up in Estrogen Alley with my widowed mother and two sisters,
there was no man around to tell us what was manly and what
wasn’t. I never gave it much thought. And my first husband,
raised in the era of androgyny and feminism never cultivated
his inner Iron John.
So now and then I have these moments of illumination that
are, if nothing else, terrifically unexpected.
For example, a few times last year I went to a sports bar
to watch Pittsburgh Steelers’ games not broadcast in our viewing
area. I went willingly, but each time I did, two things struck
me palpably. The first was that grown men, almost to a person,
were all clad in some form of black and gold Steelers’ merch
(including the grown man I was with). And the second was the
sheer level of testosterone in the room. I don’t remember
ever hearing such loud and frequent tenor-baritone-bass cheering.
Maybe the male equivalent would be to spend a Saturday afternoon
at Anthropologie where all the surfaces are soft or sculpted
or patterned and the women seem lost in a blissful haze that
is closer to Zen meditation than shopping. (I was at Anthropologie’s
Rockefeller Center store just last week and am even now channeling
those two-handled café-au-lait mugs, those sweaters in butter
yellow and sea foam green, the chenille bed jackets, the chintz
chemise. . . .)
Nevertheless, the last place I expected to have a moment of
machismo illumination was at Sears.
I’d gone to Sears when I began my quest to buy a gas grill
to replace the deck-sized charcoal one that had fallen into
a pile of tin in our back yard.
Maybe it’s because my older sister is the Grill Diva at her
house—languidly turning her ginger-mango chicken pieces or
coriander-scented pork—that it never occurred to me the grill,
as it is conceived, built and marketed, is the intended domain
men. Men as big as the grills themselves.
Because grills are BIG. They make a statement. I’m not sure
what the statement is, but they’re saying something. Maybe,
“Hey, I may not be a Dodge Ram truck, but I’m still pretty
BIG. And I’m just a grill.”
Only, a grill is not just a grill.
A grill is a gender statement.
My daughter and I took a long look at all the grills at Sears,
at least in part because Consumer Reports touted one
there. Two salesmen stood nearby, but neither offered to help
us out. They probably figured we wouldn’t know what to do
with such a grill.
They would have been right. Because grills are confusing.
They raise issues: gender issues, moral issues, economic issues.
So—in reverse order then:
The economic issue: What makes the high-priced behemoths better
than the lower-priced behemoths? Is it simply the knowledge
that you’re a man who can afford to drop $1400 on something
you cook your hot dogs on? Or is it because the more expensive
the grill, the heavier the lid and the more masculine you
are if you can actually lift the thing? (And let me tell you,
I’ve got some pretty good guns, but there were grills whose
lids I wouldn’t want to be lifting over and over again in
the course of making dinner.)
The moral questions: The capacity of the burners is measured
not in inches or centimeters, but in burgers. Some
have a modest 26 burger capacity. Others go as high as 65.
(65 burgers?!) Though I realize the same grill space
that holds copious numbers of burgers might be taken up with
Tofu Pups, chicken paillards, vegetable kebobs and skewered
shrimp, using “burger capacity” as a base measurement seems
awfully red-meat-oriented to me. As in real men don’t eat
salmon steamed en- papillote. They eat burgers. And lots of
The gender issue: The grill I bought has a bottle opener.
It’s not for opening cans of Fresca or bottles of Pouilly
Fume. It’s for opening microbrews. Or Coronas. It’s so that
the real man manning the grill can slake his thirst as he
flips his burgers.
The grill I bought is a big grill—since I didn’t find any
truly dainty-sized grills—and though I can turn it on and
off, cook on it and clean it, it’s just too big for me to
put the cover on. That’s right, either I’m too small or the
cover is too big, but this is one aspect of grill-life I cannot
But having done all this “I-could-be-an-AM-talk-show-radio-host
ranting,” here’s the question:
Do I like my grill?
I love it.
Plus, it’s helping me channel my inner guy (which may, um,
explain the ranting).
Now, as the sun edges its way west, I’ve got to start thinking
about dinner. Maybe I’ll cook up a couple of three-inch thick
Porterhouse steaks. I bet I could fit a full 48 chicken wings
on that grill. Or at least 37 burgers. I could lay down a
pair of hiking-boot-sized racks of ribs and simmer the barbecue
sauce on the side burner. I could slurp down the Coronas we’ve
had in the house since Christmas. Maybe I’ll even put on the
man-sized apron that says: “I’ve Got Selective Listening.”
But first I’ve got to go find my husband, who is out there
saving the world, to help me take off the grill cover.