Among last weekend's other fun-filled activities, I got to spend a couple hours helping my girlfriend S. change a flat tire. She was out running errands and I had just told my parents that I was looking forward to some quiet afternoon down time when she called me from a location about 20 minutes away. It seems that some sort of utility cover was left open in the street and although she tried to move out of the way, she managed to hit the open void with one tire. That tire consequently developed a leak. With the hope that the tire could be patched, not replaced, I told her to not drive further on the flat tire and that I would jump in my car in order to be there presently to help.
Now you think that changing a tire would be straightforward, right? This one wasn't. First off, the faux lug nut wrench (it was too wimpy to be real) in the trunk of my girlfriend's car is lousy. The tire in question had also recently been put on by a body shop with an air gun. Those nuts were tight. When I tried to loosen them by putting all my weight on the faux wrench, I merely started to round corners on both the wrench and the lug nut, and, sent my head slamming into the side of the car as the wrench gave way. Oh, what a (literal) headache!
After struggling with that for 20-30 minutes, I finally suggested that S. call AAA road side service. She did and was told that there would be a 45 minute wait. Since we knew the neighborhood where we were stuck, I knew there was an auto parts store about a mile away. I went there in the mean time, dropped $10 on a universal lug wrench, and returned. Armed with a better tool, I was able to get the spare changed in another 15 minutes. We cancelled the AAA road side service call, and set off to seek tire repair.
S., being the wonderful woman she is, thanked me for driving to her, for changing the tire for her, and for making the effort to see the job done. I remember responding "Relax. This is what real men do; we save girlfriends and other damsels in distress."
Saying that resurrected some ideas that have been running around in my head about what it means to be a man. I know that a lot of what society emphasizes about masculinity these days is macho and materialistic. Look at music videos: they're all about cars, women, living free, and living large. It almost smacks of an eternal extended adolescence.
The values that my father and grandfathers taught me seemed to be very different. Do a good job. See the job through to the end. Take care of those you love. Have fun, but be responsible. Honor your word. Be an adult and (eventually) be a father.
I've talked with several women friends over the years about what they find attractive in men. The answer that they provide always seem to come down to this: real men have this capacity to be playful little boys a lot of the time, but, they are also these mature, responsible, caring, and careful adults when you need them to be. They can be screaming at the TV when the big touchdown run is being made by their favorite football team, they call give their friends incredibly immature nicknames, and they can still want to dress like they're still in college, but, they can make sure that their children get to sleep when it's nap time.
I'm thinking that's a good way to live: be an adult most of the time, so you can really be a kid some of the time. That way when you find that those dear to you are in need, you can just say "take it easy, this is what we do everyday".
on 2003-03-11 at 12:31 p.m.
The Wayback Machine - To Infinity And Beyond