Are You Man Enough?
by Denis Leary
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.
I don’t wanna hear about Arnold Schwarzenegger. Even Arnold caved in. In Terminator 2, he was all of a sudden Mr. Caring Guy, protecting the kid and hoping the earth wouldn’t end. Bullshit. There was even a sequence at the end of the movie where a huge truck full of flammable liquid tears down a highway for about 3 minutes and then doesn’t blow up. A sign of the times if ever there was one. Every real man knows the 1 golden rule of macho movie making: if you see a truck on screen, blow it up. In Thelma & Louise, the women saw a truck. What did they do? Susan Sarandon pulled out her gun and blew the truck way the fuck up. Another sign of the times. Arnold’s tromping around praying for the earth to save itself and Ms. Davis and Ms. Sarandon are drinking and shooting and screwing their way all over the macho west. Citizen Kane? A masterpiece. But every real man knows it would have been better if a huge Mack truck with the word ROSEBUD emblazoned on the trailer drove through the front gate of the mansion and then KAA-POWWWWW!
Another movie matter I’d like to get off my girly little chest: asses. Part of this new male code has men baring their butts on screen the way women used to do. Mel Gibson, Kevin Costner, Michael Douglas, and of course, Arnold. Hey if I wanted to see Kevin Costner’s ass, I would’ve married him. You never saw Bob Mitchum’s ass. I am in a macho movie called GUNMEN, and I can guarantee you that you never see my ass on any screen but if you do, it will not be shaved. It will be hairy and hoary and very, very white.
Our macho movie idols have changed forever. No wonder they end up baring it all. Listen to the names–Mel, Kevin, Michael, Arnold. In the old days movie stars had real names: John, Bill, Duke, Buck, Chuck, Rip. Kevin sounds like your skinny Irish cousin with the big Coke bottle glasses and a heat rash; Mel, the guy in charge of aisle five at Woolworth’s. (“Excuse me Mel, where are the light bulbs?”)
It’s getting very bad, boys. We don’t blow up trucks anymore. Hell, we don’t even drive trucks anymore. We drive simple little Japanese cars with air bags. In the old days we used to rip out the seat belts and fly through the windshield ready for action. “Thrown from the car.” Remember that phrase in accident reports? Always the sign of a very macho driver.
We seem a little more sorry, a little more plump, a lot more ladylike around the edges. If you really want to reclaim your macho self, if you really want to be a macho, macho man, stop reading this article.
If you are still reading, you probably need a little more help. Forget Robert Bly or “FIRE IN YOUR PROSTATE.” Don’t go on a Male-Bonding Self-Discovery Weekend, which is just another term for Circle Jerk as far as I’m concerned. Here, instead, is a guide:
BALLS, A.K.A. COJONES: You should have several. Preferably brass or steel. Extra large.
CRYING: Never. Ever. Over anything. Not death in the family, not a bullet in the chest. You may tear up ever so slightly in one eye only when watching a favorite sports legend retire. You may tear up in both eyes only when kicked, accidentally or on purpose, in the COJONES.
KISSING: see “SPORTS”
HUGGING: see “SPORTS”
SPORTS: Once all men within reach are dressed in a team uniform, it is perfectly acceptable to kiss and hug and grab each other’s ass. This is probably because all men are latent homosexuals and prefer male company to female company. But if some guy points out this fact to you, punch him directly in the throat. (Optional retorts: “Prefer this!” or “Fuck You!” or ” Shut the fuck up!”
HEALTH: Never go to the hospital or visit a doctor. If you have a stroke, keep drinking and act like you prefer to use only one side of your body. If you cut off a limb while using a power tool–so what? That’s why there’s duct tape and staple guns. If someone tries to drive you to the hospital after a heart attack or maiming, punch him in the throat. (Optional retorts: “Drive This!” or “Fuck you!” or “Shut the fuck up!”)
DIET: Meat, cigarettes, meat, booze, meat, and coffee. In case of aneurysm or alcohol-induced coma, see “HEALTH.”
FIGHTING: At all times, over anything. Never hit a woman. Or a child. Or a bus. Never hit a priest until he takes off his collar. (If it’s the pope, wait until he removes the large hat.) Clergy will often provoke a punch in the throat with their “violence doesn’t prove anything” pontifications. (Optional retorts: “Prove this!” or “Fuck you Father!” or “Shut the fuck up, Padre!”)
DRINKING: No falling down. No puking–unless to empty the stomach in order to continue drinking. No slurring of words. Tell a few war stories: “See that scar? I was in ‘Nam and I ate a grenade and it blew up in my colon.” If your aim is off due to alcohol, it’s acceptable to punch someone in the head or solar plexus.
SEX: You’re probably too drunk or just plain stupid to have sex but pretend you get a lot, i.e. “You should’ve seen me last night, blah, blah, blah, blah.”
Absorb this info and you should be on your way. If you have any further questions, call 1-800-COJONES. Remember: We’re men. Big, boxy, sweaty, ignorant men. We have penises. Well, we used to have penises. Either way, I think Billy Martin, the late Yankees manager, said it best when he said, “Hey, I can drive.”