Sunday, March 09, 2008

A Real Man

The lovely Carol pointed out an opportunity to serve the Irish Dance community that the younger teen is involved with. Some pedestal2s, or maybe podium1s were needed for an upcoming feis(b), or competition, for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners to stand on after the big event -- you know, like the gold/silver/bronze medal winners at the Olympics. Building something like this sounded less onerous than, say, stage construction or something else that I might get dragged into.

Turns out that another guy, the Real Man of this story, was also interested in building. To avoid embarrassing him, I'll call him "Charlie". I went over to his house and discovered a truly enviable workshop area. No computers were in evidence, but there was an air-hose, pneumatic tools, a table saw (not a gigantic one, but it was a lot bigger than mine), radial arm saw, a rolling toolkit that looked like it could've come out of an auto repair shop -- it was organized too, drawers labeled with their contents, clamps overhead, sawhorses, lots of room....

But why do I call Charlie a Real Man? It's not the tool collection or the workshop or his extensive knowledge of those tools (or of automobile engines either); it's that he was secure enough in his self-concept to quit working in construction to be a stay-at-home dad for his then elementary school girls. He told me about the calculation they did: with two parents working outside the home, you spend a lot more on take-out, housekeeper, gardener, handyman, etc., not to mention day care, and they figured out maybe 8 years ago that the net financial effect of his working was just a few thousands. And the kids would be raised by... someone else. Or a string of "someone else"s.

He told me without shame or embarrassment that his wife made about 4 times his salary, so the question of "who quits their job?" was a no-brainer.

How many guys, say out of 100, would be secure enough to say, "Yeah, I was making about 25% of my wife's salary, so I was the one to quit working outside the home"? We all know that a man's value is what he is on the inside, not how much money he makes or what his job is in the commercial world. But how many of us could, in similar circumstances, say, "Yep, we want the kids to have a parent at home, and since you make 4x as much as I do, then other things being equal, I'll be Mr. Mom" -- and actually carry it out?

And having decided, how many of us would tell a near-stranger (I had never met Charlie before yesterday) that "I was making only about 25% of what she was" without a trace of embarrassment?

Now that's a real man.

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