In Praise of Big, Strong Men

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Last night in the raging blizzard that has complicated our lives here in the Midwest for the past day and a half, my car got stuck in the snow two blocks from my house. Two stinkin’ blocks!

I rocked back and forth so much I was afraid I would tear up my transmission. No neighbors seemed near (though I secretly wonder if they were peering out of their curtains saying, “I am NOT going out in that mess to get her out of the middle of the street…”) and I was feeling truly abandoned and miserable. Finally, I bit the bullet and called Caleb, our associate editor here at GRIT. I whined and threw myself on his mercy.

Caleb has four-wheel-drive, broad shoulders and a big shovel. He also has a can-do attitude that helped get him the editing position in the first place and is a good hand in a crisis. He said he’d be there as soon as he could, so I turned my car’s heat up and waited. After a few minutes, I got bored and thought maybe-just-maybe … what? That the snow had suddenly shifted around and it would be smooth sailing to my driveway now? That I had been mistaken and the car wasn’t REALLY stuck and even if it was, if I only turned the wheel this way and held my mouth that way, everything would be copacetic and I’d be on my way?

But no-o-o-o-o. This was not the case. I was actually quite stuck. However, by rocking and gunning it and rocking and gunning it, I managed to move myself down the block about another 300 yards while waiting for Caleb to ride over the hill on his charger. This put me in front of my neighbor Adam’s house and when Adam heard me, he came out with his shovel and started the snowy equivalent of earth-moving to try to move some of the avalanche from in front of my car.

Then Caleb showed up with his friend, also broad of shoulder and bearing a stately shovel. They shoveled and pushed and shoveled and pushed and soon my little Saturn Astra (“Astra” is a Latin term meaning “lousy on snow”) scooted to the bottom of my driveway and lodged in the snow there. This outcome was fine with me – at least I wasn’t in the middle of the road, begging to be run over on the rare chance an actual snowplow showed up on my street.

I thanked Caleb profusely. And get this: I offered him and his friend a strong adult beverage to take the edge off the cold … and they refused. They had to make it back home and they didn’t know who might need help on the way back, so they’d better keep their minds clear. If you’d like to see a definition of character, you don’t need to look any farther.

I turned off my car and went in to warm in front of the fire. After an hour or so, my doorbell rang and it was the neighbor on the other side of my duplex, Tyler, telling me he’d shoveled my driveway off, dug my car out and he thought we could get it in the garage now.

I wanted to cry. Not because I had been worried about my car’s precarious perch, but because it was just so great that this young guy – whose face was so cold I could barely make out what he was saying – had busted his butt taking care of me without being asked and just because he wanted to help out.

After we got the car rolled into the garage (whooo-hooooo!) I texted Tyler’s wife to say, “You married one of the good ones.” We texted and laughed back and forth and she said he was a “work machine,” and that his dad is just like that, too.

My dad was like that, too. My son (who lives in Seattle) is like that. And men who are “just like that” – men who do what needs to be done, who work because there’s work to do, who like to be useful and challenged and know that their strength and ability can make a difference in other peoples’ lives – are my favorite kind of people. Life goes better with these kind of men.

One of the biggest problems in our society these days is that we have such a bizarre understanding of what it means to be male. Macho is the order of the day, and the cultural message to little boys is that you have to be tough as nails, intolerant of any weakness, unemotional and unfeeling and maybe with a big streak of mean if you’re going to call yourself a man.

But this is the dark side of the best that men are or can be. They’re hard-wired to be heroes. It’s in their DNA to rescue and assist and lend a hand and do for others. Tapping that quality in a positive way could transform our world.

And me? I’m hardwired to make pies for men who do kind and beautiful things for me. I’m going to have a busy weekend.