Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Testosterone-induced displays of machismo

We drove north of The Cities for about an hour, creeping along with the rush hour flow until we reached our destination on Rush Lake.It was a tiny ramshackle cottage right on the lake. There were other houses, all closely built (and most were nicer.) But it was cozy. We parked and joined the gathering in back. There was a bonfire burning in the fire pit and camp chairs set up. I felt comfortable with everyone - Rainman's dad and stepmom were there and their friends, who I'd met a long time ago. The Kid and I set up our camp chairs at the edge of the lake where we sat and talked while fending off swarms of gnats.Dick, the owner of the cottage, was digging a hole with a post-hole digger and soon Rainman took over the process. I'm not sure how old Dick is, but I was a little apprehensive of him taking on too much physical activity. He's balding with a huge gut and he moves rather slowly. He'd developed a fine sheen of perspiration on his smooth head.I guess in addition to the party, Dick wanted to put in a street lamp in the backyard. He had already purchased the lamp and post - just like a real street light. It was lying in the backyard. Once Rainman finished digging the hole, all the men gathered in a circle to formulate their plan. The Kid and I moved chairs out of the way and relocated ourselves to the picnic table to sit with Rainman's stepmom and her friend.The process of planting the street lamp into the hole involved setting up some logs on which they rolled the long lamp post forward so it's base would be positioned near the freshly dug hole. It was amusing to watch all the men sniff and grunt and sweat as they struggled with moving the post into position (this is before even lifting it upright and inserting it into the hole.)At one point, Rainman called out, "Hold up, hold up!" And he walked over to the base of the post and lifted it up and sort of tossed it over. I had to laugh because earlier one of the older guys had teased Rainman about his youth and how he had to learn to "handle the missions." (Those missions being the rites of snowmobiling parties, evidently.) So this show of brute force - Rainman taking on the heaviest end of the post and lifting/moving it by himself - seemed to be a display of his strength, meant to impress his elders. And possibly the audience of women, as well.They tied ropes onto the post and while Rainman held the far end, the three other men used the ropes to pull the post upright and slide it into the hole. As the lamppost swung upright, it narrowly missed a nearby birdhouse perched on a tall metal post. This caused a lot of gasping from the women, as the birdhouse would surely have shattered the lamp.The men packed dirt in around the base of the post and then needed to remove some duct tape which secured something (electrical tubing?) up the post. Rainman, being the tallest, couldn't reach it so he had the smallest man - Glen - climb up and stand on his shoulders. Then Rainman stood to his full height with Glen standing at HIS full height (and wobbling precariously) on Rainman's shoulders. I don't think I've ever longed for my camera as much as I did at that moment.I observed all this - the raising of the lamppost and Rainman's macho actions - and I saw more than just a bunch of snowmobile buddies doing an odd job. I saw the older men trying to demonstrate they were still tough and able. I saw the younger man trying to show he was a force to be reckoned with. And I saw the male species trying to impress the female species. And despite my analytical observations, I could not help but be impressed by the sight of Rainman standing there bearing the full weight of another man on his shoulders. Embarrassed by my own innately female reaction, I tried to laugh it off and tease them, telling Glen he should have worn cleats for better traction on Rainman's shoulders.The rest of the evening was a lot more mellow. We cooked burgers, hot dogs and brats on the grill and had the usual BBQ/picnic foods and sat around the bonfire. The sun set (another moment that had me wishing I'd brought my camera) and the air grew cooler. Surprisingly, the gnats departed and no mosquitoes replaced them.But as conversation returned to snowmobiling, I grew weary. I just sat quietly gazing at the fire and wishing I were at home in bed. Rainman seemed to instinctively sense it was time to go - I didn't have to look at my watch, give him pointed looks or tug on my earlobe.It was a nice evening and I didn't wear my iPod once.