Eric D. Snider

Male Pattern Badness

Snide Remarks #569

"Male Pattern Badness"

by Eric D. Snider

Published on January 7, 2008

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I am not particularly manly, as you know from reading my work or talking to me or seeing my picture or knowing what my name is. Cars? Sports? Camping? Hunting? No thank you. The overwhelming majority of my tentative forays into all those elements of ruggedness have ended badly.

But a few distinctly masculine traits do surface in my behavior now and then. For example, there is no artwork hanging in my apartment. There never has been, except for a period of time when I had a portrait hanging up that I'd bought at a thrift store for 50 cents solely because the man in it looked like (but wasn't) Walt Disney. I've just never seen the need to decorate. People are amazed and appalled at this, and they think my apartment feels like a prison, with its bare white walls and the constant threat of being stabbed. And while I like the idea of having some lovely artwork or decor brightening up the place, every time I'm about to buy some, I think: Shouldn't I spend this money on food? Decor just isn't practical.

So that's pretty manly, not caring what my environment looks like. Another example is the amount of time I wasted recently when they were tearing up the sidewalk and part of the street outside my apartment. They're trying to make this section of town more pedestrian-friendly and neighborhood-like by putting in nicer sidewalks and old-fashioned street lamps, in the apparent hope that this will, by itself, result in fewer murders. It was going on right outside my window, and I was endlessly fascinated by all the tractors and machines and implements, and that made me feel manly -- or, rather, like a little boy, which is pretty much the same thing. I had no interest in performing any of the labor myself, of course, but I loved watching the equipment and wondering where it comes from and who makes it. "What do you do for a living?" "Oh, I work at a factory that makes the long metal poles that construction guys use to draw the straight lines in freshly poured sidewalks."

The most fascinating piece of equipment to me was the curb machine. I'd never seen anyone make a curb before. I guess I'd never thought much about it. It turns out they put the curb in before the sidewalk, which surprised me -- real men right now are saying, "Well, duh" -- and they do it with this vehicle that drives very slowly down the street while smoothly and steadily excreting cement in the shape of a curb. It looks like the Play-Doh Fun Factory, or like the time I had food poisoning.

And then I went to my parents' house for Christmas, where my dad and my brothers are always engaging in manly behavior. My dad got an air compressor for Christmas, and he was very happy about it. I don't even know what an air compressor does. I mean, I assume it compresses air, but for what purpose? Apparently it's used for inflating tires, and other projects where a sustained, powerful blast of air is needed -- which makes it redundant, because my dad can do that himself. (BOING!)

I have told you before about crotchball, a manly (i.e., imbecilic) game that my dad and my brother Chris play. This year a new pastime was devised, and it's called: Shooting Each Other with a BB Gun.

My dad has had this BB gun for decades -- I remember it from my childhood -- and it's recently been returned to active duty as a way of keeping rabbits off the lawn in the backyard. It sits next to the sliding glass door in the kitchen, where it's handy if Dad sees unwelcome critters eating and pooping on his grass.

Somehow the handiness of the BB gun led to Chris wanting my other brother Lane to shoot him with it, just to see how bad it hurt. Now, already you will have identified this as a male trait, this desire to know how painful something is. Women are OK with not knowing. If you tell a woman something hurts, she'll take your word for it. She does not need to quantify it.

So Chris stood at the edge of the backyard, about 30 feet away, and Lane shot him in the back. Chris' response was to leap around hollering while the rest of us fell into fits of hilarity. Then this conversation ensued:

CHRIS: Can I shoot you now?
LANE: No.
CHRIS: Then do you want to shoot me again?

With those being his options, Lane chose to shoot Chris again, this time hitting him in the buttocks. Well, probably just one buttock, I guess. More leaping around and hilarity followed. And as stupid as the whole thing was, I was overwhelmed by a primal male urge to find out for myself: How much does it hurt to get shot with a BB gun?

