It was getting late in the afternoon and the ski lifts were closing. I stood at the top of the hill and sighed. This one was rated as a double-blue-square, or "advanced intermediate," and it was the easiest route I knew of to eventually get from where I was to the car. I used to think of myself as kind of an advanced intermediate skier, but I was starting to wonder. I looked at the steep grade, coated with an unforgiving layer of ice and littered with moguls, and wondered if I could do it, especially with this leg cramp I was developing.
My friend Lionel gave me an encouraging word and then took off down the hill, his 6-foot-2-inch frame gracefully dancing back and forth between the moguls. He looked like one of those guys on the ski commercials, one of the ones that made it look easy. Lionel made a lot of stuff look easy. He was tall, barrel-chested, good looking, successful by any measure of the word, and about the nicest guy you could ever know. He made you feel at ease, could talk about any subject, and could compliment you so naturally and with such honesty that you would never think to question his sincerity. Everyone likes Lionel, and indeed, there's nothing to not like. He's a natural leader, athletic, kind, generous, outgoing, and a wonderful family man. As I watched his picture-perfect form descending the ski slope, I thought to myself, Now there goes a true "man's man."
Which, coming back to the painful cramp in my leg, felt like quite a contrast to me at that moment. You see, I've never quite fit in with "the guys." Growing up, where most guys loved to talk sports, cars, and rock-and-roll, my interests were in academics, art, and classical music. Other guys dreamed of being a pro athlete; I dreamed of being a concert pianist. Other guys spent hours watching, studying, and memorizing statistics about their sports heroes. I spent hours tinkering on my computer. While others were pumping iron, I was pumping out drawings. When many of my friends would discuss their favorite Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin tunes, I tried--without any measure of success--to bring Harry Connick, Jr. into the conversation.
And things aren't that different now. I still find that my musical tastes gravitate towards those more commonly held by 60-something-year-old women (Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Michael Buble, anyone?) My lack of athletic ability only grows more pronounced as I struggle to figure out how to help my sons learn the common sports of the day. The first pinewood derby with my freshly-minted cub scout was saved only because you can buy pre-cut cars now--I don't even own a saw. And I still spend too much time on the computer (you're looking at Exhibit A).
Instead of growing gracefully older, I'm growing pleasingly plumper. Instead of having a swell cleft in my chin (like Gaston), I have two (going on three) chins. I kind of went straight from high-school pencil neck to happily-married padded neck. I completely missed the sweet spot somewhere in-between.
Somehow, miraculously--even bewilderingly--this never mattered to my wife. When we met, even though she's a good athlete, she didn't care that I'm not--she was happy that I studied hard. She didn't care that I'm not broad shouldered--she was happy that I'm smart. She didn't care that I don't know how to fix cars or own tools--she's glad that I can get around on a computer. She didn't care that I more closely resemble Mr. Potato Head than Arnold Schwarzenegger--she always wanted to marry someone who's "nice."
And now, 14 years later, we've got a great marriage and six wonderful children. We're a happy, blandly average, middle-class family living in a middle-class neighborhood in the greatest country on earth. All because my wife was willing to take a terrible chance on little old me.
So as I slowly and painstakingly made my way down the hill, slipping on the ice and stumbling over the moguls, I was reminded that no, I'm not in the "man's man" club. Though I admire them and struggle to understand them, I'm at peace with the fact that I never will be one of them. Heck, I'm not even a "women's man." I'm simply a "woman's man." One woman's man.
And for this life and forever, one is enough.