to lack of expressing their emotions. The women die, leaving the men with questions about insurance policies and unpaid bills. And so, they become widowed grandfathers and have makeovers; they go on tours to Hawaii with other widowers; they learn to program the VCR; and they go to church a lot.
They learn – finally – that stereotypes about genders are just that: that a human being can move beyond the roles assigned by society – in order to discover who she or he really is and really wants to be. It is a battle to do this, but it can be done. They love that now classic song that Helen Reddy created just for men: I Am Man, hear me roar!
But now, let us get back to those historically assigned gender identities and gender expressions.
However, let us add the twist to the “man’s” role in society. A twist I refer to as THE NEW MALE:
The New Male is there at the child’s birth, delighting in whatever its gender.
The New Male shares in parenting: feeds the baby, changes the diaper, tells bedtime stories, and kisses the kid goodnight.
The New Male is sensitive and caring toward women, not because it’s cool to be so, but because he truly wants to.
The New Male cries unashamedly when the tears demand it.
The New Male plays Chopin and baseball; knits and cooks at will.
The New Male balances home, work and hobbies, his career not being the only thing in his life.
The New Male doesn’t tell jokes at other people’s expense – people like women and people of color and people with physical challenges.
The New Male cooperates rather than competes, taking pride in his personal accomplishments because he has not stepped on others.
The New Male takes care of his body, wanting to look good, might dye his beard, have cosmetic surgery, go to Weight Watchers, and aerobic classes.
The New Male uses inclusive language and inclusive thinking – it’s we not he; people not you guys.
The New Male has a poetic-brawny spirit – recites Shelley and Keats while lifting barbells; thinks about roses while playing racquetball.
The New Male loves to hug and be hugged by one and all; is not embarrassed to be caught in anyone’s embrace.
The New Male . . . is still in the creation process.
Don Beaudreau is a member of the Ajijic Writer’s Group, and uses the pronouns: he, his, him. He identifies as a cisgender gay male.
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com