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OK, so maybe I'm not the manliest guy around

I'm probably not what you'd call a man's man, although I can smell like one if I really work at it. Don't get me wrong, I have enough hair on my belly to knit a nice winter hat -- well, OK, maybe 'nice' wasn't the optimal word choice there -- and I can swill beer and talk about dames with the best of 'em, it's just that, when it comes to certain masculine skills, I am, shall we say, completely useless.

Well, thanks for rounding the edges off that sharp knife, am I right?

No, really, I'm quite inept when it comes to the finer arts of manly tasks like plumbing, or drywalling, or jack-hammering (I haven't actually attempted that last one, but just by looking at my flaccid biceps in the mirror, I'm assuming the thing would rattle me into a bowl of human Jello within five minutes). It's not that I wasn't exposed to such things as a child, I was, it's just that every time a chance to grasp some virile skill came along, I was chasing after a pretty butterfly in the hay field, or tearing up to a sad song on the radio. A softy, I suppose you'd say I am.

Yeah, you would. You always thought I was a piston short of a full eight cylinders.

For the record, my birth certificate says I'm of the male gender, but nowhere on that yellowed piece of paper from 1963 does it mention anything about the need to master masculine proclivities. I can be a man, yes, without knowing how to square up a piece of lumber, and real men are allowed to can their own veggies and do their own laundry (I use Downy on my delicates) and maybe even treat themselves to some ice cream when they're blue. Yeah, well, I eat mine straight out of the pail with my fingers, but you get the picture.

What I'm saying here is that I realize I'm not the most rugged beast on the planet, but I'm comfortable with the degree of manhood to which I've developed. While you won't find me blacksmithing any swords from raw iron anytime soon, you might find me in the library romance novel section, or with a set of phones over my ears while listening to my 1980s Air Supply jam, and I'm just fine with that.

That said, every now and then it's kinda nice to spill a little testosterone all over the place.

So I had my chance on Sunday, when my mother called. She asked for my son, not me, mind you, but when she explained that she had a flat tire and needed someone to come over and change it, I rather curtly blurted, 'Well, I can do it.'

So this is the same mother, by the way, who watched me make flowers out of bubbles when I took my childhood baths, so I must excuse her for assuming this simple mechanical skill would be beyond my skillset. But, seeing this opportunity to not only boost my internal man-ego, and perhaps even sweat while doing it, I put on my dirty jeans and headed over to Mommy's. Well, sure, I finished painting my toenails first. I'm not an animal.

Arriving at the scene, I intuitively corroborated my mother's diagnosis that this rear driver's side tire was airless, empty, void, depleted, indeed, flatter than Joe Biden's stump speech on immigration. I scratched my chin a bit, cracked my knuckles and stretched my back, and said, 'Stand back, woman. I've got this.'

Oh, come on. You know I didn't. I'm trying to build some drama, alright?

You probably couldn't tell by lookin' at em, but these dove-soft hands of mine have changed a few Michelins in their day. I went straight to the trunk (that's where I usually haul my batting material on the way to the quilt show) and extricated the spare tire and the car jack assembly, and kneeled down beside the car to begin. Well, yeah, it did kinda hurt. Left knee's been bothering me since the yoga incident. That lotus thing is tougher than it looks.

I popped off the hubcap with a quick snap of my wrist, making sure the strength of my guttural grunt matched the degree of exertion. Next I addressed the lug nuts (Good day, sirs, well, I'm fine thank you), placing the hex-head of the wrench firmly over one of the five nutheads. I stooped, braced, flexed, inhaled and then twisted mightily, but the only thing that broke loose were my lumbar ligaments from my spinal column. I realized right there that such things don't happen while I'm crocheting.

But I needed this, this testosterone test, so I attacked the other four lugnuts with vigor. One by one they surrendered to my might (yeah, I almost laughed myself when I typed that one), and there I was, back to the stubborn one. 'It's me or you' I said, as I thought about how it would sound if I had to call my son to say, 'I'm too weak' to get the job done. He'd accept it, I knew, he'd come to help, but deep down he'd be thinkin', 'Cripes, I knew this was gonna happen ever since he cried while reading me 'The Pokey Little Puppy.'' Oh, girl, that was such an emotional day. Man or not, this was my moment, my chance to prove once and for all, that even if I don't know what a turbocharger does or the difference between NASCAR and Formula 1 (I mean, they all go 'round in circles, right?) I could establish my man-ego right here. I positioned myself, right knee down, left leg bent in an aggressive crouch, lug wrench squeezed strongly in a whiteknuckle grip. I lurched ...

Somewhere in the distance, a lone calf bellered, looking for its mother, no doubt. A slight August breath of air wiggled the box elder leaves, one yellowed child falling from its life-giving branch to rest upon the verdant grass. And the lug nut let go its grip.

By now, my mother had retreated to her house -- so as not to giggle where I could see her, I'm guessing -- so I was alone to savor the second. The muscles in my forearms tingled, the manly exertion they had just experienced forever pulsing now in their cells. Either that, or I had strained them while trimming my eyelashes earlier, I wasn't sure now, but I had a job to finish.

Up I jacked the car, off I took the spent rubber, on I placed the replacement doughnut, tight I made the lugnuts again. When finished, I sniffed the wind. Man scent. Mine. Or else the neighbor was cleaning barn again. Kinda hard to tell.

It isn't every day I complete a man's man's task, and that night, I slept well. I'm sure the chamomile tea with lavender leaves helped, but c'mon, can't you gimme just this one?