What is a man?Whatís masculine. I must admit that, for most of my 42 years, I havenít really thought that much about the question. I recently have thought more about it. I even looked up the words in my Websterís and was rewarded with gobbeldy gook.

What is a man? Whatís masculine. I must admit that, for most of my 42 years, I havenít really thought that much about the question. I recently have thought more about it. I even looked up the words in my Websterís and was rewarded with gobbledy gook. According to it, Iím masculine if I have manly traits. Well, shit, what are manly traits? Does it have anything to do with the Irish Spring commercial? You remember. "Manly, yes, but I like it, too." says the fair Irish lassie. Actually, Iíd lay odds that sheís never even seen the Irish countryside except on St. Patrickís Day watching "The Quiet Man". But, there I go, digressing. Maybe thatís why I havenít considered the question all that often. I canít concentrate long enough to give it the attention that it deserves. Or, I probably in truth have given the attention it has deserved. That being said bear with me. Or, if youíre an attractive woman, bare with me. (Three things about that last chauvinistic sentence:

    1. That really isnít the way I think. Even though itís probably very masculine and even though I really love making love.
    2. I do like to joke with words, make puns as it were. Since that can be as infuriating as mimes to some of you out there (there is someone out there, isnít there?), I will keep it to a minimum. But that does bring an interesting question, why do we hate mimes so? But, that is another digression.
    3. It looks like Iím soon becoming available... very available... nudge, nudge)

Back to the question at hand. I have in my past had the question brought up as to whether or not I was gay. I am not. Once, it was brought up in high school by a sweet girl in my class. She asked my best friend at the time. When he finished laughing, he assured her that I was definitely not gay. I just wished at the time that she would have asked me so that I could have assured her first hand. Another time, later in life, my soon-to-be ex-in-laws were telling everyone who would listen that I was gay. That, of course, was why I was getting a divorce from their daughter. When my best friend at the time (new time, new best friend) was told this, he assured the person doing the telling (as soon as he stopped laughing) that I was definitely not gay. This time, I had no desire to assure the person first hand, seeing as how it was a man.

As far as I know, there was only one time that a fellow male was infatuated with me. It happened in high school. My parents "held court" in the summer evenings on our front porch in the small town that I grew up in. By holding court, I mean that kids from all over the neighborhood would come over and talk about all sorts of things. On one such evening, I offered to walk this younger boy home. Yes, I knew that he was gay. But, I didnít even think about his being attracted to me and thinking I was making a pass. All I could think about was that the girl who lived across the street was baby-sitting that night near where he lived and as long as I was in the neighborhood...

Well, I must introduce Bobby at this point. At the time, I was in the summer before my senior year in high school. I had been adopted by Bobby. He was 13 at the time going on 40. He drank beer, smoked cigars, and thought Nixon was the greatest president that ever breathed the rarefied air in the oval office. Bobby also had the habit of coming by my open bedroom window at all hours of the early morning and waking me up to talk politics and other things. This night, in which I walked John home in order to catch a glimpse of Karen, I awoke to a loud, "Addington, what in the hell is wrong with you?"

"Bobby, what are you talking about?" I asked this when I finally was fully awake. And, of course, when I had finally quit cussing him out. " John is in love with you and thinks you feel the same for him." And, this was because I walked him home that night. I explained my hidden agenda to Bobby. He, being wise in years, immediately understood. And, since he was good friends with John, said that he would straighten things out. You know I never did talk to John about that night. Bobby told me things were OK and I took him at his word. And, now John and I can never look back on it and laugh. A few years back, this sweet sensitive man became another victim of our modern destroyer, AIDS.

Before delving further into the question of masculinity. That is how I started all this, right? I have to say that I love women with a limitless passion. I love talking to them, usually finding their conversation more intelligent and interesting than a male counterparts. This is on the average, you understand. Iím trying not to stereotype. Otherwise, youíre going to be out there saying hereís another psuedo-liberal-progressive-emancipated-sensitive-yet-worthless-man-of-the-nineties trying yet failing to be p.c. (Oh, God, donít get me started on "p.c.".) Anyway, I love women. I listen to what they have to say. I am sensitive to their needs. I love touching, kissing, and making love to them. Yet, Iím not conqueror, Iím a relationship type person. So, Iíve actually made love (yes, I call it making love, not having sex) to a select few. I fall in love and write poem after poem (and actually mean every word of it). Iím open, up front and honest about my feelings. I want a relationship of equality, a true partnership. Of course, all this goes to say that usually I fall for the wrong woman and she has me "by the balls".

