This past weekend was one that will forever mark for me the moment of the most profound change in the way in which I perceive the world around me and the people that inhabit it.
As I rode through the foggy darkness early Saturday morning with Pottsville, Pa as my destination, I was more than a little apprehensive as to what I would find at the end of my journey. I knew that I was about to meet, for the first time, Forum members with whom I would visit the coal breaker in Hegins, Pa as well as the Number 9 coal mine in Lansford. However, my anxiety and preoccupation was not caused by the scheduled activities for the day but, rather, the fact that some of the people in our party were GIRLIE MEN!
How would they act? What would they look like? Would I know them when I saw them? Would I feel uncomfortable in their presence? These questions, and others, were swirling around in my mind.
When we all met in the parking lot of an eatery on Route 61, I tried to size everybody up. One fellow had a firm handshake and looked to be in good shape but, maybe he just works out. Girlie Men are known to be concerned about their looks and God knows they have the time to tend to it because they don't even shovel their coal! Another fellow's handclasp was limp at best but, maybe his children tend to the stove.
I was more than a bit uncomfortable being seen in public with openly Girlie Men and I prayed that no one I knew would see me for fear that they may think that I was one of them! The fear of embarassment was unbearable.
As the day wore on and we all got to know each other better, I became more at ease. By the time we divulged to each other our combustion preferences, it didn't seem to matter much at all. The people I suspected of being Girlie Men weren't alway so. For the most part, they dressed like me and acted like me. Yes, there were some affectations here and there but, nothing flamboyant.
As we broke bread together at which must have been the longest meal in history, I had an epiphany. Each one of these Girlie Men were someone's son; someone's brother; or someone's father. Any one of them could have been my son; my brother; or my father. Although I would be devastated, if my son told me he was a Girlie Man, I would still love him. How could I not? He would still be my son. And I would want him to be treated with the same respect and consideration as everyone else notwithstanding the fact that he was a Girlie Man.
One Girlie Man who will go unnamed confided in me that at a very early age, he knew he was different. He knew that shovelling coal was not in the cards for him. Nothing about it was appealing to him; in fact, it repulsed him! While driving his vehicle, he opened his window, punched the air and proclaimed loudly, "I am a Girlie Man and I don't shovel Coal!" Rather than live a secret life in the shadowy underbelly of society, he chose to embrace his identity as a Girlie Man. I was happy for him.
I sincerely hope that someday, all people will see that Girlie Men are not much different than the rest of us. In fact, the things we have in common clearly outweigh the differences. Perhaps we will all be able to overcome our preconceived notions about Girlie Men and they will be able to marry, adopt children, and become scoutmasters like everyone else.