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Turkey and Testosterone

In my friend’s household, the true test of manhood was in the eating of the Thanksgiving mincemeat pie.

Pumpkin was the girlie pie. Real men ate mincemeat.

So the sisters’ potential suitors were offered the choice. Those who ate a hefty wedge of mincemeat proved their mettle. So did those who ate a good-sized slice of each. But the ones who passed on mincemeat and went for pumpkin were girlie-men. They never made it to Christmas dinner.

These days you won’t even find a mincemeat pie on most Thanksgiving tables. How can a man show off his masculine chi if no one will let him?

Well, in fact, opportunities abound—especially at this time of year. And it seems nothing less than a public service to alert men to the many ways they can show off their manly prowess. So here are some tips that will separate the men from the rest of the men, and impress your honey so much that you’ll be able to watch football games until there is no more football to watch.

For starters, there’s the fireplace. Yes, most women can build fires. Especially those of us who were Camp Fire Girls. But it’s simply so much more like living in a Ralph Lauren ad to see you in your Shetland sweater kneeling on the hearth and shifting the logs.

Let me be clear here: There is no skill involved. Just hit those logs a few times with a poker. Send up some sparks. Maybe ask if there is any fatwood, even if you don’t know what fatwood is.

On the chance that you do have some fire-building skill, it wouldn’t hurt your image to be seen splitting a few logs in the backyard beforehand.

Opening champagne (with a soft sigh, not a loud burp) is also pretty important. The first time I opened a bottle of champagne by myself I was disappointed at how easy it was. All along I’d thought it took a real man to do it. But as any woman who has opened champagne will tell you, we’re happy to continue to believe that it does.

Real men peel chestnuts.

A little knowledge can be useful, an arcane fact or two—how many theses Martin Luther nailed to the door, the name of Ernest Shackleton’s boat—that nobody else knows. Nobody else will care, either, but that’s not the point. A smart man is really quite sexy. If you’re not smart, try and fake it.

Yes, you can quote Yogi Berra. Once.

And then there is the job of carving. Sure, I can carve a fowl. I’ve carved many a fowl in my day. But last Christmas, when I made duck for 15, my friend’s husband went at it with my freshly sharpened Henckel’s. We knew we had a mensch in our midst.

If you put up a tree, you’re on to a number of ways to demonstrate just how roosterish you really are.

First of all, chat up the guy at the tree place. He’s got the chain saw, which is a better manly prop than you’re likely to have on you. Compensate for that by having him make a fresh cut on the bottom and maybe take off a lower limb or two. Tell him to do this before your honey does so it will look like you know what you’re talking about.

Once you get back home, be compulsive about getting the tree straight and sturdy. Check the lights. Take a long time about it. This is truly the most boring part about having a Christmas tree, but it’s expected. And yes, it’s OK to cuss and swear while you put the lights on the tree, but it’s your job to do it. You’re not the one who spends 15 bucks on cuticle cream.

So that means you get stuck with a lot of cruddy jobs that simultaneously also enhance your masculine image. Like hanging the outdoor lights. Or pushing the snow off the roof. Or driving your honey’s aunt back to the retirement center while listening to her favorite Manheim Steamroller CD.

You get stuck with shoveling the walk. On the other hand, think of this: When you come back inside, your cheeks are ruddy, your muscles are warm, you’ve got that rakish dusting of snow on you. In short, you look good. So work the room. Don’t whine about the cold. Say something like, “Wow, I feel good! I don’t know why anybody would use a snowblower.” Or “That really got my endorphins going. Let’s take a long soak in the hot tub.”

Finally, a couple of shopping hints: Forget about doing all your shopping on Dec. 24. It’s supposed to be manly, but the real men are at home assembling complicated toys in a dark basement. And imagine how many men flirt with the Victoria’s Secret salesgirls while buying bustiers for their wives. Don’t do it. The salesgirls think those guys are jerks.

But you’re not that kind of guy. You’re the kind of guy who’s not afraid to use the mistletoe (responsibly, of course) or sing “White Christmas” or make a snow angel—OK, maybe I’m pushing it with the snow angel.

You’re the kind of guy who will eat the dark meat and the cornbread dressing, the Brussels sprouts and the creamed pearl onions, the rutabaga and the candied yams. You’re the kind of guy who will sample the mysteriously stuffed mushrooms. Or at the very least, the mincemeat pie.

—Jo Page

You can contact Jo Page at jopage@graceniska.org.


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