G.L.Piggy [at] gmail.com
Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.
Andy Hinds, a 45 year-old writer at The Atlantic and proprietor of the BetaDad blog, writes about his desire to get into at least one mano y mano fistfight in his lifetime. The piece is about why he hasn’t and his underlying frustration at his mother’s “civilizing” influence is interesting to read:
But really, if there’s anybody to blame for my inability to fight, it’s my mom.
I’m guessing that a lot of parents tell their kids this: “There’s always a way to work out a problem without resorting to violence.” But my mom didn’t just spout truisms. If they were worth repeating, she would hash them out. She argued her (our) values forcibly and with unassailable logic. Along with a few other lessons she imparted to me, the one about violence really stuck. So when other boys were beating the snot out of one another, I was perfecting the art of weasling out of conflicts without losing face, saying “Uncle,” or just covering my head and waiting for the beatings to stop. It didn’t help my street cred that I grew up with two older sisters upon whom I was never to lay hands, under threat of the most dire of punishments, no matter how legitimate my wrath toward them. Later on in life, when throwing a punch seemed like a reasonable response, I lacked both the instinct and the muscle memory.
Despite my strength and selective courage, though, I inspired fear in very few men on the construction site. Maybe one or two, and that was just because they were very poor judges of character. Most guys could tell that I wasn’t a fighter, and some of them disrespected me openly because they knew they could get away with it. What could I do? I took my mom’s advice from when I was in kindergarten, and ignored it. Or, more accurately, I pretended to ignore it. I can’t help but suspect, though, that had I radiated the confidence of someone who would take only so much, I wouldn’t have had to take so much.
The thing about teaching boys and young men to choose docility as a rule is that they still feel pangs of shame deep within them when they don’t stand up for themselves or when they cop out of a justified, fair fight. Shame is a very strong force in a man’s life, and it is something that women are just unable to understand because they essentially do not have to balance chaotic hormones with a polite, cheek-turning social ideal.
Addendum: Hinds writes that after he would stare longingly at the nearby boxing gym near his home his wife bought him a membership so that he can test his mettle. Commenter Ryu says he doesn’t believe the story and points out that if Hinds wanted to learn how to fight he would have bought the membership on his own. That is true, but Hinds waiting for his wife to give him the OK is an extension of the fear of upsetting the mother for expressing his masculinity. Even as an adult he is so well “civilized” that he still waits for the support of the women in his life to do the things that he really wants to do.