Balls. Now thatís masculine. This is about masculinity, remember? A few years ago, I was fed up with trying to find a female partner in life. As it happens, I was talking to very good friend (male) who happens to be gay. I said that I was ready to give up on women. He immediately perked up and smiled. One look at that face, and I had to laugh and say "No, I donít think so." His response was not to knock it if I hadnít tried it. He also assured me that Iíd have no trouble finding someone. He also knows that I am probably the straightest of straights in that one regard. I mean I really love women. (And, no, I donít want to be one.)

So, what has caused this quest? Itís not the holy grail, but itís already caused a few hundred meandering words to spew forth, so there must be something behind all this. Well, I am currently deeply in love with Meagan. She appears to be a very strong woman. (Yes, Iím sure you noticed the "appears" in that sentence. If that intrigues you, Iím sorry but youíll have to wait for a sequel for me to get into that.) And, I would agree that she has some masculine traits. She, in fact, feels that she is more masculine than I am. (Eureka! Iím sure youíre saying. This is where all this comes from.) She is constantly pointing out any number of men (and some women) who are more masculine in her view than I am. So, yes, the question has now been put before me and gives me pause. (Sorry, but "gives me pause" has always been a favorite phrase of mine. I couldnít resist throwing it in there. But, donít you just love the way it sounds? Oops, did that sound too feminine?) I even come up short against one of her few gay male friends. Iím just not butch enough according to her.

And, naturally, we always have to go up against the ghosts of relationships past. At least, it seems that I am put through that even though I tend to see each relationship as something new and fresh. Well, there are two such ghosts that I constantly hear about. And, yes, both of these are supposedly more masculine than I. Of course, one had to protect his masculinity by trying to keep Meagan constantly under his thumb. He was relentless in his efforts to control her and not let her be free to be herself. (This is a constant struggle for Meagan - to be herself. Believe me, her true self is something to behold. I, on the other hand, am trying to encourage her to be what she can be and soar like a hawk.) The other one remains a friend. (I have no problem with this friendship. I am a true believer in friendship and feel that it shouldnít be limited to people of your own sex. Believe me, I have caught some grief over this one.) Anyway, this masculine friend, wonít let her talk about me, refuses to meet me, and the one time that we were in the same place at the same time he snuck behind me at the airport so that he wouldnít have to meet me. There is another in this list who is not a ghost, but a wanna-be. Heís a body builder who went with us to a football game once. Meagan thought it would be nice for us to get together. Well, on this day, I picked him up at his place since he didnít want his precious car to get scratched. (Objection sustained. Yes, I was leading the reader towards the conclusion that the guy is prissy by use of the word "precious". So, the reader is instructed to disregard the word "precious".) And, I also paid for his lunch. And, when he made sure to sit between Meagan and me at the game, I didnít cause her embarrassment by raising a fuss. He did spend the game trying to talk her into going out with him. Meagan didnít and agreed that it was bad taste at the very least. But, heís still more masculine than me. So, what have we got? Four guys - one gay, one a tyrant, one a chicken shit and another a back stabbing deceiver. You know what? Maybe sheís got something. I certainly identify with the gay guy more than the other three. Maybe I should take the same way out that "Painless" was going to in M*A*S*H (the movie, not the TV show).

