We are now in the era of super-duper machismo, with Donald Trump leading the charge. As one of his aides recently said, “The Alpha male is back!” Forget the orange hair and bottle tan, Trump is the most macho-acting man to take the reins of power since wood-chomping Ronald Reagan. He has no problems “down there,” as he announced, and he’s supremely confident, takes no guff from anyone, and of course, has oodles of the do-re-mi.
But it’s not just Trump. Bill O’Reilly, currently unemployed, has had an unapologetic, in-your-stupid-liberal-face personality for years. And then there’s Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, currently the biggest box office draw in the world. Or the whole crew of the most popular movie in the galaxy, The Fate of the Furious. We haven’t had so many icons of virility since Rocky roamed the earth.
To the point, and it’s a thorny one: If you are a male in a wheelchair, and lack the use of some of your extremities, how can you project a manly image in such an overtly masculine world? Of course, there are male chair users doing uber-aggressive sports, like indoor rugby, indoor basketball, and indoor bull fighting, for all I know. But how does the average male wheelchair user broadcast his masculinity? Don’t say through quiet courage or stoic mettle or magnanimous empathy for others. That stuff only cuts it in a feminist age, which may be coming soon, so stash those virtues away.
Let’s face it, for most of us, it is hard playing a tough guy in a chair. Everything you need to fake your way through a tough guy confrontation — the eye-to-eye glare, the menacing, too-close body language, the ability to snatch a chair and whack your opponent over the head — are all hard to do while sitting. You may have once been in a situation where you wanted to hit some punk in the nose, only to realize that you’d first have to ask him to get within arm’s length from your chair and then kneel down with his chin protruding. It kind of loses the element of surprise.
I was raised in small-town Oklahoma, where men have never ceased being chaw-chewing, dirty-joke-telling, gun-toting, boar-killing, steak-gorging men. It’s a cliché, sure, but the truth is even stranger. Wandering off the reservation, I moved to California, enough said, and then became paralyzed. Out went the steel-tipped cowboy boots and the half-friendly, half-intimidating back slap. I was forced to man down.
There are a couple of ways out of this dilemma, to my thinking, though you may have your own.
Number one, you can take an acting class, then adopt the persona of the flinty-eyed hombre you always wanted to be. You could spend years trying to beef up like The Rock or even become the first wheelchair-using pro wrestler — call yourself “The Wheel of Pain” — or you can take a short cut and simply aspire to the demeanor of a psychotic ex-con. For style tips, see the MSNBC prison series, Lock Up. Lose a couple of front teeth, surgically remove half of your left ear, and cover every inch of your face and body with menacing tattoos, including one on the back of your shaved head reading, “Ready To Die?” Even in a chair, someone with a Charley Manson “X” hand-carved between his eyebrows will get the Alpha hand stamp just rolling into the room.
Your other road to salvation is easier: Facebook. Facebook allows you to express your dirty-T-shirt maleness without ever leaving the comfort of your dirty-T-shirt apartment. If you don’t want to get tatted up like a lifer, use peel-off tats and those fun, Halloween facial scars for your Facebook profile. Photoshop your arm around Pamela Anderson or as Mr. July in the Fireman’s Bare-All calendar. It’s amazing what they can do with CGI these days.
On the other hand, maybe you hate Facebook and don’t look good as a snaggle-toothed serial killer. Then your wisest course is to remain cool and memorize your lawyer’s cell number. If some nondisabled troglodyte challenges your manhood and is stupid enough to hit a guy in a wheelchair, he’ll soon be in jail having his own manhood challenged. And with the fat settlement, you’ll be checking into Mar-a-Lago.