Things I love about men

(This Wood Brothers video was filmed at my grandmother’s former Catholic grammar school — St. Cecilia’s — in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. St. Cecilia is the patron saint of music. I love that.)

I’m just gonna come out and say it. I love men. I do. I’m a big fan.

I don’t love all men. Not so much with the deadbeat dad type. Or the one who screams at his son in front of everyone else at the baseball game, the school concert, and in church on Christmas Eve. I’m not a fan of the serial cheater, or the cowardly abuser of women and children — or of other men, for that matter. Nope, not a fan of any of those. I don’t really see them as men, anyway.  They’re facsimiles. Not the real deal.

Walk around Manhattan for a few years in a skirt, and you’ll find some examples of not-so-good men. I’ve been leered at in midtown like I had thin slices of hot pastrami dangling from each ear. (I may have, actually. I was a messier eater in my twenties.) Don’t even get me started on the flashing. There are more exposed penises on the 4/5/6 subway line than in all the urologists’ exam rooms in the tristate area. (Take the 2/3 downtown instead. Far fewer penises.)

I do love the idea of men in general, though. I love the way they can smell like a mixture of wool, caramel and scotch, with a cedarwood chaser. I love how their laughter sounds from the other room when a group of them are talking together in your kitchen. I love how they sneak tastes of food while you’re cooking. I love the way they try to wrap gifts for you on your birthday. (They use a whole roll of Scotch tape on one gift. Adorable.)

I really don’t love the idea of male-bashing just for sport. It’s become a national pastime, in my opinion. Usually at Girls’ Night. (Not at our Girls’ Night, of course. Ahem.) You’ve seen Girls’ Night — a group of cougars with day-glo cocktails, whooping it up at the table next to you while you’re trying to have a quiet meal. Be sure to look for the sequins, chandelier earrings and selfie sticks. Dead giveaway.

Men aren’t all bad, ladies. Some of them are far worse than bad, but some of them are really, really good.

Let me rephrase my earlier statement:  I love good men. I’m lucky enough to be married to a good man. And I’m happy to call a few good men some of my closest friends. (There’s a joke in here about that military courtroom film with Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson and Demi Moore in that silly hat, but I’m really too tired to map it out right now.) Dare I say it — my girlfriends picked some winners to marry as well. I know. I’ve eaten with them. They don’t diss you at Girls’ Night, boys. Not too much, anyway.

I’m gonna give you a bit of unsolicited advice, ladies. If you haven’t already, or if you haven’t done so since you’ve been dating, tell the man in your life what you love about him. Don’t stencil it on a piece of reclaimed barnwood, dress it up with eighteen yards of burlap and hang it in the kitchen, for God’s sakes (thanks a bunch, Pinterest), but just tell him. Not while he’s trying to watch a football game or some movie with the word “Bourne” in it, either. (I’ve been married for many years. You tend to pick things up along the way.) Tell him before he goes to sleep, when he isn’t snoring yet. Make it an early birthday present. Wrap yourself in a bow if you want. Just don’t do the giftwrap thing, for God’s sakes. Or you’ll get paper cuts in places you didn’t even know you had. And then I’ll have to hear about it at Girls’ Night. Ewww.

Whatever you do, don’t say it to him because you expect something in return. Say it simply because you love him. Otherwise, that’s the ickiest kind of present — the kind with a long, taut string attached.

But don’t be surprised if he takes out the garbage the next morning if you do. He might even kiss you on the forehead before he leaves for work. Isn’t that all we really want, anyway — a kiss on the forehead, a helping hand, and a kitchen without smelly, overflowing garbage?

I wrote a list last year for my husband — eighteen of which could be shared publicly, the rest of which can’t be listed here because my father reads my blog. I think my husband liked it. He took out the garbage without being asked. And then kissed me on the forehead.

I feel like writing another list today. Not just for the good men in my life, but in all of our lives. Thank goodness they’re here.

Things I Love About Men

1. Men’s eyelashes. I love it when men close their eyes while they laugh, allowing me a sneak peek at all that feathery sweetness. It’s really not as cute when their eyes are closed and they’re in your bed, snoring. You can stare all you want at those eyelashes, to will them to shut the rest of the face the hell up, but it ain’t gonna work. Sure, men are tough and burly and all that, but those eyelashes are like a little look-see behind the man curtain at their inner mushiness. (Charles Manson had good eyelashes, so I’m sure my theory doesn’t hold water.) You know their mommas swooned over those eyelashes when they were little boys. I know. I’m the momma of a little boy. I get it. I want to hang him by his boxer briefs on the towel hook when he’s being incorrigible during the day, but when he’s lying there asleep in his bed, arms akimbo and eyelashes fluttering, I could forgive him for his primary role in a Madoff-esque pyramid scheme.