Wait, you say, I didnít touch upon Meagan being more masculine. Well, Meagan is probably the most gifted person I know. I think that she is truly gifted. I also know that she was not supported in her gifts when she was growing up. Rather than seeing her as gifted, she was looked upon as being a trouble maker. (Youíd think that would have made her more leery of labels and stereotypes.) There were a couple of teachers that tried to encourage her. Both wanted her to go to Paris to study art and music. Her parents wouldnít hear of it. When I think of the way she was treated and what she could have become with that encouragement, it really angers me. It frustrates her to this day, she feels unfulfilled and that sheís lost a part of herself. She feels that life has passed her by and that itís too late to get that part of her back. Yet, as much as I sympathize and feel the anger about how she was treated, a voice whispers in my ear. It tells me that we are in the end responsible for our own lives. I continually tell her that itís not too late and try to get her to go for her dreams. Make a plan to achieve her goal and reach out for it, but sheís given up. I also give examples of people who have made a great change and contribution late in life (much later than Meagan who is a very young 42). Itís too late to bring up, but the voice also tells me that there are a lot of people who when faced with a closed door, knocked the damn thing down to get where they wanted to go.

Are these masculine traits, to make changes to live the life you want or to knock down barriers? Well, I would certainly say that the male of the species has no lock on these traits. However, I know that Meagan and other label makers donít see things the same way.

Now, Iím not saying Iím better than anyone. I am just saying that I see things differently. Much differently.

I have, for my part, always tried to be a human being first. And, as such, we all have many traits. Also, as such, we have to label and categorize. This is "male", this is "female". Meagan, I will add, thinks that Iím not athletic enough also. My closest friends have a had about as good a laugh at this one as they did about my being gay. (Credentials? 14 high school letters, 2 college letters, semi-pro baseball, worked my way to the low 80s in golf, 16 marathons, 2 ultra-marathons.) Yes, I doubtless have some traits that are considered feminine. Who hasnít? I think we all share a certain amount of duality. (Do you hear me, Tim Burton?) There are common traits, there are differences. (I will refrain here from saying thank God for those differences. Although, I am thinking it.) I just think by the same token that there are many kinds of "men" out there, just as there are many kinds of people.

A female friend of mine has said that more than anyone she knows, I am comfortable with the feminine side living in this male body. (I would say "masculine" body, but Meagan would probably dispute that, so Iíll stick with "male".) She thinks I have quit the war within and found peace with who I am. Another friend told me that my name came up at a social gathering once (OK, so it was a wedding, thatís social.) and one of the guests didnít know me. So, she asked someone to describe me. The description: "Well, heís not gay, but heís the type of person that would be comfortable living in Montrose (the gay/artistic area of Houston)."

I take these descriptions to mean that I am at peace with my masculinity. I am not threatened by women (as Meaganís ex was) or suffer homo-phobia. I am at peace with who/what I am. I am sensitive to the needs and wants of others. I donít need to put them down in order to raise myself. In fact, I seem to have the odd idea that when one human being soars, it raises all of us. (Look at Mozart, Beethoven, Ghandi, Joan of Arc, Pele. Yes, Pele, if you need to understand that one, see a movie called "Vision Quest".) I donít need to hide myself away. I welcome change and the unknown. In addition, a passion for humanity burns within me that will never die out, no matter how many times someone tries to put out that fire. Do these things make me a man? Cause me to be masculine? Feminine? Who can say? They do make me a human who has found peace within with who they are. So, yes, I think these things, more than something between my legs or something that someone has defined as being male, make me a man.

So, Meagan, I have this to say. You donít know what the hell youíre talking about. You are misguided. And, anyway, I have spent too much time trying to convince you otherwise. It doesnít make a damn bit of difference what you think in the long run. Funny, as I write this, I keep hearing "I am, I said" in my mind.

But, that inspiration crumbles to laughter when I get to "And no one heard at all / Not even the chair."

Anyway, a lot of noise signifying nothing. Just be who you are. Find your own peace within. And, donít let anyone take that away from you. Meagan and I wonít make it happen together. It wonít be for my lack of trying. Weíre just at different places right now. No oneís right or wrong. It just happens that way sometimes.

This has gone on long enough. I fear that Iíve tried your patience. Besides, the most gorgeous pair of legs Iíve ever seen (female division) just walked by. And, maybe, just maybe, she hasnít been tainted by that macho labeling bullshit that weíve been fed for so long. Maybe, just maybe, sheís looking for a human being to journey lifeís road with.

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