Taking the Piss

I sit down to pee.

I don’t throw like a girl. I never had a great arm, but nor was it a bad one. Besides, I preferred to field in closer to the action. Cricket is a great way to ruin an entire Saturday anyway.

If I have a feminine side, and I don’t believe I do, then I am not ‘in touch’ with it. Even typing it sounds a bit rude. I am not a woman trapped in a mans body, I am not experimental with my sexuality/gender. However, more often than not these days, when the need arises, I sit down to take a piss.

Part of the problem lies in the fact there is no latch on the toilet door. Anyone, even little toddler sized little ones, can push the door open.

I am not precious. Mike Bracey is not the type to suffer from ‘stage fright’. While I agree there are some things best done alone, I am still capable of doing them in the presence of others, if need be. What bloke hasn’t been to a urinal? But a toilet bowl in an en-suite bathroom is no urinal. Theoretically, I should have the place to myself. I don’t.

I’m all for a little up and coming man being taught the ropes of manhood by his male seniors. Isn’t that part of being a parent, the point of being a Dad? Raising the next generation, training and guiding and encouraging and mentoring and all that.

Yes, I hear you all chorus, so is the way of the world. Man and boy. But the way to teach a man to urinate is not to shower him in my own steamy stream.

“For goodness sake boy, get your head out of there.”

My Wee-Man (suddenly that moniker has taken on a whole new meaning) has a fascination for all things wet. He loves water, in all its forms. Cool. I am a bit of a water baby myself. My love of the water, however, does not extend to the toilet bowl.

Wee-Man will lift the lid, stare intently, drop this and that in, lean too far and threaten to take a dip. And if he hears the tinkling sound of piss, he is all for the yellow waterfall.

So I have taken to barricading myself in. I sneak away, careful to make my departure is as unnoticeable as possible, suitable distractions in place. I close the bedroom door, then the bathroom door, then due to the lack of a latch, place the heaviest available item up against it. That item isn’t the scales in case you are wondering. They don’t get heavy until I put my feet on them.

Seems excessive just to avoid pissing on my sons head, but at least it avoids the inevitable clean-up and any awkward questions from the Mrs. His time will come. Right now, he is vertically challenged and is yet to fully master the concept of balance.

At least he is yet to wriggle his way onto my lap why I am reading the sports news.

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Passion

My wife thinks I need to be more confrontational. More controversial, if I want this blog to be a success.

The One Who Must Be Obeyed is of the opinion I need to say or highlight something that is going to go viral. Stir up the masses and create debate and argument and conversation. Maybe she has a point. I sit here and write this thing on a semi regular basis and know I am reaching only a few.

So who am I trying to reach? Am I trying to reach anyone at all, or is this simply about self-satisfaction? Do I have a message, am I ranting or am I just throwing words to the wild west coast winds, to scatter as they will?

And how exactly do I define ‘success’. What does it mean to be successful? In my situation I don’t work as such. I am a full time parent, which is work in itself and my kids are, as far as I can judge, happy and healthy. Am I, therefore, not already successful?

The real gritty truth of it is that I simply don’t have anything that fires me at the moment. Haven’t for years. There are things in our education system that annoy me, wider issues like the governance of this country, the management of our environment, things closer to home like the perilous state of my personal finances, my ever increasing decriptitude etc etc…

So is it age? Is it a malaise, an apathetic lack of interest, suffered in the realms of stay at home Dad’s? (I have never thought to ask where other Dad’s are doing their thing, if not at home.) Have I gotten too old to care? Have I gotten comfortable? Fat, lazy, preoccupied, too busy, not busy enough? Has my life as a father, parent, become so insular that the myriad of issues I am sure are out there, I simply let slide?

The answer is yes. The answer is no.

I don’t go anywhere and I don’t do anything. Nothing of note anyway. I have two children in my permanent care, under the age of five and they dominant my time and the manner with which I can spend that time. The nature of what my wife does for a living dictates, to a point, what I am able to achieve in my own, euphemistically termed, spare time. Then you factor in where we live, a small spot in the Far North, not exactly blessed with a wealth of family friendly activities and it is obvious that the ‘issues’ of the day do little to impact by minute by minute existence.

