First find the man in yourself if you will inspire manliness in others. – Amos Alcott
No offense to Alcott, but he never had to light a gas grill with a broken ignition switch.
Gas grilling is one thing. When all the little bells and whistles on the gas grill are operating as they should, it can be a peaceful and manly experience, connecting you to the animal instincts of your ancestors. When things such as broken ignition switches occur, which require unorthodox methods to get the grill started, well—game over.
“Can you turn on the gas grill?” asked my father-in-law, while we were on vacation in South Lake Tahoe.
“Sure,” I said confidently.
“The igniter is broken, so you’ll have to turn on the gas and stick this long lighter in there to get the flame lit,” added my father-in-law, in what has to be the ultimate throwaway line of the twenty-first century.
Several perilous things flew through my mind in that instant, including the most pervasive one: Uh, yeah, not happening.
I read about a guy who attempted to light a gas grill with a broken ignition switch and proceeded to spend the next 14 months of his life without eyebrows. Not interested in risking an eyebrow-less existence, I spent half a minute acting as if I was trying to light the grill, all the while making up a relatively pathetic excuse about not being able to actually get the lighter lit. Something about the switch not working on the lighter—perhaps a result of a puzzling child protection device preventing me from success. After all, despite being in my 40’s, I am still someones child. My father-in-law came outside and, not entirely believing my pathetic excuse, lit the lighter and then the grill, all in roughly three seconds.
My look—one of idiocy at not being manly enough to do this and relief at not having to—must’ve confused him immensely. So be it. Risking a small amount of shame in the eyes of my father-in-law was a worthy risk to take if it meant I got to keep my amazing eyebrows. Besides, I’ve been married to his daughter for 16 years, so no amount of judgment cast on his part will convince her to leave me.
The thing is, I really do love my eyebrows. In fact, they are 111% more lush than my actual hair, and frankly, I wouldn’t know what I would do without them. Thoughts occurring immediately after the inability to light the grill kept returning to that eyebrow-less man I’d read about. How he must’ve toiled those 14 months to make manlier excuses for why he navigated over a year of his life without the guiding light of his eyebrows. Perhaps a machete-wielding samurai on the outskirts of Mongolia had removed his hairy eye protectors in a scary life-and-death showdown. Poor fellow, I reasoned.
I tell myself that the next time I am presented with this grill-lighting scenario, I will man up and do what is expected of me. In truth, I probably won’t do that: I’ll opt for a different, and albeit more creative, excuse to get out of this rather scary request.
My father-in-law likes me all the same, and I’m sure my lush and immaculate eyebrows have a major part in that.