Chris was more than happy to help me find out. The rule of this new game was that the subject got to choose where on his body he wanted to be shot, and I figured my butt would offer the most padding and protection. Chris aimed and fired and a fraction of a second later I had my answer: It stings, but it's not terribly painful. I think Chris was overreacting with his jumping around. Or maybe I'm just more of a tough guy than he is. Or maybe I just have a fatter butt.

In the final round of this bit of family merriment, Chris ran back and forth against the retaining wall at the edge of the backyard, like a duck in a carnival shooting gallery, while my dad fired shot after shot at him as fast as he could. He hit him three times, which was enough to win the stuffed bear. My mom watched the whole thing, no doubt feeling especially grateful that she has daughters, too.

Stumble It!

Notes:

My occasional bursts of manliness have been addressed in this column before, notably in the 2004 entry "A Guy Old Time." In a way, the very act of writing -- expressing one's ideas and feelings -- is inherently un-manly. And yet how do you explain Ernest Hemingway, the manliest man who ever lived? We men are a mystery.

If you think about it, the effects of food poisoning are not at all similar to the sight of a curb-maker squeezing out cement. For that reason, it is best that you not think about it.

Oh, and the post-script to the BB gun story is that a few days later my mom shot Chris in the back and drew blood. That's why girls shouldn't play sports.

The picture that looked like Walt Disney but wasn't was a black-and-white photograph of Mormon church patriarch emeritus Eldred G. Smith, taken in about 1955 when he was in his late 40s. I don't have the picture anymore, but a devoted reader named Rick had, for some reason, a digital copy of it and sent it to me. That's Eldred on the left, Walt on the right.

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This item has 49 comments

  1. Phil Cardenas says:

    Great article. I laughed quite a bit in this one--especially about your apartment being like a prison. I've been accused of this one before too, by several women. I mean, like, they know what a prison is like!

    If I'm not mistaken, old Eldred Smith is still alive. I met him a few years ago when he was in California doing a fireside. He was in his 90's and as sharp as a tack. Maybe he is going to live forever...oh, wait just Wiki-ed him. He turns 101 on Wednesday. Yep, his is going to live forever.

  2. Ginger says:

    So glad I took the time to read this.

  3. Paul Norman says:

    CHRIS: Can I shoot you now?
    LANE: No.
    CHRIS: Then do you want to shoot me again?

    Eric's brother Chris probably should have tried out for one of the leads in Dumb and Dumber. A screen writer might not have considered this dialog to have been believable for that movie, though.

    Interesting note from Phil Cardenas. I have occasionally wondered what ever happened to Eldred G. Smith. I figured I had simply missed the announcement of his death. Glad to know he is still with us.

  4. Lowdogg says:

    The food poisoning line was awesome.

    Other manly activities:
    Blue Darts (can be less than optimal)
    Bottle Rocket Duels (I videotaped it once)
    Paintball (actual fun)
    The Gallon Challenge (throwing up is funny!)

  5. OMAllen says:

    Maybe Eldred goes to sleep every night in cryogenic chamber, like Walt Disney. This could also be why they look so similar. Cryo-sleep does that to people. I think I saw that on Star Trek. Or made it up. Either way, I'm adding it to wikipedia, so now its a fact.

  6. Neo says:

    "And while I like the idea of having some lovely artwork or decor brightening up the place, every time I'm about to buy some, I think: Shouldn't I spend this money on food? Decor just isn't practical."

    I'm calling the bluff: was it not you, Eric, who once spent the remainder of a furniture store credit on a decorative dog statue? With your apartment lacking other accoutrements, I suppose the statue filled the role of guard dog in the prison motif and would not be considered decor /sensu stricto/?*

    *It's rhetorical, people.

  7. Brian says:

    At a family gathering recently, my brother-in-law noticed his older brother across the street in the backyard of a neighbor's home sitting on a back-hoe digging out holes in the basement of the house for windows (talk about manly). My brother-in-law happened to have his air-soft gun with him, and so of course decided to see if he could hit his brother from that range.

