I’ve never been known to possess too many “manly” traits—I mean, I keep my legs shaved in case I crash while racing my bike, and pride myself on keeping my arms spindly—and yet, I recently had a very manly weekend.
It all started on a Friday with some good and manly attire. It had snowed a lot the previous night, so I woke up to a thick blanket of snow covering the sidewalks, roads, and cars that Friday morning. While school kids were throwing snowballs at one another in celebration of a snow day, and moms and dads were brushing the snow off their vehicles for the drive to work, I was outside shoveling off my sidewalk. Now, to most people, shoveling snow is a heinous chore to be avoided or outsourced at all costs, but I think it’s highly underrated.
Mostly, I like snow removal because it’s a great excuse to pull on my heavy wool shirt, my Carhartts, my boots, and work gloves—you know, the kind of ensemble that makes my girlfriend cringe and say things like: “Oh, Mr. Bunyan, I didn’t hear you and the blue ox come in, have you seen Andrew?” or “Hey cowboy, you ropin’ cattle today, or what?”
But flattery aside, I don’t get to wear warm, comfortable, practical clothes too often. My day job, as a reporter, requires slightly classier garb, and as much as I love my workpants, they don’t make great lounge wear. So I seize upon any opportunity I get to pull on my rough n’ tumble work-wear.
Dressed in my most rugged clothes, shoveling is all the more fun. I like to pretend that I’m someplace manly, someplace where such attire would be equally appropriate sidling up to a dirty bar or attending your best friend’s wedding. Fairbanks, Alaska, and Yellow Knife in the Northwest Territories are both frequent daydreams. Of course, I’ve never been to either of those places, but I’m confident that Carhartts and wool shirts are widely worn at both. Besides, I can’t think of two more manly places on this continent, and wearing my manly clothes makes me long for nothing more than being in a manly place.
After a few minutes of daydreaming, I’d finished shoveling my relatively short sidewalk, and headed back to reality with a trip to the grocery store.
Saturday brought manliness by the diesel-powered dump-truck load. A friend of Celia’s, my girlfriend, was moving out of her house in Greenwich, New York, and needed some help. She recruited Celia, me, and two other friends to help her move, offering us a rate that a professional mover would have scorned, but which nearly doubled the hourly rate I earn churning out words at a daily newspaper. My arms are about as thick as an empty role of toilet paper—and equally well toned—and thus not really all that useful for moving heavy furniture, but I was willing to do what I could for a buck. Besides, this was clearly a great opportunity to put on my work clothes for the second day in a row! Maybe this time I’d pretend I was in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory.
It turned out that I was the only man recruited to help Celia’s friend move, and I fell into my assigned gender role almost immediately. Needless to say, I was wearing my Carhartts, wool shirt, boots, and work gloves again—so even if I didn’t measure up to some of my stronger, hairy-chested brethren, at least I looked like I could. With a pinch of luck and a dash of knowledge, I was also able to play my part well enough to fool the rest of the moving party.
Who could figure out how to remove the legs from the dining room table? Me. Who held up one end of the heaviest furniture while three women struggled at the other? Me. Who knew how to tie the furniture securely into the rented panel truck? Me. All the while, the four women said things like: “You tie those knots so well,” “We’d better have Andrew get that trunk from the attic,” and “Can you lift this heavy, heavy thing?” My manliness—and my ego—grew larger as the day went on. Never mind that my body ached with a soreness that I have seldom known as soon as I fell into the car for the drive home.
But aching or not, my manliness did not depart with the perfectly packed moving van. When Celia and I got home from Greenwich, and after my hands had thawed from the single-digit temperatures, I did something so manly that I surprised even myself. We had purchased a coat rack shortly after we moved into our apartment, and it had yet to be installed. Suddenly I knew that I was riding on a rip-tide of manliness. Finally installing that coat rack could—possibly—solidify my manly credentials at least enough to tide me over to the next wood-splitting opportunity. I got out a cordless drill my parents had bought me for my last birthday (unused as of yet), and got set for the task at hand.
Still wearing my wool shirt and Carhartts from the move, I took the cordless drill out of its case. Using the hook on its handle, I hung it on my pants’ thigh pocket. For good measure (and to balance things out), I hung a hammer on the other side of my pants (in the built-in the hammer loop), and stuck a small level in my back pocket. Then I walked around the apartment asking Celia if I looked manly.
At first she said things like: “Sure, babe,” and “You look sexy no matter what you’re wearing.” This was flattering, but not what I wanted. So I stuck a pencil behind my ear, tucked my shirt into my Carhartts, put on some red suspenders and an Elmer Fud cap and continued to pester her until she relented and admitted what I had known all along: that with my drill and hammer and level and pen and Carhartts and wool shirt and suspenders and cap I looked damn manly.
Then it was time to actually do some work. I opened the 175-piece drill bit set that my parents had given me with the drill. It took me about forty-five minutes to figure out which drill bit was the right size. (I’m not very experienced with this sort of thing.) I held the coat rack against the wall, used my level to square it up, and drilled two holes, one on either end of the rack. I used the drill to zip two screws into place, securing the rack to the wall. Manly job done. Man card secure.
Later in the evening, Celia and I went out for a night on the town. In the shower, I used some strawberry-tangerine scented gel to shave my legs, and, since I was out of my Old Spice, a little Lady’s Speed Stick under my arms. I’ve hardly ever had a manlier day.
Photo courtesy of Thrillist