To the Neighbor With the Loud Mustang

A long rant about masculinity.

Sorry Mr. Rogers, but it is not a wonderful day in the neighborhood.

It certainly could have been. The siege of dreary, gray Pittsburgh days has temporarily ended, gifting us instead with a moderately warm and bright one, a day that, this time of year, is as scarce as hen’s teeth.

I opened the blinds, even cracked the window a little bit, letting the cool spring air flow into my apartment. I listened as the birds sang their songs, closed my eyes and pretended that I was not trapped in my home during a quarantine, but that all was calm and peaceful.

And then you started up your fucking Mustang.

Let’s clarify one thing. I don’t hate Mustangs. I’m not a “car guy,” but I know enough to say that yeah, sure a Mustang is a good car. So, no I’m not “anti-American,” I don’t hate Mustangs.

I do hate having to fit my SUV into a spot that’s too small for it because you’re too lazy to parallel park in front of your house, opting instead to park in front of mine. I hate the color of your car because bright orange doesn’t suit you — oranges are a delicious fruit, and you’re wearing a tank top in the middle of January because you’re too tough for a long-sleeve. I hate the way you wear sunglasses on the back of your head because taking them off is, I guess, too much of a burden.

And I fucking hate that your car sounds like a bomb detonating when you stick your key in the ignition.

You know, there are some guys who become heavily invested in their cars. It’s kind of typical guy behavior, right? I don’t necessarily understand it, where this idea being masculine — of being A MAN — because you’ve got a swanked-out American-made car came from. I mean, seriously, who gives a fuck?

I blame, partly, the Fast & Furious franchise for making street races so damn fun to watch, but let’s be honest, how many guys in the Pittsburgh area are out racing on the streets in the middle of the night, let alone taking down organized crime syndicates like the later Fast & Furious movies would have us believe?

Now sure, if you’ve got this vintage thing, some old ’50s era Drophead maybe, and you’ve souped it up inside to compare with modern driving standards, I might toss your car a look on the street. Old cars have this cool, retro thing going on.

But your orange, 2015 Mustang doesn’t impress me. I’m certainly not impressed that when you hit 15mph in the distance between your house and the stop sign at the end of the street that your car sounds like it did the vehicular equivalent of an asthmatic kid running a half-marathon.

I’ve watched you go into a silent rage every time a bird shits on your windshield. I’ve heard you get into monstrous screaming matches with your girlfriend. Your private disputes ring out over the neighborhood louder than your car’s engine. The intimate details of your life are public goods being traded amongst your neighbors like milk and eggs.

Maybe I’m giving your car a bad rap. After all, it didn’t ask to be made. But you still bought it, and it says a lot about you. You’re boisterous, brash, and unpleasant — a constant disturbance in an otherwise quiet neighborhood. While everyone is trapped inside quarantined from leaving our homes, the only certainty is that, every morning while I’m trying to sleep, the heavy metal concert that is your car’s motor will erupt into a cacophony of pure American muscle and zoom down the street.

Maybe instead of focusing all this time and effort into keeping your car pristine, you might invoke some therapeutic advice and calm the fuck down.

A friend of mine works part-time as a boxing coach here in Pittsburgh. His coach, the gym’s owner, is a real man’s man. He “doesn’t get sad.” The only two emotions he’ll ever show are anger and joy. If he’s feeling sad, he says, he’ll convert that into anger until it goes away.

Sounds healthy, right?

I always found the idea that “men don’t get sad” to be incredibly interesting, albeit nonsensical. I mean, really, where did this idea even get started? Who along the way decided that the only negative emotion men can feel is anger?

I’m not here to answer that question. I’m sure it’s long and involved and deeply rooted in a fundamental issue of patriarchal society and, frankly, I’m not equipped to discuss that. I just want to point out the idiocy of the statement, “I don’t get sad.” Yes, you do.