    He did. Right behind the ear. His brother has sworn revenge.

  8. Christina D. says:

    I just don't understand men.... why the heck would you want to shoot each other with a BB gun? Or allow yourselves to be shot by a BB gun? It doesn't make any sense. *shakes head*

  9. Laylabean says:

    This is classic! I'm laughing so hard right now my stomach hurts! My brothers also play this game only with paintballs.

    Men are the reason AFV has been around almost 20 years. You'd never see a woman trying to ride a pogo stick up a piece of PVC pipe that's propped up on a milk crate. Or if she did, she certainly wouldn't be filming it.

  10. Carrie says:

    It's obvious, Christina. Boys are dumb.

  11. GWGumby says:

    Neo,

    That wasn't money for food that was spent on a dog, that was credit. You can spend credit on anything since it's not really money!

  12. Allester McBurton says:

    In the category of "manliest writers", George Orwell actually beats out Ernest Hemingway. You know how Hemmingway wrote a book about being in an ambulance during the Spanish Civil war? Orwell signed up for the war and was given a non functioning rifle and sent to the front lines Just So He Could Write A Book About It

  13. Kourtney says:

    Your poor mother.

    Please take a woman's advice and fight the urge to combine this new BB Gun Game with Crotchball. Instead, try playing a nice round of Not Hitting Each Other or Sitting Still and Having a Pleasant Conversation.

    For your sake, I really hope that the presence of old fashioned street lamps cuts down on neighborhood stabbings. You should try wearing a vest with a pocket watch or one of those curly waxed moustaches to really protect yourself.

  14. Andrew D says:

    One of my family members got these awesome tanks that would shock you if the other person "shot" your tank. I thought having electricity course through my hands was painful, yet rather invigorating. Is that manly or just weird?

  15. The UnMighty says:

    Sorry Eric, but wondering where construction machinery comes from does not make you manly. Just like wondering where cosmetics come from, or playing with Barbi's does not make you girly.

  16. Cameron says:

    @ The UnMighty:

    Yes, it does.

  17. Queen of Everything says:

    Laugh. Out. Loud. Awesome. I am a girl, but I have wondered what it feels like to be shot with a BB gun. I haven't ever stepped forward to try it, but I think there's gotta be first time for everything, and I think it would be like training wheels for when I get shot with a Glock at ten yards for holding up my nursing home...or something. :D

    The carnival thing puzzles me, though. ...Why? Why would you do that to yourself? You submit yourself to the umbridge of your family members, who obviously do have some towards you if they even agree to shoot you.

    Also, Andrew D, I have seen those tanks! They are really fun to watch but I didn't try them myself because I don't like the feeling of electric shocks. Makes me think of the ECT scenes in "A Beautiful Mind" and I just have to walk away.

  18. Aaron says:

    I'm confused at women who seem to think that men need to be told that they're being childish. We know it's ridiculous, that's part of the fun. Telling us to sit still and have a pleasant conversation is likely to make us want to up the ante on whatever dangerous activity we're currently involved in - and that would usually require adding fire, or adding an accelerant if fire is already involved; if fire and an accelerant are already part of the activity, you should probably just go call 911 right now.

    If you really want men who are goofing off to come and have quiet conversation, you might want to try luring them in with food, or video games.

  19. Queen of Everything says:

    Also, "Dare to be Stupid" is awesome....

  20. Eric's Brother Chris says:

    In my defense, that first shot hit me right in the spine, not in my muscular buttocks. Also, pants are much thicker than the shirt I was wearing. Lastly, I can't believe mom shot me and made me bleed. Why are people so mean to me?

  21. Alex Thorne says:

    "...steadily excreting cement in the shape of a curb. It looks like the Play-Doh Fun Factory, or like the time I had food poisoning..." X-D.

    your getting funnier as the years roll by my friend. keep up the good work.

    also read your "Nasson Chronicles" last night. people like him are the reason why in Britain we have a mental health act. have there been any other developments on that chestnut recently?

