Friday, June 17, 2011

How to Build a Renaissance Man - Part Two

I stay away from the tough guy set. I know it takes all kinds, and I’m not saying that PBR-loving wrestling fanatics aren’t good people. It’s just that I don’t find it amusing when a man can’t figure out which end of a baby to diaper or feigns ignorance of the washing machine cycles. Maybe some women are turned on by a macho man who knows his way around a gas grill and the TV remote but gets lost on the path to the laundry hamper, trash can and dishwasher. I am not that woman.

Perhaps I’m going against the grain by being a pig-headed wife who absolutely refuses to cook and clean and iron and raise children while the Tool Man sits in his recliner watching Monday Night Football, shouting profanities at referees and guzzling beer. I will admit to being a handfull, but I will never apologize for taking a stand. The reason I make a conscious effort to avoid Bubba and all of his rowdy friends can be summed up neatly in two words: my father.

It is no secret that my father was more Cro-Magnon Man than Renaissance Man. He even grunted. I am not kidding. He called all males under the age of thirty “Boy” and used hand gestures to communicate his needs and displeasure. When he wanted a fresh beer, he would tap his empty can on the glass he was drinking from, and the nearest servant kid would jump to retrieve another cold one for the Master. He sat in his worn, brown chair with a scowl on his weathered face while my mom prepared his meals and placed them in front of him on the TV tray. He didn’t eat with the family because it was his world, and we were the peons passing through. Well, either that or he was too riveted by “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” to leave his seat.

Many girls raised in an atmosphere like I was will grow into women who are destined to continue the “Me, Tarzan/You, Jane” cycle. You know these people. They gripe about doing all the work around the house and being chronically under-appreciated even though they willingly walked down the aisle and said, “I do” to their caveman. These Martyr Moms wonder aloud on Facebook why the laundry is invisible to the male species and lament the fact that they shop, cook meals and wash dishes as the husband burps and leaves the room. That could have been me, but it isn’t. I methodically stored away those childhood memories of tip-toeing around the sleeping ogre, vowing to be the one to break the circle.

I was born with a legendary streak of stubborn-ness coupled with a nasty little temper, and anyone who knows me well can testify that I eschew everything June Cleaver or Carol Brady-like. I dated a few members of the He Man Woman Haters Club early on, enough to figure out that my tolerance for mouth breathers is zero. Any guy looking for a woman to serve as his full-time maid and errand girl can go prop his feet up on some other woman’s sofa. I swore with every ounce of my being that I would find a man who knew what laundry detergent looked like and how to use it, one who would be confident enough in his manhood to make a midnight tampon run to Walgreen’s and even fold a fitted sheet from time to time.

I found him.

So, what does my dating preference have to do with building a Renaissance Man? Only everything, because the second and possibly most important half of raising a son who isn’t a crotch-scratching, chauvinistic D-bag is more complicated than just teaching the boy to clean toilets and sort laundry. It’s about cultivating an environment where women are respected as equals and not short order cooks with benefits. How could I tell my child that women aren’t lower on the food chain if I’m kowtowing to the human incarnation of Fred Flintstone every day? He has to be a witness to his mother being a strong woman, understand that I have opinions that matter, and know that men can make beds, too.

Being a Renaissance Man has nothing to do with loving “Les Miserables” or having the talent to paint your interpretation of the sky at dusk while debating European history. It doesn’t mean you let a woman treat you like a door mat or that you give up having a beer and watching baseball with your guy friends on a scorching summer day. It means you are self-sufficient, not expecting a woman to wash your boxer shorts or cook your breakfast every day, and at the same time, respecting her mind and encouraging her to be expressive, asking for her opinion and honestly taking it into consideration.

Raising a boy is tough. I witnessed my father doing so many things the wrong way, but I don’t fault him for it. He had his own demons to fight, and it made me who I am today. (Slightly neurotic and overbearing.) It’s my turn to make some small difference in the next generation. I’m charged with molding my son into a person who will make a positive impact on this world and become the Renaissance Man I know he can be…just like his dad.  Now, if I can just drag him away from "Dog, the Bounty Hunter"...


  1. I just wish we could teach him to unclog the toilet

  2. I thought this was great. I really tried not to marry a redneck. I had no idea they had them in Oregon ;) Sounds like your boy is in good hands.


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