Identity Week: It’s in the Cards

Identity Week: It's in the Cards

Just a couple of days ago, a Facebook friend put out a general question: What was the first CD you bought?

I answered honestly: “Soundtrack to The Little Mermaid.”

His response: “Your Man Card has been deducted by 2 points.”

He was joking, of course, and even leavened his words with the admission that he bought the Aladdin soundtrack when it came out.

Of course I didn’t feel like my masculinity was genuinely being insulted. In fact, I responded once more: “Meh,” I wrote. “Man Cards aren’t worth the frilly pink paper they’re printed on.”

And I meant it.

A Man Card, if you don’t know (or do know and just want to hear my own brilliantly concise definition), is a theoretical document that jokingly certifies your manhood and can be revoked if other men feel you’re not being manly enough. In their opinion. I’m not sure when it started, but it’s been around for several years, at least.

There’s even a website, officialmancard.com, where people can submit reasons to revoke their friends’ man cards, with offenses ranging from one dude crying when Beth gets her piano in Little Women to a guy being unwilling to sleep with a prostitute who had already been paid. Seriously.

For my 34th  32nd birthday a couple of years back, I took my then-foursome of a family to Disneyland on Super Bowl Sunday, because I’d heard that was one of the least-attended days of the year. After seeing the lines for myself, I don’t think that’s true.

My parents, my wife’s parents, and my wife’s siblings and their significant others came along, too, and at one point I went with my in-laws to find a fast ride while my wife took the kids to something more child friendly. (She was pregnant, so she couldn’t ride anything that would jostle her around. Otherwise I totally would have reversed the roles. Plus I later sent our daughters away with their grandparents and surprised my wife with a visit to the Blue Bayou for lunch, so stop judging me.)

Anyway, when we settled on an attraction, I texted my wife to let her know—except I entered the wrong number and ended up messaging some random stranger who had no idea why I wanted him to know I was about to go on Space Mountain. He suggested that I give up my Man Card for choosing the Happiest Place on Earth over watching a football game. (Apparently, Disney-related activities and purchases aren’t manly.)

The idea of a Man Card is ridiculous. It’s meant to be jokingly and good-naturedly insulting in that way guy humor can tend to be. And I get that. I don’t care if someone takes a dig at me, because I can take it. Casual insults happen, and in fact I often feel more accepted if a friend can hurl them at me, because that means he’s comfortable enough to not worry about being mistaken for someone who genuinely has something critical to say.

The Man Card concept specifically, however, is insulting to men and women in what it’s saying about our respective roles. Men are supposed be this way, not that way. Do these things, not those things. You’re not a man if you don’t fit society’s (or some section thereof’s) definition of one, and, unfortunately, people who joke this way are denigrating empathy, sympathy, respect for women, honesty, sensitivity, and responsibility. They’re saying real men prize getting their way over cooperating or compromising. Real men don’t care what their girlfriends or wives think. Real men do what they want.

This is dangerous. I’m not saying that joking about the Man Card is the downfall of modern masculinity, but it’s certainly not helping in a culture that blames the victims of sex crimes for leading their attackers along. It reinforces the already warped attitudes of men who believe they’re entitled to a woman’s body because, hey, men are men and everybody should know there’s only one reason a guy is interested in a woman. It’s right there on the card. Or it’s implied, anyway. And you wouldn’t want your buddies to think you weren’t a real man.

Wow. That got dark quickly. Sorry.

Bottom line: I don’t want my daughters growing up in a world that tells the men in their lives to treat them like objects. I don’t want my son feeling pressured to conform to a stereotype of brutish idiocy masquerading as a coveted brotherhood.

This is why I make no secret to my children, or the world, that:

I cried at the end of Cars. (Seriously, Disney again?!)

I cried at the end of A Walk in the Clouds.

I have acted as a living dressmaker’s dummy for a bustle my wife was creating on a gown.

I enjoy playing Halo.

I know what ruching is.

I am obsessed with gadgets.

I know what ruching is from watching Project Runway.

I grow and maintain a thick beard.

I know what ruching is from watching Project Runway and enjoying it.

I drive a mini-van.

I hate stopping the mini-van for any reason after I’ve started driving on a road trip.

I can name all the Disney—yes, them again—fairies.

I drink scotch.

I know more ballet positions than my 6- and 4-year-old daughters.

I list pink as my second-favorite color (it just can’t beat grey), and I wear it regularly.

I don’t think the things listed above are manly or unmanly. They just are.

So, do you think I’m overreacting?

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Nothing to do but wade in

I write stuff like this all the time:

“My 6-year-old reminded my wife at Trader Joe’s today to ‘get the goat wine for the risotto.’ Fancy, right? Now she’s kneeling in front of the toilet, crying that she’s going to throw up, because she spent the last 20 minutes spinning around our living room as a ‘living tornado.'”

I post it on Facebook. Or maybe Twitter. Or I just write it down on a scrap of paper.

On Facebook, people “like” it and tell me I should compile all these funny things into a book. On Twitter, nothing much happens. The scraps of paper fall behind shelves and get buried under dust bunnies or go through the laundry and turn into tough little lumps. Sometimes I find receipts with scribbles on the back that I must have thought were enough of a hasty shorthand to later trigger the memory of a whole conversation: “Me: Wha doing w/ the beaer? Her: Thisis your!”

I have no idea.

A little more than two years ago, I started this blog. By “started,” I mean just that: started. It’s why the timestamp on this says it was published on “Sep 27, 2011 @ 6:12.” I never even posted anything. Because shortly after I started Standing in the Shallows, I impregnated my wife with our third kid, and then I sort of stopped doing stuff. My wife had to hire someone to pump my chest for me so I’d breathe. This person also moistened my unblinking eyes.

But now the littlest one is a little more than a year old, and having three kids isn’t so bad—especially if your scale of badness includes things like asteroids made of bubonic plague crashing into your house.

Compared to that, this fatherhood deal is easy-great-fun, and I have plenty of time to blog! Regularly! With quality posts!