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
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.
can contact Jo Page at firstname.lastname@example.org.