Over the years I have dabbled with all sorts of things. I loved Scuba diving, loved to hike and have hunted, fished, played drums in a band, even tried being a co-driver once in a rally car. No, before you ask, we neither crashed or got lost.

But somehow I have gotten lost. Not in the sense that I am not the man I once thought I was, or aspired to be. Just because I am home husband, does not mean I am in any way subjugated or play second fiddle, any fiddle, to my wife. Being the ‘home maker’ is not a minor role in any family dynamic and while doing so isn’t where I thought I might be in  my early, okay mid, 40’s, doesn’t mean I am not immensely satisfied.

Am I stimulated?

I still rock. Crank up the tunes and let go like I did in the 90’s. The kids think I am weird, think I am mad, but every now and then bust out the grooves with me. I don’t read as much as I would like but I do write as often as I can or feel the need to. I am learning to cook, ever more adventurously and there are a heap of projects covering all sorts of activities that float around in the back of my mind.

However, I spend the day playing with dolls, fitting together puzzles I could do in my sleep and having conversations based around the merits of holding glass of milk in two hands versus one. When I do read it is out loud, to a sometimes indifferent audience, on topics that range from the activities of various animals engaged in a variety of outlandish activities, to the nocturnal and somewhat nefarious actions of fairies. My favourite movie at the moment is Rise of the Guardians.

No, in a nutshell, I am not stimulated, in that I am not challenged. Does this mean I am unhappy? No it does not. I only have to look out the window and am greeted with a stunning view that likes of which many only dream of. I only have to reflect on all the joyous moments that having children roaming around under your feet brings.

So I am happy enough, I am content enough. So much so that I cannot get stirred up over anything. There is no one single thing, nor any conglomerate of things, that gets me worked up enough to react, outside of a dinner table conversation, that may or may not border on a debate.  Even in the midst of an election campaign, I cannot find anything that is going to get me waving my banner all over the place.

I am, therefore afraid, to report, for the meantime at least, there will be no controversy found here. I am not going to have a go at religion, feminism, politics, sexism, racism, environmental issues or anything else. Not until those issues knock directly on my door and I have to be honest, I hope they never do.  The All Blacks keep winning, so no dramas there and Arsenal are predictable average, no surprises there.

I am not bland, I am not blank. I am just busy. Busy doing nothing in particular.

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Caveman

Tonight is our chance, fellow men, to be just that, manly men.

It has been a bit of a bugbear of mine for a while now. The emancipation of man. Not humankind, men.

I guess first you have to ask yourself, as a man, do you feel oppressed, downtrodden, neglected, swept aside, ignored? Harsh language, even excessive maybe, but to my mind, a necessary question.

Manhood, for want of a better term, has been trapped in a kind of malaise, a trick of the space-time continuum. I feel it, not as a loss, but something missing nonetheless. A lack of definition, that quintessential ‘thing’ that it means to be a man, in this modern time of change.

For a large part this is a very personal question on a very personal level. I was raised in a single parent household, an absentee father very conspicuous by that very thing, his absence. Not a hurtful thing then, nor now. Just the way I grew up. My Mother was legendary in her efforts, as most single Mothers must surely be. But she was just that and no more…a hard working, dedicated and above all, loving Mother.

My Mum is a woman, funnily enough. A strong and capable one. However, as Eric Clapton said in his epic track Motherless Children, sister will do the best she can, but there are so many things a sister can’t understand.  

So what is it to be a bloke then? Define manliness, being a male.

It is easy enough to throw all the cliches out there, the stereotypes. There is nothing wrong with that kind of response, don’t get me wrong. After all, a stereotype can only come about because of what is deemed a norm in society. Being stereotypical is not inherently a bad thing therefore, it is just the common thing.

Personally I can’t help but feel that a great deal of the definitions already out there, telling us what it is to be a man, are made up by women. We, as in us, as in guys/blokes/dudes/fellas/bros have been convinced that what a woman would like to see or have in her man, is what defines him as being male.

And too many neo-liberal, politically correct, wishy-washy, feel gooders have meekly caved to that premise.

