The Effectuality Effect

I struggle sometimes, as all of us masculinists do, to distinguish between anxieties that are heavily inflected by issues of masculinity and those that are just general, human anxieties that I artificially masculinize because that lends them some kind of gravitas (anxiety, y’know, is what pussies feel, but real men are allowed to worry about what it means to be a man).

Take for instance today’s noteworthy events in the life of Daniel James Oppenheimer.

* I had to take care of getting my Texas license plate and driver’s license. Not too complicated, and it went fine, but I was in a bit of a tizzy about what forms I would need and whether my Massachusetts insurance could suffice, initially, to register my car in Texas. I don’t quite know what it is about such things that worries me — since the worst that could happen ain’t that bad– but I think it has something to do with showing up at these places and looking hapless, wasting people’s time, etc.

* I got a flat tire. I put on the donut without any trouble, but I immediately started worrying about taking the flat to the shop to see if they can patch the original tire (in retrospect, I think it’s been slowly leaking air since at least yesterday, so a patch seems plausible). I just assume that I walk into the shop and the rugged, working class, mechanically adept men who work there see me and think "fag."

* I was asked, today, to come in for a job interview next week. Yay! It ain’t easy being green, and it hasn’t been easy for me to go out there and do what you’re supposed to do when looking for a job — network like crazy, call everyone you know who might be to help and ask them for help, cold call alumni of my college who happen to be living in town. It all requires a certain aggression, and also a certain vulnerability, with which I’m not very comfortable.

So are these manly issues? Certainly not exclusively. No one likes to look hapless. Most people who don’t know jack about cars are uncomfortable going to the shop (in fact, I’d venture that the interaction between mechanics and upper class, mechanically ignorant toffs is a set piece of American class awkwardness, though I can’t actually think of a movie or book where such a scene is depicted). Nobody likes to be jobless, and I don’t think many people enjoy job-hunting.

That said, working and fixing have traditionally been more central to the male identity than to the female identity. And worrying about having the wrong forms at the DMV is, of course, a universal human experience.


p.s. I can’t publish my post in good conscience without noting that the old notions about the nightmare bureaucracy of the DMV have become totally obsolete. I can’t speak for every DMV, but I can’t think of any bureaucracies I’ve had better, more efficient experiences with over the past few years than the Massachusetts RMV (Registry of Motor Vehicles) and the people in Texas who get you registered (the county tax assessor) and licensed (the Dept. of Public Safety). Those people just get it done — they probably got sick of the jokes.

Author: Masculinity and Its Discontents

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