2. Men who are so tall and broad that I have to get up on tippy-toe to hug and peck them on the cheek when saying hello. I’m only 5’3″ and a half, so that’s most men, actually. Is that all men, actually? I haven’t met one shorter than me yet. I also like the way they hug me. Women do that pat-pat-half-kiss-half-hug-get-me-I’m-a-cold-flounder-kind-of-hug. Men? They hug you for seventeen minutes and squish your ribs and always kiss you — on the top of your head and your cheek and the tip of your nose and your hand while they hold it. No air kisses with dudes. Ever.

3. Men who say “Heeeeyyyy!” when I walk into their house for a family pizza night or a couples’ cocktail party or a Super Bowl thingy-ma-jig, and they’re all talking low and guffawing and opening beer bottles and just standing around in the kitchen, waiting to eat something, and they turn my way and state said exclamation. They might actually be saying “Heeeeyyyy!” because I’m carrying some cold beer, as well as that onion dip that their wives won’t let them eat unless someone else brings it, but I like to think it’s because they like having me around for a few minutes. Just for a few minutes, mind you, until they need me to leave so they can keep talking about that divorced cougar in the low-cut dress at the fifth grade band concert last week. Oh, who am I kidding? They’re not that happy to see me. They’re happy to see the booze and the onion dip. Heeeeyyyy!

4. Men who are outside with their sons — and daughters — playing ball until the sun goes down, and who turn on the outside lights so they can get in a few more catches before it’s time to go inside.

5. Men who like to eat. I love to cook for men. They make yummy sounds and they ask for seconds and they lean back in their chairs when it’s all over, and they sigh. Some of them even fall asleep on my couch afterwards. (That sounded sexual. Whoopsie. I make a mean beef tenderloin in pastry crust. It can’t be helped.)

6. Men who say unsolicitedly kind, sweet and heartfelt things about their wives. And mean it.

7. Men who take their kids out to breakfast at the diner on Sunday morning so Mommy can sleep late. And let them order the waffles with the whipped cream on top.

8. Men who take their elderly mothers — or mothers-in-law — to the supermarket. I’ve stood behind many a middle-aged man in Stop & Shop, who patiently waits at the checkout line with the little old lady in his life, while holding her basket containing Sanka, two chicken breasts, a box of prunes, and Dentu-Creme, while she babbles on and on about all the different kinds of medication she’s taking. They nod, kindly, and say nothing. Gems, they are. Unless, of course, they’ve kidnapped these little old ladies for ransom and let them out once a week for sundry items, while carefully supervised.

9. Men who aren’t afraid to hug other men in that big, bear-huggy, back-slapping kind of way. Some of my big Irish FDNY cousins even kiss each other. They would totally kick your ass in a bar fight or if you messed with me — no question — but still, they kiss each other. Smack each other right on the cheek. Especially when they’ve had a few. They even kiss my husband now. It’s official. He’s in.

10. Men who let their kids do all the stuff that their wives wouldn’t let them do. The jig is up, babe. The kids told me all about it last week.

11. Men who shop for Christmas gifts before 6 pm on Christmas Eve. Thanks for that bottle of Jean Naté body splash that you just picked up at Rite-Aid, honey, but it smells like my grandmother’s talcum powder and cold piss. And it burns — oh, how it burns! — when I dab it on my skin. Gum would have been better. Trident Original Flavor. Fruit Stripe. Anything. Just not Jean Naté.

12. Men who show their children — not just in word, but in deed — how to be good and honorable people. Men who love their little girls so they grow up to be women who love themselves first, and find the right kind of person to love them later. Men who teach their sons to be strong — and tender. Men who love their wives in a way that sets an example for the men their sons will be — and the husbands they will become.

13. Men who know that I can handle myself, but who still ask if I’m OK or if I need something or if I need a lift somewhere or want some company or need them to accompany me on a dark, foreboding street until I’m safely home.

14. Men who innocently and absentmindedly play with my hair while they’re talking to me. Men who can’t resist, and just have to playfully tug my pigtail, or tuck my hair behind my ear when it falls across my cheek, and tell me how my new hair color flatters me. I’m always softened by their gentle impulsivity. My father used to sit at my bedside, and stroke my hair at night to help me sleep. It’s still the loveliest feeling in the world when my husband does that, too.

15. Men who wear shirtsleeves and expose that teardrop of bare skin beneath the broadcloth, right where the fabric puckers and opens at the button closure. I have to touch that spot of skin whenever my husband wears shirtsleeves.

16. Men in stockinged-feet with their big boats up on the coffee table. Especially after holiday meals. Heartwarming and hilarious. I don’t care if they’re wearing Gold Toes or 70′s era tube socks, just as long as they’re not stinky. When my husband’s shoes are off, the workday has officially ended. And he’s all mine. Until he falls asleep on the couch, because he’s so comfortable with his shoes off and his feet up. And that’s not when I’m thinking that his eyelashes are adorable, because the God-awful snoring has begun.

I love men. I do. Especially the good ones. I’m grateful to be married to one, I’m hopeful that I’m raising one, and I’m thankful for all the other good men in my life who’ve helped me become a (fairly) good woman along the way.

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