This is the secret. This is the great truth. We don’t particularly value our own existences. It starts around age 3 and never stops: the process of rehearsing all the ways in which we might gloriously die. We’ve barely been born when we start mock-perishing. The first time I bit the dust was in an ambush by three or four boys who’d armed themselves with sticks that were either machine guns or swords, I don’t remember. Nor do I remember which for of evil I alone was resisting that fateful day when I first fell backward on the grass, clutched my heart, and let out the sigh that tells a man’s foes that they may have killed his body but they’ll never vanquish his spirit. I was only 5 years old, but the whole performance felt instinctive.
Women are encouraged to give life. Men are encouraged to give it up. The basic scenario, of course, involves standing up to the bad guys on behalf of some innocent person or high ideal. The other basic scenario involves being one of the bad guys, the baddest of all. Either way the ending is the same. We fall, we sigh, there’s a pause, we get back up, and then the next day we pretend to die again.
We don’t always die in combat. That’s just one way. Sometimes we die from exposure or starvation while exploring the arctic or trekking through the jungle. Sometimes our rocket ship crashes en route to Mars or our race car hits a wall during the last lap of the Daytona 500. Sometimes the smoke inside the burning house that we’ve rushed into to rescue the little girl’s kitten is just too thick and toxic to withstand. And sometimes we die from simple overwork while laboring selflessly to support our loved ones or save the ranch from bankruptcy.
What doesn’t change is the satisfaction we take- in our fantasies, that is- at going down fighting, with our boots on. What also doesn’t change is our suspicion that we might not be mourned as deeply as we imagine of honored for as long as we might hope. That stirs a certain resentment in some men.
Since kindergarten we’ve been demonstrating our willingness to die at practically any moment for virtually any cause, and the women who will outlive us don’t appreciate it. Yes, today we’re grouching about the phone bill or failing once again to mow the lawn, but tomorrow we may be out defending the homeland or pursuing an armed robber down a dark alley.
Women shouldn’t forget this. What looks like a husband napping on a sofa is really a hero of tomorrow dreaming of his own selfless demise. The least a woman can do is let him sleep.
Walter Kern, What Men Wish You Knew About Them
5 years ago
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