Macho Mania

TO WIT

February 17, 1991|By Dave Barry

Our topic today, in our continuing series on guys, is: Wh Guys Act Macho.

One recent morning I was driving in Miami on Interstate 95 which should have a sign that says:

Warning: High Testosterone Levels Next 15 Miles.

In the left lane, one behind the other, were two well-dressed middle-aged men, both driving luxury telephone-equipped German automobiles. They looked like responsible business executives, probably named Roger, with good jobs and nice FTC families and male pattern baldness, the kind of guys whose most violent physical activity, on an average day, is stapling.

They were driving normally, except that the guy in front, Roger One, was thoughtlessly going only about 65 miles an hour, which in Miami is the speed limit normally observed inside carwashes. So Roger Two pulled up behind until the two cars were approximately one electron apart, and honked his horn.

Of course Roger One was not about to stand for that. You let a guy honk at you, and you are basically admitting that he has a bigger stapler. So Roger One stomped on his brakes, forcing Roger Two to swerve onto the shoulder, where, showing amazing presence of mind in an emergency, he was able to make obscene gestures with both hands.

At this point both Rogers accelerated to approximately 147 miles per hour and began weaving violently from lane to lane through dense rush-hour traffic, each risking numerous lives in an effort to get in front of the other, screaming and getting spit all over their walnut --boards. I quickly lost sight of them, but I bet neither one backed down. Their co-workers probably wondered what happened to them. "Where the heck is Roger?" they probably said later that morning, unaware that, even as they spoke, the dueling Rogers, still only inches apart, were approaching the Canadian border.

This is not unusual guy be- havior. One time in a Washington, D.C., traffic jam I saw two guys, also driving nice cars, reach a point where their lanes were supposed to merge. But neither one would yield, so they very slowly -- we are talking maybe one mile per hour -- drove into each other.

Other examples of pointlessly destructive or hurtful macho guy behavior include:

* Guys at sporting events getting into shoving matches and occasionally sustaining fatal heart attacks over such issues as who was next in line for pretzels.

* Guys on the street making mouth noises at women.

* Boxing.

* Foreign policy.

Why do guys do these things? One possible explanation is that they believe women are impressed. In fact, however, most women have the opposite reaction to macho behavior. You rarely hear women say things like, "Norm, when that vending machine failed to give you a Three Musketeers bar and you punched it so hard that you broke your hand and we had to go to the hospital instead of to my best friend's daughter's wedding, I became so )) filled with lust for you that I nearly tore off all my clothes right there in the emergency room." No, women are far more likely to say, "Norm, you have the brains of an Odor Eater."

But the real explanation for macho behavior is not that guys are stupid. The real explanation is that because of complex and subtle hormone-based chemical reactions occurring in their brains, guys frequently act stupid. This is true throughout the animal kingdom, where you have examples such as male elks, who, instead of simply flipping a coin, will bang their heads against each other for hours to see who gets to mate with the female elk, who is on the sidelines, filing her nails and wondering how she ever got hooked up with such a moron species. Meanwhile the guy elks keep banging into each other until one of them finally "wins," although at this point his brain is so badly damaged that, in his confusion, he will mate with the first object he encounters.

Another example of macho animal behavior is guy dogs, who are so dumb they make elks look like Rhodes scholars. Every male dog firmly believes that if he makes wee-wee in enough places, he will be declared Dominant Male Dog of the Entire Earth and receive a plaque plus valuable dog prizes, such as a bag of chicken heads.

Of course since there are several billion dogs in the competition, everybody is extremely busy trying to stay ahead of everybody else. One time I took a hike on a mountain with two male dogs named Rubio and Moo Shu. Every three minutes Rubio would carefully select a spot and establish his dominance over it; then Moo Shu would come sprinting from as far as a mile away so that, despite having the entire mountain to choose from, he could establish his dominance over the same 4 square inches previously dominated by Rubio, who by now was several hundred yards away, dominating a new spot, which Moo Shu would then frantically sprint toward, and so on all day long. Ha ha! At least we human males don't do that. We don't need to. We have tanks.

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