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Mar 6, 2010

Wanted: Real Men

...but only occasionally and in small doses

Every see one of your normally docile household pets really cut loose and act according to their original, non-domesticated, God given nature? It can be a thing of beauty when it happens, but our reactions to it may reveal something about our nature too.

When I was a teenager, living at home with my family, we once found a little white mouse in my brother’s bedroom. We corralled the mouse into my brother’s closet where it hid until I came up with a brilliant idea. Let’s get the cat!

I grabbed our normally wimpy, lazy house cat and put him in front of the closet door. He immediately perked up and alerted, obviously able to smell the invading rodent even before he could see it. The cat started scratching at the door, his tail flicking back and forth, ears up, eyes staring at the crack under the door, alternately meowing and growling as I teased at opening the door.

At first, I honestly thought this was just good, safe fun at the cat’s expense. I’ve never really liked cats, mostly because they’re not dogs. I fully expected the mouse to run away to another safe corner and our silly, domesticated house cat, foolishly pretending to be a lion, would be embarrassed and frustrated in his failed attempt to catch a little mouse. I was wrong.

As soon as I cracked open the closet door, the mouse ran out, straight towards the waiting cat. What I saw next was truly awe inspiring, if not unexpected. Quicker than I could believe, our cat swatted at the mouse, knocking the bewildered rodent from one paw, to the opposite paw, and then into his open mouth! Bam, bam, munch, as quick as that.

For at least three or four ignaseconds, we all stared at the cat, not knowing what to do next. The cat didn’t eat the mouse, but he had it fully in his mouth, except the long mouse tail coming out the side. Then the cat looked up at me, I swear, with pride and a sense of accomplishment in his eyes. He had captured the invader and he had done so with nothing more (or less) than his natural tools and abilities. Even my mom having him declawed so he didn’t scratch her furniture didn’t stop him from doing what he was made to do.

While I was marveling at our brave feline, and considering the new found respect I now had for him, my mom and sister started screaming at me and my dad to save the mouse and not let the cat eat him. My dad, ever the efficient engineer, quickly calculated that the best way to get the mouse out of the house was simply to transport him in the container he currently found himself in. So he picked up the cat, with the mouse still safely within his clenched jaws, and ran them both out the back door to the yard. Outside, I pried the cat’s mouth open and the unharmed, but no doubt terrified and confused mouse, ran out and into the safety of the nearby bushes.

The cat then looked up at me again, but this time with rejection and disappointment all over his furry face. Without speaking, I heard him say, “Hey, what was that all about? I thought I just saved the family. Why didn’t you let me finish the job?”

I couldn’t make the poor cat feel any better about what had just happened. After all, how can a house cat understand how cute women and girls find little white mice and how much domesticated fathers and sons do what they’re told? But for me, I always looked at that cat in a new light. For at least one brief moment in his life, I had witnessed what he was truly capable of. I saw a glimpse of his true, God given nature and ability. And I was impressed.

We men are like that cat too. We have abilities and instincts that make us able to do what we were created to do. We can be brave, we can be bold, we can control our emotions when we need to, and we instinctively jump into action when we need to provide for, defend, or protect our families. When we act within that nature, it can also be impressive to witness. But like our domesticated cats, we’re often constrained and controlled too for the sake of fitting in, being nice, and not scaring anyone. We’re taught to repress our nature and our abilities as protectors, defenders, and warriors. At least until we’re really needed.

One in a while, men are called (and allowed) to act like men. Let’s face it, even the most ardent feminist would probably like a big strong man by her side when she’s walking down a dark deserted sidewalk at night. Most wives sleep better when their husbands are home and trust that he’ll go investigate that strange noise she heard downstairs at 3 AM. And most children feel safe in their daddy’s arms, no matter how big or small those arms may be.

But usually, like my brave house cat, we’re kept in check and told to behave and play nice. Acting like real men can be scary, offensive, or even disgusting to some people. We might be called to catch the invading mouse, but we’re smacked in the head if we try to eat it.

1 comment:

  1. I'm not a dude and I totally agree. I think because we non-male types are generally used to seeing the "controlled" version of men when the instinct kicks in we aren't quite sure how to feel or how to respond (confused, scared, proud), unless of course, as you said he has just defended or protected us with that instinct. Sorry for adding one more reason not to understand us women. If it's any consolation I don't think we understand ourselves half the time either.