Here’s a cold hard fact that you must now chew and swallow: if you are reading this, you are not macho. Period. Case closed. Real men do not read anything other than GUNS AND AMMO, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED,or SHAVED BEAVER.
Do not mention FIRE IN THE BELLY. Do not clutch your copy of IRON JOHN. Sit your soft little ass down and listen up. Understanding macho means that you don’t possess it. I have proven myself to be the pussy that I am by writing this piece. (I’m wearing a powder blue cotton print shirt and peach panties as I type) [sic] Ernest Hemingway, you say? Wrong. Ernest lived a very macho life and wrote some very macho stories. But Ernest threw it all away by blowing his head off with a shotgun. Very unmacho. Real men do not commit suicide. Real men know just how much life sucks. Real men grit their teeth and take it bill after bill, war after war, tumor after tumor. You don’t greet Death, you punch him in the throat repeatedly as he drags you away. I think John Wayne said it best when he said, “Fuck Death and the lung cancer he rode in on.”
Macho is a very slippery thing. You don’t read about it, you don’t write about it, you don’t even know the correct spelling of the word. In a
vain attempt to keep some semblance of masculinity, I didn’t research the roots of the word while writing this article, but I can only assume
that “macho” comes from “machismo,” which sounds a hell of a lot like machine. Being macho implies a tough, hard, blocklike approach full of pistons and rods and axles and other big steel-type stuff.
It’s hard to live by the old macho code these days. They’ve chipped away at it over the years, slowly but surely. Drinking has been reduced to a few beers or a couple of whiskeys, if that. Otherwise, your AA friends begin to stare across the table with that “I personally think you have a problem and that all alcohol should be banned so that I won’t feel the urge to drink myself into a naked stupor but I’m not gonna say anything” look on their faces. No mess, no mauling, no mistress, no mas.
From time to time, people try to use macho as an image builder. Bush tries to make himself seem like a card-carrying Mace Club member. He’s not. The last macho pres. we had was FDR. FDR – a man stricken by polio, stuck in a wheelchair, fighting the Nazis all the while smoking 3 & 1/2 packs a day. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!” Yeah, and staircases, of course. And soccer and dancing.
I think the death of macho is easily located on a very recent map. Sometime in the late ’70s-right around the time the Village People
released “Macho Man” and Barry Manilow sang “Copacabana” and Robby Benson was mewling his way into the hearts of teenage ultra-virgin, men made a serious mistake. We started TALKING to each other. We stopped punching each other and began discussing why we wanted to punch each other. I’ll bet my right nut that if I had done some research, I would have found a dramatic decline in facial cuts and brain contusions starting in 1977. Now we’re supposed to be sensitive. We are supposed to share our feelings and cry at funerals and care about our hair. We’re, in short, supposed to be women. Hello, my name is Shirley. Touch me in the morning.
I believe in equal rights. I believe that women should get equal pay for equal jobs. I believe women should have control of their bodies and be in positions of power. I believe we should have the same size shoulder pads in our suits. But I also believe that men should be men and women should be, well, women. Women should be soft and smart and mysterious. And men should have their own tools. I pine for the sheer stupidity of the old macho days, when men would brandish hammers and build huge, bulky cars that sucked up gas and tore open the ozone layer and crushed small animals beneath totally useless but totally cool-looking tail fins. When men were apes with good shoes and a dental plan. John Wayne, John Huston, Bill Holden, Bob Mitchum, Clark Gable, Babe Ruth, Lee Marvin, Sam Peckinpah. Men who drank and fought and puked and ate raw meat right off the bone and drank some more and fought some more and puked again and kept on drinking. Men who died of massive heart attacks or sudden brain seizures or who just plain fucking blew up. Men who had cancer six or seven times. Men made out of leather.
My dad was one of these men. My dad once cut off his thumb with a power saw, duct-taped it back on, and drove himself to the hospital smoking a Camel un-filtered on the way. My dad’s theory was simple: no pain – no fucking pain. My dad smoked 5 packs a day, worked 3 jobs 7 days a week, ate beef for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. One night in 1985, he ate a big steak dinner with a side order of bacon and extra steak fries. He ordered some coffee, sat back, lit up a cigarette, and exploded.