In fact, twice this week I was accused of not being a "real" man because I don't speak like a vulgar caveman. One went so far as to suggest that my friends and I are, umm, the obscenity for gay males, because I told him my dad, my son, my friends, don't talk like that.
I honestly don't think my kids ever heard me say so much as "damn" until they were well into their teenage years, and even then the number of times they've heard me swear could be counted on one hand. When I did, I think they'd even agree, it was probably forgivable considering the circumstances. As Mark Twain said: "Under certain circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer."
But just walking around in casual conversation? No. Very rare for me. Certainly not commonplace. You'd have to follow me around for many years with a microphone to find anything that wouldn't be allowed on The Waltons.
Have I or my friends ever told a dirty joke? Sure. But I grew out of those. Now most of my best jokes aren't obscene.
As I've said before, there are only about eight people in this world whose opinion of me I actually care about, and neither of them were these two yahoos. However, it did get me thinking about what is a real man and how different people have various perceptions of manliness.
Those two probably don't consider these things I do "manly":
I go to church. I pray every night.
I grow heirloom tomatoes from seed. And I can them and make salsa.
I read. Can quote Frost, Shakespeare and Poe.
Haven't had a drink in almost 20 years. Used to, a lot. But grew up.
People say I'm skinny, though I prefer toned. Was 200 pounds, now 160. (See above.)
Been married once, to the same woman for 28 years.
Raised three caring, God-fearing children who are contributing members of society.
I have a pet rabbit.
I have a raspberry patch and herb garden.
I've written books and can use multi-syllable words.
I like Prince.
I cried like a baby when my Basset Hound, Edna, died a few years back, and will do the same when Stanley passes.
I'm biased, because I'm talking about me, but I think a man can be manly and still do those aforementioned things. In fact, I think he IS manly if he does some of those things.
There are other things I do that could be stereotyped as manly, even redneck, which is I think what those guys consider manly. But since I don't swear or speak obscenities about women while doing them, they probably don't count:
I enjoy outlaw and classic country and rock. Most recent concerts I've been to: Casey Donahew (red dirt Texas band), Willie Nelson, BB King, Kid Rock, Aerosmith, KISS. I had David Allan Coe tickets, but the concert was cancelled because he had bronchitis (so he's probably not a "real man" either.) But throw in my Elton John and Prince concerts and that probably negates any manliness points I earned.
Grew up on a farm. Branded cattle, castrated pigs, swam in the cattle tank, threw bales, worked several years for the local veterinarians. But I was also in band and swing choir, so again, negated.
I own more guns than I have fingers.
I've bought cattle, raised cattle, sold cattle, worked for a cattle buyer.
Have run 26.2 miles without stopping and several half marathons. Don't know that it's manly, but doubt the two dudes can walk to their mailbox and back without getting winded.
I drive an 11-year-old Jeep with 207,000 miles on it, though I've never changed my own oil. I figure for 25 bucks I'll let it fall on someone else's head.
I've survived three near-death experiences.
I have a heavy bag hanging in my garage that I punch instead of my wife or kids.
I cut my hair twice a year and never comb it.
I've butchered deer and antelope.
I raised a son who is going to be a cop and who prevented two guys from raping a passed out woman in an alley last summer.
I raised a daughter who punched a boy who was giving her disabled friend a bad time.
I raised three kids who are leaders, stand up to bullies, protect the weak. They don't mock them.
So I guess if some want to consider me gay, so be it. I don't really care. If some want to call me "redneck," ditto. Maybe I'm a hybrid man.
One philosophy I've tried to live by is that I don't feel I'm better than anybody else, but I also don't feel anybody else is better than me. Gotta say, some people are really testing me on the former.
As Hamlet said: "What a piece of work is a man!"