Before you all start (I use the term ‘all’ euphemistically-six followers does not an ‘all’ make), I am not referring to feminists or feminism. If I was referring to one or either of those things, I would have said one or either of those things. I sincerely believe that the ideal of feminism is not to denigrate, isolate or deflate men and manhood. Feminism, as has been established, is about equality and that is not what I am trying to drive at here.

Perhaps I am talking more about identity. Manhood is so diluted I feel it is difficult to actually pick where the issue begins and ends. So let’s take a look at the things, in this country at least, that might readily be and have been, associated with maleness.

Rugby – too broad and wide ranging an impact on this countries collective psyche, be it for or against, for me to want to delve into here. Besides, I made a vow never to touch religion in my blogging. Leave rugby alone then, set aside with the note of Colin Meads being the iconic image our national manhood benchmark could be set at.

*The above is done in the manner you might test for the most intelligent animal on the planet, excluding primates for having a perceived unfair advantage.

Colin Meads gives us terms like big, strong, tough, resilient, powerful. There are many other figures like that, presented to us in popular culture. Hollywood loves the strong, silent type. Think Russell Crowe in Gladiator, all long, slow and I am sure, deeply meaningful silences. The picture of a man being heroic, stoic and resilient. Of being right, morally superior.

But Hollywood also loves an anti-hero. The morally confused but ultimately good guy, the Han Solo. No better example than Chris Pratt’s character in Guardians of the Galaxy. The ‘cheeky chappy’ that the Brits fall so in love with. Robbie Williams.

Or are we meant to be Chris Hemsworth? All bulging muscles and gym honed body, not a hair out of place, smooth skim, maybe some designer stubble just to man things up a bit, a perfect fitting suit with matching accessories. But take a look at the images that come out from that guy. I have no idea how much he is told to do it, coached to, how much he is ‘touched up’ in an editing booth/suite or there is a little bit of his own thing going on, but those beautiful blue eyes are hard, piercing, just a little bit sinister, like there is the hint of an edge underneath all the metro-sexuality. A hint of manhood? Of manliness?

All that is more of what we, as men, are told to be. What we are fed by the image-makers, shaping far more of our society than they have the right to. We lap it up, don’t we? It sells watches and cars and beer. So enough of Hollywood and the marketing people, who will just take us to the other extreme with their next breath, giving us guys swinging chainsaws wearing short shorts and steal-capped work boots, wiping the sweat from their grime covered brows as they set about tackling ‘manly’ tasks.

Hair product means nothing to me and many like me. I have no hair. I have one suit in my closet but rarely do I have the opportunity to wear it.

Looks aside, imagery aside, what of intellect? What about emotive qualities and content? What about sheer personality? We are fed the idea that the academic is awkward, a clumsy and shuffling fool, bumbling about from one mishap to the next. Just remove his glasses and you have a hunk. Or has he got elbow pads sown into his sports coat, a peppered beard and silver hair, chin in hand as he leans in to listen, only breaking away so he can top up your Central Otago Pinot.

Either way, great strides apart from a sheep under each arm, straddling a fence in the middle of a paddock in rural New Zealand. But any less masculine for it? David Beckham, does he manage the cross over? Model, sport-star, bit of a poxy ponce, attentive Dad…

So much of what it means to be a man, the identity of manhood, has changed, dramatically, from generation to generation. How we are portrayed, how we are perceived, how we act and think. Some is voluntary and for the better. Some is placed up us and even then, quite possibly an improvement.

I have only asked half the question, let alone found any answers. I was kind of hoping you ‘guys’ could do that for me. With me.

Actually, I have raised more questions than I ever intended so I will, for now, leave it here where it lies and come back to it, perhaps as a bit of a recurring theme…

SO tell me, are you less of a man because you can’t service the car? Change the tyre even? Should we all be taught to shoot and stab, reclaim our role in the hunter/gatherer partnership? Does fumbling with the knot on the fishing line make you feeble, effeminate? Do real men eat quiche? Cry?…

Most importantly maybe, does raising my kids, being the home hubby, the go to carer, make me more or less of a man? I know my answer to that one.

To be continued…

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