I always end up contemplating the Wayward Boy Scout whenever we talk about masculinity, because he’s a man in ways I find very interesting and disconcerting. On the one hand, I think he seems like a man’s man. He drives a truck and drinks and is armed and saunters around here throwing out right-wing propaganda like beads at Mardi Gras. He’s big and tall and handsome in a way I don’t normally find attractive, but find almost irresistible when it comes to him. And he’s always doing manly shit like putting in new flooring or a new lawn or coming to the rescue of his neighbors when their car dies.
But I’m struck too, by the ways in which he is careful with people. I asked him about this in my nosey email and he said he didn’t know what I meant. But what the Boy Scout seems to get at one level, even if not at a conscious one, is that when people are acting out of fear, the trick is not to react to them at that level.
Instead, he has this great, and I guess inherent, ability to make you feel safe and secure and heard. I don’t quite know how to explain it. It’s like he does something that pisses me off, I charge at him to tackle him, and the next thing I know, he’s stepped smoothly to the side, grabbed my hand and now we’re dancing. Does that make sense?
And, as much as I would love to believe that it’s just how spectacular I am that causes him to behave so awesomely, I keep thinking about our ludicrous trip to the strip club and how he was with the stripper who gave him the lap dance, how he was with her that indicated that he was safe.
There’s nothing about the Wayward Boy Scout that has anything to do with how I arrange my life. I find his right-wingy-ness disheartening and his constantly armed status alarming. I love that he flirts with me and I love how absurd and ludicrous it is that he flirts with me. I cringe every time I see him baiting people I agree with using arguments designed solely to annoy them. And if I hadn’t met him, I would have never sought out the opportunity to meet him.
And I would have missed out.
Because I could have never imagined a man like that. I had to meet him to know that someone could be a man in that way.
And I keep thinking about this because it shakes me. As feminists, we keep saying that men need to change. But how? And into what?
I keep thinking about the Knucklehead and W., too, because, please, does anyone pay as close attention to what I’m saying as those two? Isn’t careful consideration of my ideas what I want?
I keep thinking that we–women in general, and feminists in particular–don’t just want things to be different; we want to dictate how they’re different.
My boss once said something very wise to me about the Butcher. He said that, when I get upset with the Butcher, I don’t respect him enough to just be upset with him and to let him figure out how to fix things. Instead, I sit around and try to come up with all these ways he could make me feel better, all the things he needs to do, instead of letting him come up with his own solutions.
I think I’ve gotten better about that.
It’s a good lesson, but one I worry I haven’t imported into my feminist thought very well. I don’t know. There’s a line there between “you must stop doing this to me” and “here’s what you must do instead to please me.” I don’t know that I’m very good at recognizing where that line is.
And every day the Wayward Boy Scout reminds me that, when it comes to the ways men might please me, my imagination is much too small.