"Instead of taking you out to buy my gift the way I usually do," I tell my wife on Father's Day, "I'm giving you a present this year."
"Oh?" she says warily, looking up from her Sunday crossword puzzle.
"I'm giving you," I say, pausing for effect, "the gift of Real Manhood."
"You've got Arnold Schwarzenegger giftwrapped out in the garage?" she says. "No, thanks. I just got you housetrained."
"You misunderstand, m'love," I say in my Ward Cleaver voice. "As of Father's Day, 1995, I am going to be a Real Man. That's my gift to you to commemorate this day."
"I thought you already were a Real Man," she says. "You're badly befuddled, you're sexually insecure, you can't find your glasses, and when you try to justify silly ideas your voice sounds like Ward Cleaver's. What else is there to the job?"
I cross my legs and show her a clipping from the June 3 Journal-Star. It's a story about Ed Cole, "the father of the modern-day Christian men's movement." He says Mere Males become Real Men when, among other things, they "resume their position as heads of household."
"So that's my gift," I tell my wife. "I hereby resume my position as head of household."
"Oh, good," she says, picking a beagle hair off the sweatshirt she's wearingthe fetching one that says "She Who Must Be Obeyed" on the front. "What are you going to do first?"
"First," I say, "I'm going to one of Mr. Cole's men-only meetings where we give each other high fives and yell ‘Thank God You're a Man!' It may sound unsophisticated but look what it did for Bill McCartney."
"Oooo," she says, back at her crossword puzzle. "Then what?"
"Then I'll just come home," I say, "and resume my position as head of household."
"Let me guess," she says. "That position probably doesn't include bending over a toilet bowl with a toilet brush, does it?"
"Probably not," I say, "unless it's for purposes of instruction. Bending over a toilet bowl with a toilet brush comes under the heading of ‘nurturing' and Mr. Cole is quite clear about whose job that is. Listen."
I read from the clipping: "The woman's role in the family is to be the nurturer, the man's is to be the disciplinarian."
"Golly," she says, sounding a lot like June Cleaver. "I always wondered about that, but it's crystal-clear to me now."
"It's just part of his message," I say, "that Real Men must take back their homes, communities, and country for Jesus."
"Take them back?" she says. "Who's got them now?"
"He doesn't say," I explain, "but we have to take them back."
"Heavy," she says. "I couldn't have thought of that in a hundred years."
The Truth, Mainly
"He's published nine books," I say, "including ‘The Sacredness of Sex,' ‘The Glory of Sex,' and ‘Communication, Sex, and Money.'"
"I detect a recurring motif," she says. "Where'd he get his degree? Jimmy Swaggart Divinity School?"
"He feels sex is very important to Real Men," I say, "but only if they marry virgins and establish what he calls a ‘blood covenant' with God on their wedding night."
She's quiet for a long time. Then she speaks.
"That," she says, "must be the most barbaric covenant in Christendom."
She doesn't sound like June Cleaver any more and I decide to wait a little while before I resume my position as head of household. After ten minutes, I talk again.
"It's all in Genesis," I say. "When Eve ate the apple and tricked Adam into eating it too, God sentenced her to bring forth babies in sorrow and to be ruled by her husband. Cole's just the messenger. He's not anti-woman. He says so himself."
"Well, it must be OK then," she says. "Hey?"
"So I'm head of household?" I say. "Numero uno? The Big Enchilada?"
"Sure," she says. "You can begin by paying the bills and balancing the checkbook. Can't expect the wife to be fiscally responsible, can we? Then as disciplinarian, you can speak harshly to that one-eyed beagle while you're giving him a bath. I believe he just rolled in something unspeakable."
"But what'll you do?" I say. "Those are your jobs. Paying bills and giving dogs baths make my stomach queasy."
"I'll just sit around making nurturing noises," she says, "And don't worry. The couch isn't all that uncomfortable to sleep on."
When she gets to the part about the couch, I have a secular humanist epiphany. I see that being a Real Man isn't going to be much fun in this household, even if I am the Big Enchilada.
So, like Adam before me, I succumb to Eve's wiles: I notice again how fetching that sweatshirt is, and I look around for the toilet brush.
Satterfield is a college professor and writes as a means of discovery.