‘I just had this picture in my mind of a petite young woman driving a Harley Fat Boy down the highway with a 250-pound guy dressed in black leather sitting behind her on the bike.”
Pastor Walter Mitty had been telling his good friend Michael Rosenthal about the debate on masculine identity at the Men’s Fellowship Group in Main Café last Saturday, and he laughed out loud when he tried to picture Michael’s cartoon image.
When he calmed down, Mitty told his neighbor that Asch was talking about his father who played the role of the strong, silent man of the house and protector and provider for the family. He said Asch remembered his father loving the character of Archie Bunker on TV and would always sing along with the theme song,
Those were the days
And you knew who you were then
girls were girls and men were men
The men around the big table didn’t laugh when Asch shared his memory because they all shared a feeling of loss. They had all lost some of the sense of knowing what it means to be a man.
Dominique told the guys there had been some online chatter that he and Pastor Mitty were gay. Why else would two good-looking guys in their prime be single?
Mitty noted that every so often an older woman at church tried to set him up with a single woman she knew.
Eric Anderson asked his pastor, “So is Jesus a role model for us regarding how to be a real man?”
Mitty wasn’t ready for that one. As he fumbled for an answer, he realized that he had always thought of Jesus as kind of androgynous, kind of half and half in more ways than one. Half God and half man. Half male and half female.
Which prompted Michael to ask his friend after listening to his summary with interest, “Walt, are you really OK with not having a partner?”
“You mean a sexual partner, right?” Mitty said and didn’t wait for an answer. “You know, a while ago I talked to Fr. Sullivan about that and his answer was first that Jesus apparently was celibate and was OK with that, and also that Jesus seemed to have a mission that was more important than being a family man.”
“And that’s true for you?”
“Yeah, kind of. As you know, Michael, since Herman died, I’ve been imagining being married to Susan, but I can never see how it would work, so I push the thought to the back of my mind. I guess that shows my sense of mission really does outweigh my romantic fantasies.”
He added that on the way home from The Main he had stopped at Bernie Rolvaag’s History/Herstory Book Store, shared with the owner what had gone on at the Main, and asked him if he had any historical perspective on the topic.
“Well, Walt, I’ll start with Thomas Jefferson. When he wrote that all men are created equal, he did not seem to have in mind women or Black folks. As you know, he owned slaves and apparently did not think his wife had the intellect to vote intelligently.”
“White men ruled the roost, right.”
“Then a century and a half later women got the right to vote and the Feminist Movement resulted in women starting to beat men at their own game in positions of authority. We elected a Black man president and two gay people as senators with 11 more in the House.”
As for men feeling lost about masculinity, Bernie said, “That’s partly what fueled the politics of grievance.”
Mitty told Michael that when his nephews were babies, his brother Herman had changed as many diapers as Susan had, and when Herman was slowing going downhill, he had done most of the cooking.
“You know, Michael, I have a view of the sidewalk outside my office window at church and I see as many men pushing strollers as women.”
After hanging up Walt’s mind drifted back to Bernie’s bookstore. As he was leaving, he noticed a book on the shelf by Stephen Ambrose titled Undaunted Courage and remembered how he had resonated with that story because his own life had felt like a journey of discovery.
And he came to a conclusion or at least a tentative one. If in fact men are on a journey of discovery and we still don’t know what we’ll discover, that leaves us with a lot of uncertainty. So if we’re not comfortable with ambiguity, our choice is to demand that we always be in the driver’s seat on our Harley bikes or find meaning and even joy in the journey.