Pat Brothwell comes to the realization that he’s always been more manly then he thinks.
I spent last Saturday morning at Home Depot picking up a variety of odds and ends I needed for various projects I had around my apartment. After I left, I returned home where I framed and hung two pictures, caulked a leaky shower and applied paint to some pieces of furniture that needed touch ups. After I was done, I decided to reward myself with a beer (because why not?) and remember catching my reflection in the mirror, with torn sweats and a ratty tee shirt and covered with paint and saying to myself, “Damn Pat, when’d you get so masculine?”
Growing up I was not what one would define as a traditionally “masculine” child. In fact, I never really thought of myself as “macho” or “manly.”
You know how kids have that movie they make their parents watch over and over? Mine was Fantasia. Although an active child, I wasn’t super into the sports (and in fact I’m still not). One of my brother’s and my favorite “make believe” games used to be “Mickey and Minnie” or “Donald and Daisy” and we took turns playing the male or female parts (I’m actually laughing aloud writing this, imagining the look of horror that must have been on my father’s face while he witnessed this). I took piano lessons, read books on Catholic saints for fun, loved going shopping and decorating for holidays, played the oboe in the school band (something I know I’ll regret admitting online) and one of my second favorite movies (after Fantasia, naturally) was some made for television Disney special about Minnie Mouse which culminated in said mouse dancing on the beach to Elton Jon and Kiki Dee’s “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.”
I leveled out a bit in high school, but still wouldn’t consider myself a “man’s man” at that point. I was the only guy in my graduating class (besides my brother) who didn’t hunt, I really loved shopping at this point, I still wasn’t really into any sports and during freshmen year of college, I only mixed cocktails because “I hated the taste of beer.”
To both my parents’ credit, I was never pushed too hard to “act more like a guy.” I never felt like I had to conform to the same mold as my dad and it seems that in time, it gradually just happened.
My love of shopping has fallen to the wayside. I actually hate going to the mall and try to do the bulk of my shopping online. That’s not to say that I still don’t take pride in my appearance. I still spend a good deal on clothes and think I dress well, if you consider dressing like you have a summer house on the Cape dressing well.
I don’t enjoy mixing myself cocktails anymore and have graduated to a straight-up cheap beer kind of guy (like, I actively enjoy Keystone Light), but take pride in being able to mix a good drink for guests or if I’m throwing a party.
I think I would stab myself in the eye if you forced me to watch Fantasia these days. I’ve graduated towards more manly fare. My favorite shows are Mad Men and Game of Thrones and I just got into Breaking Bad. I’m glued to the television during “Shark Week” and “Mob Week,” yet my favorite character on television is not a dude. It’s Claire Dunphy from Modern Family. I also enjoy the Food Network, especially a good Chopped marathon.
I still don’t follow basketball or football or baseball religiously but enjoy going to bars and watching games with my friends. I enjoy working out and hiking and camping and kayaking and cross country skiing. I ran a Tough Mudder in May and wish I knew more people who could play tennis with me.
I really shocked myself two summers ago when I asked my dad to teach me some woodworking skills and this wasn’t some I-need-to-prove-myself-to-him moment, I legitimately thought it was a good skill set to have and found myself enjoying our summer project of homemade bean bag boards and a bookshelf. I even bought a book of woodworking projects and started purchasing some supplies to build an Adirondack chair this summer, but ended up not having the time to follow through.
I’m not sure why I was shocked. I’ve always been artistic and creative, traits that help craftsmen achieve what they do. It’s not surprising that I turned out a sturdy bookshelf that looks great in my bedroom. And I still have a knack for home décor. My apartment’s furnished with photo collages, framed bar posters, and I even have an accent wall in my bedroom (and know what an accent wall is).
I was always constructing things when I was younger, whether it was with Legos, Lincoln logs, blocks or anything else I could get my hands on. My brother and I used to spend hours setting up elaborate structures, whole towns that would take up our entire live room. Now that I’m thinking about it, that’s a decidedly masculine thing for kids to do.
I guess I’ve always been more masculine then I thought.
I loved playing with cars. I had every dinosaur species memorized. My favorite game at school was dodgeball and I was—how do I put this without making myself sound like a little dick—an assertive child. My dad’s nickname for me was “Colonel” because I liked being the one to tell people where to go and what to do. You really can’t get any more masculine than that.
I also played the piano, was a voracious reader, enjoyed drawing and liked making up stories. I still enjoy all those things (minus the drawing, it turns out I’m really not that skilled in that department). So where do they fall? They’re not really “masculine” or “feminine.” They’re somewhere in the middle.
And that’s the funny thing about the whole “masculine” or “feminine” designations. Neither are readily defined,they are not black or white. There’s a lot of, as the song of the summer so aptly puts it, blurred lines to this matter.
It makes you wonder why we put so much emphasis on these words and it does make me feel for those who were pressured to conform to one mold or another. I’ve already written about this but I really give credit to my dad. He sat and watched from the sidelines as his sons watched Fantasia and pretended to be Minnie Mouse and let it go. I wonder what would’ve happened if he yelled at us, made us play t-ball and purchase erector sets. Would we rebel? Or would we go along with it and resent him? Or would we just go along with him because eventually we would’ve naturally grown out of those things anyway? I can’t tell you. I could tell you that it’s an interesting study in both syntax and the value we put on falling into labels.
Now, if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go get lost and refuse to consult either my GPS or ask for directions, because apparently I’m becoming that guy as well.
Photo: Jordanhill School D&T Dept/flickr