I picked up the Wall Street Journal article “Death of the Playboy” and learned that this author, Steve Garbarino was bemoaning their disappearance. The independently wealthy, smooth, womanizing playboys of yesteryear can be seen with topless models playing chess, in sports cars or lounging after a polo match. The article opens with the death of Gunter Sachs (I mean, come on, his name alone is peerless) the German-born millionaire who took his life at age 78. He was believed to have Alzheimer’s. Garbarino points to the way playboys, despite their many sins, had this “élan, taste, discretion and general bonhomie.”
These men were ladies’s men and men’s men, which makes me wonder . . .
What is a man’s man?
Do you know?
Determined? Type A? Leader? Decision maker? Intelligent? Athletic? Smooth? Winning? Fast? Vision-setting? Provider? Protector? Full head of hair? (List adapted from B. Burbach’s, a true “man’s man” and his off-the-cuff definition of masculinity. Thanks, Mr. Burbach!)
Last Friday (as in five days ago) my husband sank to the floor after his first cross-fit training. At first I felt embarrassed as the larger, bigger men looked at him with anything but pity.
Gyms are seductive that way, they give you a place to prove you’ve got something, that your body will move and sweat and perform as you want it to. Gyms give you measurable progress and they let you strut your progress out in front of men and women. And they permit, nay encourage, clothing to show your stuff.
Gyms can make me feel more like a woman, with my tight workout tops and every pull on the rowing machine.
Who is watching?
Well, plenty now as I breathe heavily from my final run. But they’re not watching me. They’re watching my husband.
I sat down, waiting for Dale to get up.
But when he failed to get up after 30 minutes, when his skin lost all it’s color and his legs and arms gleamed with sweat, I realized. His blood pressure was dropping, his body was going into shock.
Dale was facing another vasovagal episode.
When he asked for oxygen, 9-1-1 had to be called. His pulse felt irregular so he left the gym on a stretcher in an ambulance headed for ER. After an EKG, a chest X-ray, and a quart of saline he was given a clean bill of health and a heap of bills we’ll be facing in the coming months.
We left the hospital with less than 30 minutes before our speaking engagement, where Dale was expected to speak alongside me.
After rest, PB and J and a shower, Dale slowly pulled on his suit. We left together and he spoke full of clarity, warmth and power.
He shared the story of our ER stop with the audience of 300.
He exposed his weakness.
I saw his strength.
My husband is not a playboy. He doesn’t have that smooth je ne sais quoi.
And I’m not sure I want him to. I mean some try to prove their masculinity by being the playboy in their sphere, dragging the beautifully sacred moments of sexual intimacy into the harsh light of public scrutiny. Christian men might brag about what stallions they are in bed with their wives. Single men might brag about what girl they got last weekend. Playboys, WSJ explained, were always discreet.
They were also James Bond-y.
Okay, that’s hot . . . but . . .
for how long?
Not how long will they be hot, but how long will I only want that kind of hotness?
Playboys don’t make good husbands or even friends. They certainly couldn’t co-parent and co-speak and co-write and co-lead a non-profit.
But, hey they look so good they don’t have to. They look so good that they don’t have to work a day in their lives (something Gunter Sachs bragged) and that means they don’t have to know how to cultivate a soul to face the depth and tragedy of Alzheimer’s.
I will notice the playboys, but I will park on the men who know how to face their own weakness without shooting it in the head. These are the men I will befriend, they are also the men I will honor.
Which brings me back to . . . Dale.
And you know what? I lied, my husband does have that je ne sais quoi, in certain lights, but I’ll not drag that into the limelight of this blog.
He does have something I can talk about here, it’s called fortitude.
He lives authentic courage from the floor of the Health and Rec weight room to the gurneys in our hospital to the podiums around this country.
Even without strength, he can look me in the eye and reflect strength back into me. He was the first man who helped me realize how strong I was. He can share the stage, literally, with a woman.