It’s not exact, and there are a few sources that say we might have only four or five basic emotions, but a common thought seems to be that we have six basic emotions. They are fear, surprise, disgust, happiness, anger and, you guessed it, sadness. To say that you’re only ever angry or happy lumps quite a few other negative emotions under the umbrella of “anger.”

As a matter of fact, the only positive emotion in that whole list is happiness. So, are you telling me that any time you’re disgusted, it comes out as anger? Any time you’re surprised, you’re angry? Any time you’re afraid? All of it just simply… manifest as anger?

I find it less hard to believe that somebody is angry all the time than I do that they’re horrible at coping with their emotions. If you’re just burying your feelings because you’re too afraid to face them and lashing out, how is that “manly?” If men only ever feel anger, then isn’t being afraid of your emotions, inherently, not “manly” behavior?

It’s just bizarre that, of all the stupid ideas we’ve latched onto, the one that seems to so strongly still permeate our culture is this incredibly flawed vision of masculinity.

If the idea of masculinity really stems from the belief that men, from the beginnings of human civilization, were hunters and providers, that we are meant to lead our households and care for our families, then why the hell are we so angry all the time?

Anger, in my opinion, shows a lack of self-control. It’s a feeling that fades away so quickly when we simply stop and take a breath. Men have spent the entirety of human history striving to maintain control, afraid that women are suddenly going to rise up against us with axes and pitchforks and burn our patriarchal society to the ground — and fuck, maybe they should! Some of them have (‘sup, Carry Nation?).

But really, guys, that’s not what anyone wants. Is it so much to ask that we all just be treated equally?

Some men are just so pathetically afraid that if women “take over,” they’re going to lose everything they have, as if any sane person believes that removing rights is a step forward (GOP, you listening?).

So instead, we create all of these weird, stupid competitions in dialogue that have no basis. We say things like “men are better chefs than women” on cooking shows because men have to be better? Let’s think logically here — I know guys, it’s tough — but how can these two statements both be true? 1) Men are better chefs than women, and 2) Women belong in the kitchen.

You all know that joke, I’m sure — the “go make me a sandwich” kinds of jokes? If “men are better chefs,” then why aren’t you making your own damn sandwich? Surely you’d do a better job, no?

You see what I’m saying though, right? It’s all contradictory and incongruous because it is so obviously not true. Men can’t latch onto any legitimate proof that we’re better than women, so we have to make up lies and weird competitions to keep ourselves on top —

And speaking of men being on top, did you ever notice how boring the missionary position is? Sure, I want my wife to be kinky but damn it, I don’t want her to make more money than me!

I think what I’m really trying to get at is that, from what I can tell, masculinity is nothing more than a societal reaction to fear. Men are afraid that they’ll lose their status, or that other men will view them as “betas” — and the fact that I’m even able to use that term signifies the larger problem. We’re so obsessed with “Alpha Male” status that we do strange things to show that we’ve, by no official definition, obtained it.

We post videos of how much we can lift, we mock guys in big trucks for “compensating for something,” we hit each other in the balls as teenagers, we refuse to groom ourselves because apparently the idea of a comb is too feminine.

We buy orange Mustangs and wake the whole damn neighborhood up at 6am.

The staples of masculinity have failed society, and maybe this “Alpha Male” thing is really more of an… older generation problem, but it’s such a horribly toxic mentality that I can’t seem to get over. I’m flabbergasted when other men tell me “what makes a man,” as if we were one-dimensional AI to be adjusted and created in a simluator.

So dude, I don’t care about your orange Mustang. It doesn’t make you a “badass,” and it most certainly doesn’t make me respect you. It makes you a nuisance, a pain in the ass masquerading with false machismo and clangorous behavior, too afraid to confront your fears head on and admit that maybe, just maybe, you’re horribly insecure and can’t say it.

There’s nothing badass about that.

Writer, musician, rock climber, and human trying his best. Get in touch: www.austinharveywrites.com

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