I happen to be married to a Manly Man, which I’m coming to appreciate more and more now that the Manly Man is slowly becoming extinct in our society.
The Manly Man, once revered in westerns and pioneer sagas, now is more likely to be connected to inane TV sitcoms featuring beer-drinking rednecks. These days, America likes its men soft-spoken and fully shaven, with artfully mussed hairdos and a minor in Women’s Studies. That sounds nice and and all… but does it do the yard work?
I married my Manly Man with the basic understanding that I was responsible for the inside of the house and he was responsible for the outside. My Manly Man does heavy lifting, kills large and scary bugs, disposes of any small creatures that happen to (*shudder*) die in our yard, and takes care of car maintenance and repairs. He changes lightbulbs in hard-to-reach places, mows lawns, rakes leaves, and pressure washes. And as an added bonus, my Manly Man is a fantastic bodyguard. On the rare occasions that we find ourselves walking on a lonely sidewalk late at night, I never feel frightened. I know for a fact that he’d fight to the death to protect me.
My Manly Man, you see, isn’t afraid of anything.
That’s not entirely true.
There is one small thing that really seems to bother him. It’s so small, in fact, that you’ve probably never even seen it yourself– and neither has he.
It is the brown recluse spider.
And as far as he’s concerned, anything in our house with eight legs is likely to be one.
“CAREFUL,” he’ll say as I reach with a paper towel to smash a small brown spider that’s spun a web in the corner of our kitchen. “Let me get a closer look at that thing.” He walks over and peers at it for a long time. “Hmmm,” he says. “I’m not sure, but maybe, this might possibly be…. A BROWN RECL– USE.” Cue dramatic swell of music.
“You’d better let me kill it,” he says, manfully.
“Okay, fine,” I say, backing away from the web and handing him the towel.
Painstakingly, he lines up the paper towel just so… and then SMASH! The spider is decidedly dead. He walks quickly to the trashcan and deposits it inside, before its POTENTIALLY DEADLY VENOM can make its way through the paper towel’s fibers and EAT AWAY HIS SKIN. As he closes the lid, I bat my eyelashes appreciatively and try to approximate a simper.
“Oh thank you,” I say in my best Southern accent. “You sah-ved me from that deadly spi-duh!”
Hubs’s shoulders straighten noticeably. “It was nothing,” he says gruffly.
Even worse was the time I asked him to move the sofa in the den out from the wall so that I could vacuum beneath it. Behind the sofa were a few dusty strands of spiderwebs.
“Will you look at that?” he said breathlessly. “BROWN RECL– USE SPIDERWEBS. Unbelievable! I knew we had brown recluses in this house!”
“How do you know they’re brown recluse webs?” I asked.
“Because that’s exactly where brown recluses like to hide!” he said. “Behind sofas! And underneath them! In fact, you are all forbidden now to reach under the sofa to get out toys. It’s just too dangerous.”
“Okay, honey,” I agreed in the same soothing voice I imagine nurses use in the psychiatric ward. “You’re right. From now on, I will call Critter Control the next time a toy ends up underneath our sofa.”
I think it’s normal to have some fear of brown recluses here in Tennessee. They are everywhere, the stories about what their venom can do to a person (just a tip: DO NOT GOOGLE IMAGES OF BROWN RECL– USE BITES) are pretty awful and chances are we really do have a few in and around our home.
But from what I’ve read (and I’ve read a lot, actually, because you know, the fear. IT SPREADS.), brown recluses are very shy and retiring. They don’t like to hang out in heavily-trafficked areas. So while I completely understand his concern when cleaning out our seldom-used garage closet, I’m thinking his microscopic examination of EVERY SINGLE SPIDER THAT HAPPENS TO MAKE ITS UNFORTUNATE WAY INTO OUR HO– USE is maybe a teensy tiny…
But don’t try to tell him that.
“You won’t believe this,” Hubs said several mornings ago as he came into the kitchen. “Just look at my nose. I think I may have been bitten by a BROWN RECL– USE while I was sleeping!”
I turned away from where I was making coffee at the counter and peered at a small spot of redness on the tip of his nose. If you looked very, very closely, you could see twin red dots, each the size of the point of a straight pin.
“I think it’s just a normal spider bite,” I said. “Spider on your face. EW.”
“I hope it was just a normal spider,” Hubs said darkly. “But there’s a good chance it was a BROWN RECL– USE.”
“Well, I guess we’ll find out at the end of the day, when your nose is either eaten away by spider venom… or it isn’t,” I said airily. For a moment, Hubs looked as if he were about to weep. But then he shook it off.
Because he is a Manly Man. And Manly Men aren’t afraid of anything.
This post was originally published in 2011 — I came across it in Facebook memories and had to repost, because it’s ALL STILL TRUE. Every word! I’d love to know what silly things the manly men in your lives are afraid of, because I suspect they all have a weakness.
Header image via Flickr/Creative Commons.