  22. sam says:

    No male pattern baldness talk - but that's okay.

    Perhaps you could take a picture of that walt disney guy for us?

  23. Red says:

    Kourtney,

    Maybe the world would be a better place if someone DID combine Crotchball with just about any other stupid thing men do and used that method to settle things. Seriously. Crotchball, the Potato Launcher version? It might not kill them, but at least they won't reproduce their stupidity!

  24. Momma Snider says:

    I had to shoot Chris. He TOLD me to. I don't think he thought I could hit him. My first shot hit him in the wallet, so I had to do it again. I did feel bad when I saw the wound, though.

    And the dog statue isn't decor. He's a member of the family.

  25. Kourtney says:

    Not having grown up with brothers (or my own set of testicles, for that matter), I rely on friends like Eric to open my eyes to the world of Crotchball, BB Game, etc. You see, Aaron, I find it endlessly fascinating, and would never want to squelch such creativity...but doesn't it hurt? It's OK to call me a wuss.

  26. Dave J says:

    That does not sound like the Sniders I remember, especially Momma Snider. Maybe her sister's husband though.

  27. kevith says:

    Funny stuff! And I think "male patten BADness" was a pretty clever title.

  28. Raquel says:

    hahahaha I love stories like this. It reminded me of the guy who tested out his wife's taser on himself.

  29. Momma Snider says:

    Wait...Dave J, who are you? It sounds like you know my brother-in-law.

  30. Dave J says:

    Was in the Lake Elsinore Ward between 1982 and 1986. Graduated from EUHS in 1972. Remember one of the floods when Ken and (don't remember his name) decided to go canoing in the creek that feeds Lake Elsinore from Canyon Lake? Either you or your sister taught Lamaze and we took lessons for our third daughter's birth.

  31. Suzanne says:

    Guys will perform such antics w/BB guns b/c they're living their own versions of Call of Duty and Halo. I'm sure his brother threw in an army crawl and a few side rolls as his dad was trying to hit him.

    I think it's great and would probably participate myself. But then again I'm a rare female specimen who enjoys playing those games as well. ;)

  32. Matt says:

    Next time tell your brothers to shoot eachother with a paintball gun. From 5 feet away. Good times.

  33. Jacob says:

    ugghghhhhohhh . . . food poisoning mental image . . . like in 'Blast from the Past' but worse. And this made me remember the scar on the back of my right hand from an incredibly lucky paintball shot.

    Does anyone think that Walt Disney also looks like Vincent Price in 'Edward Scissorhands'? Is that just me? Additionally, since my memory of Church authorities is a little hazy, was Eldred the last or second to last General Patriarch? Great column, and great commentary.

  34. Sara says:

    forget crotchball and bb guns... why on earth would any man want to grow something on his face that looks like a smelly old catepillar has crawled up and taken residence on your upper lip? Particularly since Adolf Hitler totally killed that look in that same generation. Thank goodness for the end of that fashion trend....shudder.

  35. Fuzzums says:

    I remember my brother playing that shooting game with his friends, only with paintball guns.

    Also, once with two-by-fours.

  36. Carrie says:

    I currently have no decor in my house. In fact, I am completely inept when it comes to decorating. I buy things I like, and if decorating were left up to me, my house would probably look like a thrift store: a random red rug here, a garden gnome over there, a yellow furry couch, a gold mirror, etc. (Except I'd never actually own a gold mirror or anything gold, for that matter. I detest the color.) What I'm saying is I'm lacking the stereotypically female decorating gene. Also, I have a hunger to know how badly things hurt. When I was living in Africa, some friends and I would jump as high as we could off the diving board to do belly and backflops. Video of this exists somewhere. Much breath was lost and much pain and laughter were had...by all. In addition, I own a game that shocks the person with the slowest reflexes. And I think it feels good.

  37. Carrie says:

    I'm obviously not the Carrie from above who said boys are dumb.

