Real Man Adventures

BOOK: Real Man Adventures
7.33Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub








Copyright © 2012 T Cooper

Cover design by Brian McMullen.
Art from
American Manhood
magazine, June 1953.

All rights reserved, including right of reproduction in whole or part in any form.

McSweeney’s and colophon are registered trademarks of McSweeney’s, a privately held company with wildly fluctuating resources.

ISBN: 978-1-938073-52-6

For whom else but my wife




I Hope You’re Sitting Down

Not the Man They Think I Am at Home

Kick Me

The Whole of Modern History

How to Be a Man


Why They’re Called

Dream Sequence

High School: A Six-Word Memoir

The Little Surfer Girl

Gallery (A)

A Few Words About Pronouns

Ten Things People Assume I Must Understand About Women but Actually Don’t

A Brief Interview with My Wife

But What About the Children?

Truck Driver and Hooker

College: A Six-Word Memoir

Rocket Man

An Interview with a Mom

My Mother’s Fault

An Interview with a Dad

The Violence Chapter

“IT” (Part One)

“IT” (Part Two)



An Interview with My Brother

The Thin Blue Line (Interview)

My Number

Gallery (B)


The First 48

Man Club

Gender Outlaw (Conversation)

My Twenties: A Six-Word Memoir

Born in the Wrong Body

40 Successful Men

ReDICKulous (Conversation)

When I Knew


My Wife’s Job

Ten Friends’ Fears

Ten of My Fears

The Sex Chapter

99 Problems, and a Bitch Ain’t One (Another Interview)


Art Credits



       It goes a long way back, some twenty years. All my life I had been looking for something, and everywhere I turned someone tried to tell me what it was. I accepted their answers too, though they were often in contradiction and even self-contradictory. —Ralph Ellison,
Invisible Man

. By all appearances white, middle-class, heterosexual. Male.

Blessed, right? What everybody wants to be, when it comes down to it. I earn 25 percent more than women, for some unexplained
reason statisticians have never seemed to be able to make sense of on paper. I don’t get beaten and sexually assaulted, traded and married off, shrouded in black fabric or have my genitals mutilated, and I am not readily found removing my clothes for members of the opposite sex in ubiquitous venues open all hours of the day. (Okay, Chippendales, but no lady actually has fun at Chippendales or ever returns even if she has a little fun in Vegas once.) I am the perennial buyer, never the seller. And if she’s not selling, I can usually just take, one way or another. History tells me so.

If you woke up one day—or no, say you’re an embryo before it figures out whether it’s going to have a Y chromosome or not, and you can decide what you are going to be; you could go to the public library, take all the dusty books off the shelf and really get a good look at all of time and see who’s generally come out on top—what would you be?

If you were a betting zygote, and you wanted to survive, and more than survive you wanted to have, like, an in-ground pool and attached garage and maybe a little cushion of land between you and the next guy, and not get raped over and over and generally be left to do what you wish, there’s only one clear choice. You’d grab that Y chromosome. And if you couldn’t annex the actual chromosome, you’d probably find some other way to go about it.

That’s what I did!

I did it for the extra 25 percent. And the power. And the respect I command in merely walking down the sidewalk, or stating my wishes plainly.

Except that’s not entirely the case.

It turns out if you scratch off a layer I become slightly less visible: a Jew. Slough off another, and I disappear a bit more: not so
white. A large percent of people I come across actually take me for Puerto Rican, Arab, somehow brown (“swarthy,” my mother-in-law pronounced me when my then-future wife showed her a photo). If I’m in dirty dungarees and working in the yard or on the house, neighbors jogging by or walking their dogs assume I’m a day laborer. Strangers will often speak Spanish to me if not leading with “Do you speak English?” when in need of directions on the street. Or sometimes folks will address me as “my friend” (as in, Hey, my friend. I’m going to ask you this question which you look like you couldn’t possibly know the answer to, except I’m really desperate and you’re the only person here, so I might as well give it a shot and cross my fingers I’m not insulting you), which is when you really know white people believe they are talking to a nonwhite person. And nowadays I get “randomly” selected for additional screening at the airport sometimes, since I also apparently give terrorist realness.

Finally, go for that last layer, the one I put there myself without anybody’s (or nature’s) help. Yank it off quick before I notice. It hurts like shit but if you do it fast like I said, the pain doesn’t last long. And then I pretty much disappear altogether. A traitor, a spy.

       At the landing I saw a bucket full of kerosene and seized it, flinging it impulsively into a burning room. A huge puff of smoke-fringed flame filled the doorway, licking outward toward me. I ran, choking and coughing as I plunged. They did it themselves, I thought, holding my breath—planned it, organized it, applied the flame.

What I just did there was quickly fan through the pages of
Invisible Man
and randomly stick a finger down, and then typed in the paragraph my finger landed on. As random as whether a sperm cell carries an X or Y chromosome into the egg it’s fertilizing. Or is it? Because from where I sit right now, about to blast all this shit of mine into a world that’s already on fire and then spill accelerant all over it… it feels like either the smartest
or stupidest
thing I’ve ever done. I don’t believe there’s an in-between.


. p. 43: Second Vintage International Edition (Random House Inc.), 1995

. Ibid, p. 549.

. Outside of asking my wife to marry me.

. Outside of trying for three years in college to have a floppy Hugh Grant haircut with nothing but a Jew-fro to work with.


Half a Life
, I mentioned to the author Darin Strauss that I was thinking about writing about my “thing,” the way he wrote about his “thing”—the one thing that defines most of us (whether determined by others or ourselves). He wrote me this:

       As for what you write next: if you don’t want to write that, don’t. It seems wildly personal, and so if you feel uncomfortable, listen to that. This book took twenty-eight years for me to even START. But thanks for being so nice about it.

BOOK: Real Man Adventures
7.33Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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