Men’s Liberation

Men are an oppressed gender.  I can use statistics as proof, and statistics do not lie.  Men die, on average, five years younger than women.  They are more likely to kill themselves, as well as other people.  They suffer higher rates of heart disease, cancer, and mental illness.  Men are a mess and it’s not because we’re biologically inferior.  Social pressure is the reason.

Men are supposed to be the responsible ones, the stoic ones, the ones who bring home the bacon and defend the homeland.  It’s a stressful assignment.  Scientists once did an experiment with two monkeys.  One monkey was given a series of problems to solve.  If a mistake was made, another monkey pushed a button that applied an electric shock.  The monkey making mistakes and getting shocked was fine.  The monkey pushing the button died of a heart attack.  Need I say more?

Males are also the isolated ones.  Unlike females, men lose their buddies as they grow up.  We have them when we’re boys.  We’ll put our arms around each other and pee in the same toilet when we’re seven.  By the time we’re fifteen, we no longer put our arms around each other (fear of gayness) or pee in groups (insecurity about penis size).  By the time we’re twenty, fellow men are contenders for women, work, and money.  When was the last time you saw a man text his buddy to meet him at the mall to buy sneakers, window shop in the sports department, and then get lunch?  Women do such things.

For men, friendships are more akin to competitions.  Who can drink more?  Who can screw more women?  Who shot the best golf score?  Who bagged the biggest buck?  I’ve been fishing with men who made sure they were the first to the best holes, and then bragged about getting the biggest fish.  It’s hard to regard them as friends.

With this knowledge in mind, and not wishing to fall prey to typical male oppression in America, I resolved decades ago to keep buddies in my life.  I sought out playtime with other men that didn’t involve who’s bigger.  Because I lived in the Adirondacks at the time, trout fishing became the venue for guy-stuff, and I’ve kept it up for over thirty years.  Next week I will set out again with my buddy, Hunt True, on another excursion for fish in the wilds of Quebec.

We didn’t always go to Canada.  For years, I belonged to a hunting and fishing camp in the Adirondacks that was started by Hunt’s father.  We fished for native brook trout in a canoe on a pristine Adirondack stream fed by a trio of artesian springs.  At the end of the day, we’d retire to the cabin, no humans within miles, drink Jack Daniels, and talk.  One night we watched a mother mouse, pissed off by our presence, carry babies in her mouth, one by one, from the woodpile to a new hiding place.  We left her Limburger cheese as compensation, and got up to find she gnawed on a bar of soap, instead.

Eventually, we expanded our fishing to northern Quebec, and for more than two decades I’ve spent a week fishing in Canadian waters.  We’ve stayed in cabins, campgrounds, and, in my favorite years, roughed it in the bush.  Setting up in an old Cree campsite, we’d drag the boats and motors a hundred yards to the lake, through brush and bugs, to enjoy a type of fishing no longer available in most of the world.

It’s hard to overstate how much the trips have meant, between the friendship and the adventures.  One year we drove in behind a forest fire.  Blackened trees still smoldered and a layer of smoke hung like fog.  Another year, a bear walked out of the woods, sat down on a rock, and watched us fish.  He was too far away to throw him a freebie, and when we got closer, he waddled off.  There was also the day we had to row for three hours because the motor broke down and Hunt dropped a part in the lake.  And the time we got into a conversation with two Quebecois and discovered that language barriers disappear after several six-packs of beer.

I’m never sure what’s going to happen, other than it is usually fun, and fun is a very important aspect of life.  It’s not about competition.  It’s not about work.  It’s about enjoying something for it’s own sake.  Whether we catch a lot of fish, or none at all, a day fishing is always a good day.  It’s a day spent outdoors, in beautiful surroundings, floating on an aqueous solvent, the liquid of life, from which we hope to extract dinner.  If not, we’ll simply eat the turf part.

I’m going again this week.  I’ll be in touch when I get back.  Maybe I’ll tell you about my week of doing guy-stuff.  I do know that I’ll be the better for it.

About Bucky Dann

I teach religion, sociology, and psychology at Southwestern Community College in the Smoky Mountains. I have worked in the United Methodist ministry and in the substance abuse field. I possess a Masters of Divinity, a Masters of Philosophy, and a PhD in the sociology of knowledge.

2 Responses to “Men’s Liberation”

  1. Your fishing trips are a necessary enjoyment for you, just like gardening is for me. It is nice to be able to enjoy our surroundings and friendships in the manner we like.

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