THE OTHER DAY, a bat flew into a house. It was not an ordinary bat, but instead a big, ugly, mean bat that found its way to the bathroom and hung, upside down, over the toilet bowl.
It was not an ordinary house, either. It was, in fact, my house and because it was my house and because I am what is known as the man of the house, it was my job, nay my manly duty, to rid my house of that mean, ugly, reputedly blood-sucking not to mention soul-threatening bat. I did what I had to do.
But i did not do it without hesitation, without saying "Why me?" and without being told the answer -- because I'm a man, although being a man does not change the fact that I am afraid of bats. I am also afraid of rats, snakes, sharks and string rays, but only bats thus far have hung upside down over my toilet bowl. Knock on wood.
I went for the broom. I also went for a cap and a light jacket, knowing full well that the stories about bats clinging to your hair are not true but thinking, (logically, you will agree) that a cap could not hurt. Or a jacket. tThus armed and protected, I quickly opened the door and threw a pillow at the at the thing. It did't move.
That old feeling came over me. It was the same feeling I experienced when I am dispatched down the stairs in the middle of the night to see what made a noise and it is pretty much the same feeling I had years ago when I felt obliged to fight to the death some guy who called the girl I was with something like "tootsie." The feeling can be summed up in one word -- trapped.
It is about how I would have felt had I been a passenger on the Titanic and someone had yelled "Women and children first." I would have wanted to yell "Why?" but I doubt that I would have had the nerve to do that. Instead, I would have stood stoically on the deck and gone down with the ship like a dumbbell. I'll tell you this: I would have been mad as hell about it. l
All men, I think, have had that feeling of being trapped in some male role we want nothing to do with. Sometimes it is as trivial a matter as carving the turkey or arguing with the head waiter of having to pretend that you know something about cars when dealing with te service manager -- "Oh, it's the manifold, is it?"
But sometimes the trap is a vicious one. There are lots of men, after all, who would prefer to be something other than the stereotypical male. Maybe they don't give a hoot about careers or money or, say, competitive sports. Some of them would rather that the women in their lives initiated the dates, or at least some of them, and shared the expense of them and maybe -- just maybe -- initiated the sex also.
What these men are after is the freedom to be what they want to be and still be men. This is something that more and more women are getting to do. All kinds of things that once stigmatized women as either tomboys or weirdos are now routinely done by women with no repercussions at all. Women repair cars and shimmy up telephone poles and jump from airplanes in the Army. Men, though, do not by and large become secretaries or housekeepers or even the male equivalent of housewives -- househusbands.
Men, appear to be more hung up, more afraid to abandon the old roles for fear that they will somehow also be abandoning their masculinity. It's as if being a man is not what you are, but what you do and the way you do it.
Anyway, it had only been a couple of days since I talked with a representative of a male liberation group and I thought about him as I stalked the fierce and frightening bat. I wondered what would have happened if I had simply told my wife that I wasn't going to mess with the thing -- that she could, or call someone in the morning -- Marlin Perkins for all I care.
But I couldn't do it. I patted my cap and zipped up my jacket and went into the bathroom to do battle with the bat. I slowly opened the window and then closed the toilet bowl cover. I checked the place over and then, slowly, I lifted the broom over my head and sort of swept the thing out the window. Just like that, it was gone.
I closed the windows. I looked around the room and then opened the door. My wife was thrilled. A house guest was awed and in the morning my son was just plain ga-ga. They asked me how I had gotten rid of the bat. I started to tell them but then stopped.
A man doesn't talk of such things.