What is it about a cold snap that brings out the caveman / handyman / knight-in-shining-armor in so many men today? We can lead our mostly dreary lives teaching coeds or pumping gas or insuring the needy but will gladly put down our virtual shovel and rush to the ramparts when our Castle is threatened by Old Man Winter. (Note: Mother Nature brings us springtime flowers and hay fever. Old Man Winter is our nemesis currently.) How many men do you know who have taken some extraordinary precaution in the face of this week’s cold? Just about everyone I know. What about the women…. anything? I’m about to lay out another classic difference in the sexes…
When a woman sees news reports of bitter cold on the horizon, her gut, natural reaction is to add socks to still warm feet and turn UP the thermostat. Lay in some red wine, review the HGTV schedule and prepare to ride this unfortunate interruption of her daily life to its end. Don’t get me wrong, most women know that it will cost more to stay cozy in a cold snap due to gas and electric spikes, but the minor financial disruption is easily offset by a few postponed mani-pedi runs. To a woman, the cold attack is a reason to show off Christmas boots and possibly go buy a new heavy coat. Something she’s wanted since the catalogues started arriving in October, but could not justify in our typically mild Georgia winters. But now…..
Men… we respond differently. The beast from the great north is assaulting our very homes and if left unattended will result in capitulation and….. a frozen pipe. I was at the Home Depot when the farmer in overalls chose the last remaining space heater last weekend even though it was the most expensive the store carried. He would have preferred the cheap one, but the battle was set and he’d use whatever weapons were available. Men turn the thermostat DOWN knowing that sleeping cold and adding a cord or two to the fireplace is the minimal suffering required to acknowledge the fight and meet his assailant on his own terms. “You may make me freeze you Old Canadian Bastard, but I’ll freeze by my own hand, dammit”. A current hero of mine is the father of a friend who travelled to his North Georgia cabin to face the cold assault on his pipes by building a big fire in the wood stove and sleeping up close. I don’t know about the conversation with his wife as he told her he was headed north to meet the enemy on neutral turf, but I suspect she did not offer to come along.
Personally, I worked half a day wiring heaters into the pump house and setting outdoor faucets to drip. Like the medieval watchman preparing the boiling oil for the menace at the castle door, a good fight took preparation and this was man’s work. Real man’s work. The thermostat was watched like a pretty blonde in the garden. If the temperature dared to reach a temperature close to some comfort level, we’d turn it down a bit more to assure discomfort. If there is a scorecard for this battle it’s the next gas bill…. Keeping it in the affordability range after a few long days of suffering proves that the beast has been bested. We will not surrender our pride nor wallet to some natural phenomenon!
Is there some hard-wired natural longing to prove our worth as men? Creature comforts have made our lives rather unexciting for the most part and with the exception of an uncommon hurricane or high water flood (tornados are too random) we are rarely called upon to show our Homestead Hero side. Men hunt, gather, protect and provide. Women nourish and look pretty. Sometimes it takes a damn good cold spell to remind us of our place.