I love men. No, not like that (well … maybe a little). I love men because they’re rough, tough, practical, logical and don’t mind taking out the garbage.

I love how men are sensible and no nonsense, the way their minds churn out useful, obvious solutions to problems that baffle me, the way they operate by logic rather than emotion. I love the way they stay calm and focused under situations that send me into a chicken-running-around panic.

I love their protective instinct. Yes, men can be aggressive and violent, but there is also a time and place for that, too. If a burglar is in my house, I would rather have my husband aggressively defending me than cowering behind the sofa (as I would be doing).

I grew up like a lot of us grew up – cities, suburbs, some rural lite. The men around me were your typical men. They worked hard; they played hard. They were dedicated family men devoted to their wives and children. They were sensitive. They appreciated art and music, wine and dancing. I believe the current term is “metrosexual.”

Then five years ago, we moved to Idaho and fell face-first into a cliché. Unless you’re in an urban enclave, Idaho doesn’t have metrosexuals. It has “retrosexuals” in vast and unapologetic numbers.
A “retrosexual,” in case you haven’t heard, is a real man, a man’s man, not some wimpy citified wuss (ahem). And here in rural Idaho, I quickly learned that a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. Yes, this can include belching, breaking wind and scratching his privates, but more often it’s a regression back to startlingly old-fashioned un-PC ways.

Out here men hunt, fish, build houses, ride horses, swig beer, say “ain’t,” drive trucks, fix tractors and wear a lot of plaid flannel shirts (sometimes even with suspenders). They don’t concern themselves with fashion unless it involves camouflage.

Men are respected by the firmness of their handshake, the value of their word and their willingness to help. In accordance with the Retrosexual Code, these men spend a lot of their time “dealing with it.” (Makes life much simpler for women, believe me.) And in a place of low-paying jobs, dicey weather and rugged terrain, men have to “deal with things” a lot.

In the past five years, I’ve only met one man who slid beyond retrosexual into boor. This man cursed fluently in the presence of women and children, boasted to prop up his bloated ego and flagrantly vocalized on the inferiority of women and minorities. I wasn’t the only one edging away from him during a neighborhood get-together. And it was a real man who told him to shut up or get out. (He got out.)

So how do I deal with the testosterone oozing out of the pores of all our local retrosexuals?

I revel in it, that’s what I do. Men tip their hats to me, open doors, offer me seats and sometimes even stand up when I enter a room – all because I have one more X chromosome than they do. Fabulous!

I like feeling like a woman. I like the fact that I can lift 50-pound sacks of feed and 70-pound hay bales with the best of ’em, and then have someone offer me his seat as if I were a delicate hothouse flower unable to stand on my own.

When men come to visit us, I perform the womanly task of making coffee and serving it around. What do I get in exchange for this traditional duty? Respect. Manners. Protection when the need arises. A willingness to help. If my husband is out of town and I am faced with a problem beyond my abilities, it merely takes one phone call to any of our neighbors, and a man will be here in a moment to do something heavy, dirty or complicated.

Some women who are offended by such flagrant masculinity might ask whether I object to all this testosterone. How can I tolerate living in a society where women are praised for assuming traditional roles? As a highly-educated woman, shouldn’t I find this offensive?

Heck no. It’s not that our men object to women working; it’s more that they respect a woman who takes on the home as her primary job. I’m too confident in myself to be offended by this. I am no one’s intellectual inferior, but I freely grant there are things I can’t do or know nothing about. What’s wrong with admitting that?

I’m not threatened by men being men. If a group of guys are standing around talking, I view them as “bonding.” Women need girl time, don’t they? Well, men need guy time – all-male conversations or activities without women. Humans are social creatures, and we need the relaxation of being with our own gender. Shrug.

And why would I object to our retrosexual men offering me more respect than I probably deserve simply on the basis of my gender? Why would I object to people who can solve a problem that stumps me? Men unrelated to me by birth or marriage are still willing to protect and defend me simply on the basis that I’m female. How cool is that?

Here in Retroville, women live in the best of all worlds. We get respect in the workplace, esteem for our intelligence and admiration for our abilities. We also get chivalry, protection and manners. We celebrate the differences. We know men are civilized by women, and women are protected by men. We are not and never will be a unisex society – that’s not the way it’s supposed to be.

Yes of course there are jerky men out there (jerky women too, for that matter). But my point is that men’s strengths are women’s weaknesses, and women’s strengths are men’s weaknesses. And so it goes: Men and women complement and balance each other.

Viva la difference!

Stay Tuned for next week’s Part II: Ode to the Men in my Life.

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