It’s tough being a man-about-town, navigating the politically-correct landscape. I’ve spent many man hours trying to avoid gender-specific terms but I guess I’m just a man of my time.
For example, my neighbors were having their roof replaced. The workmen were manhandling the materials off a pallet and maneuvering them to the roof. When they removed the skid, they left behind a cracked manhole cover. My neighbor mandated that they fix it.
I was happy to see those roofers man-up right away. They didn’t wait for manana. In fact, man-for-man, they worked like maniacs. They manipulated that jackhammer like real he-men. The normal man in the street would have taken days to manually make the repairs but they had enough manpower to fix it right away.
I may not be a strongman but I’m a man of the world, not to mention a man of letters. I’ve gotten in trouble, though, due to my boyish behavior. For instance, when I said, “Barmaid, I’ll have one more,” she looked at me like I was a manifestation of the middle ages.
I also made the mistake of using the “f-word” in class. When I described bachelorette parties as primarily a “feminine” activity, there was nothing coquettish about the way a co-ed glared at me. I have not only eliminated this word from my vocabulary, I learned that anger doesn’t always improve a woman’s appearance.
So, my new mantra is to avoid any assumptions about what constitutes a male pursuit and the girly things women like to do. It helps if I think of the female as a preying mantis, or a man-eating shark, who would literally bite my head off, if I say the wrong thing. I don’t have to worry about this at home, because I’m man of the house and it’s unlikely my wife would commit manslaughter.
Otherwise, I’m on a manhunt to find the least offensive terms to characterize men and women, even though it mangles the language. I feel like a man-at-arms doing battle with the PC police. It’s not like I would call a waitress, stewardess, or for that matter, a majorette, “Sweetie” or “Honey,” no matter how womanly they act. I have better manners than that.
I also don’t hold doors for women, pull out their chairs, or help them into their coats, if they show any signs of manly strength. In fact, when it came to lifting something heavy at my office, I could always count on my Girl Friday to carry it. She also manned the phones when I was out.
There should be some kind of PC manual for guys like me, though tip-toeing through terms doesn’t feel mannish. My good old boys and I need to have some man-to-man talks about this. If we don’t put women and children first, it’s going to be every man for himself.
It’s a man-sized job but when my neighbor asked me to look at the man-made damage, I should have said, “Wow, look at what they did to your person-hole cover!”
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.