Tuesday, May 31, 2005

How to Be a Real Man.

Over the weekend, my fiance (Jerrod) and I attended the wedding of two close college friends of mine, Seth Hanson and Emily Koehler. The wedding was in Fort Collins, Colorado, about an hour from Denver. During this 72 hour vacation, Jerrod actually opened up and displayed a lot of vulnerability... that I now plan to share with the entire world wide web.

There are, apparently, a lot of things that men think twice about when placed in social situations. It's almost as if they seem to weigh every move, not necessarily based on formal ettiquette; rather, based on Man Ettiquette or "Man Code".

A good example of this is when the preacher asked us to file down the aisle one row at a time because Seth and Emily wanted to greet every guest. Jerrod immediately leaned into my ear with a feverish whisper, "Do I hug Emily or shake her hand?"

I was stunned, at first, by his nervous query and turned to look at him to see if he was joking. He wasn't. Trying to be sensitive, I answered, "Hug," then turned back toward the newlyweds approaching us.

"What about Seth?"


(Did he really just ask that?)

"Shake," I reply. It would be a little awkward to see Jerrod bear-hug a guy he's only met once before.

"No, I know that. I mean," he paused, vulnerable now, wondering if I was questioning his masculinity, (I was), "do I give a one pump or two?"

I looked at him incredulously. "Just shake the guy's hand!" I whispered. I mean, is it a science?

"Here," he grabbed my arm to make me look at him, "let's practice." Before I knew it, my right hand was full with his and he was vigorously pumping. "That's the two pump."

"Too much!" I said. "I mean, did he give you a million dollars or did you just see him get married?"

"You're right," he agreed. "One pump. But firm." And he about broke my fingers.

All the while, people were quietly filing from their rows, caught up in the beauty of the Colorado landscape and the sacred vows we'd just witnessed, and I was stuck playing patty-cake with Mr. Machismo.

Granted, I'm generalizing by judging the entire male gender by the one I chose to share life with, but it gets me thinking that there are probably all kinds of unspoken "man codes". For instance, my dad refuses to carry my mother's purse, or even hold it! My brother didn't want to buy my car at first because he questioned if the color was "feminine". It's green! Neutral!

Now, I'm not saying that all men follow the same "man codes". Obviously, it's a per community type of thing. Once a guy has his community, they feel out their boundaries and flex only within those unspoken limits.

And as annoying as this can be, (my mother rolling her eyes when she has to set her purse on the ground to tie her shoe because my father won't hold it, me dancing with my girlfriends to "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" because something about that song keeps Jerrod from joining in, my sister returning The Little Mermaid to the video store alone while my brother waits in the car, etc.) there are times when they let their guard down and we women see their sensitive side.

For example: My dad ate the last piece of strawberry pie last week while my mom was at work. Knowing she was saving it for later, he sent a bouqet of flowers to her classroom with a romantic card, "Sweetie, I ate the pie."

At the wedding this weekend, Jerrod was sitting between my friend Heather and me. I looked over at her as the flower girl came down the aisle and was shocked to see Jerrod very tenderly tucking her hair behind her ear. I pecked him on the shoulder and said, "Um, excuse me, but I am your girlfriend." He looked very embarrassed and sheepishly said, "I know, sweetie, but her hair was getting in her eyes." I thought it was such a sweet gesture and I just smiled so big and Heather was giggling and then Jerrod started laughing too. It's just that he's usually so shy at first, and awkward in formal settings, so to see him step way out of his comfort zone like that just solidified why I love him so much.

Of course, when I was telling my sorority sisters about it at the reception, it only took him once to hear them go, "Oh, Jerrod! That's so sweet!" before he later changed the story to, "There was a bug on her head and I was killing it! I got bug guts all over my hand!!!!"

Ahhh, well. Men.