  38. Rick says:

    Eldred G. Smith was the last Patriarch to the Church. He was given emeritus status and the office was done away with. I could probably say more, but don't want to have Boyd K. Packer take my membership away.

  39. Dolly says:

    Dear Men,

    Regarding your love of earth moving machines I have often thought that there should be a place for guys to go, like a grown up theme park where you can go at the weekend to play with giant diggers, JCB's, cranes and dumpers. Of all sizes. Moving piles of earth and maybe logs. You could dig out trenches. Drop ton weights, then pay the man and come home. Someone could make money.

  40. Michael says:

    Oh wow, I am your fan now. Great writing.

  41. Michael says:

    Oh yeah, duh to the how to make a sidewalk thing, curb first.

  42. Hometown says:

    When I was 3 or 4 I had my brother shoot me in the hand with a BB gun, just to see what it felt like. He got in trouble. I was so manly.

  43. Jennifer says:

    I saw George Beverly Shea a few weeks ago . He sang "I'd Rather Have Jesus" from the depths of a leather wing-back chair at First Baptist Church of Columbia (South Carolina). He's about to turn 99 ... seriously old, dude. Oh, and ... great writing. Very enjoyable read. I found you because in my work as a court reporter, this week I encountered (for the first time) the term "horse pistols" as a stand-in (dare I say euphemism?) for "hospital" ... promptly Googled it and found your 2002 article "Barking Up The Wrong Triage" wherein you claim that Luscious Malone uses the same term ... and you made me an instant fan! I'll be baaaaaack ...

  44. brozy says:

    Hilarious. Especially the BB gun. (Sounds like something my brothers would do.)

  45. Savvy Veteran says:

    I don't know if the play on words (or rather, play on common phrase) "Male Pattern Badness" was invented by you (It seems unlikely that you stole it, as the Google results for it show this column as the top result), but in this month's Reader's Digest one of the sidebar columns telling of funny stories is also entitled "Male Pattern Badness." I say you sue the pants off of them.

  46. Mona says:

    I'm the un-proud mother of a son whose idea of fun with his buddies was to find some old bowling (Goodwill, DI), then drop them off an old railroad bridge to see what would happen. Is that manly enough for you?

  47. Doug says:

    The BB gun antics sound like fun. But haven't you heard of BB gun wars? Guys in the neighborhood used to have backyard BB gun fights regularly; was rather painful especially because the battle uniform usually consisted of no shirt no shoes. Regret missing out...a guy thing? Yeah, affirmative I think.

  48. Ed Watts says:

    I have done the BB gun thing, too. I know this is over two years late, but Christmas of 2008 inspired me to give to a son-in-law a gift which I thought was quite "manly". He is a former Marine, so I thought that he would appreciate a "bug zapper" in the form of a flyswatter. He opened the present, but he seemed unsure of what to do with it.

    Well, there aren't many flies a Christmastime, so I took it upon myself to demonstrate the device's effect by swatting myself. The result is hard to describe, but it was not entirely unlike getting hit with an aluminum baseball bat in the midst of a home-run swing just as it is struck by lightning. There was a loud bang like that of a large firecracker, the physical sensation I just described, a wisp of smoke, and the smell of burning human flesh. Oh, yeah...and stunned silence.

    There were in the room myself, two sons, my grandson, three sons-in-law, two male friends, five daughters, a wife, an ex-wife, and other associated members of the fairer sex who were accompanying "the men". Thinking that this would make a most excellent game, I tried to get the other "men" to join in, but they merely looked at me like I had just grown another head. The women were stunned into silence, despite having their mouths fixed wide open. This, despite two further demonstrations of the device upon myself.

    I guess that a lot of "men" just don't want or know how to have fun anymore (hence, the quotes). On the other hand, if I had bought enough so that each guy had his own...

  49. JBens says:

    Does anybody else think the picture of Eldred D. Smith looks a lot like Dana Carvey with a mustache?

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