Last of the Tough Guys

I never really thought of myself like that, but compared to today?

I call it the “wussification” of America. Get off my lawn.

Former baseball player Mark Teixeira sat out games last year due to a number of minor injuries like a bruised wrist. One was a bruised pinky. A bruised pinky. At the time I was thinking someone should put a sign in his locker: “What Would Mickey Mantle Do?” I’ll tell you what he would do. He would say, “Get me a Bud and tape it up a little tighter Gus.”

I once completed a fencing match with the rectus femoris muscle completely torn from the bone.

Basketball was not my sport, but it was for my tall friends. There were a lot of pick-up games where the black guys kicked our ass. Back then we’d get elbowed in the ribs, feet stepped on, smacked in the head but we gave as good as we got. At 5’9″ I had to perfect a running hook shot with either hand. Hook shots are hard to block. My buddies could hit the long jumpers. We could hold our own – sometimes.

One time we actually beat the big guys in a game of 21. Next game they just punched the hell out of us and made buckets at the same time. It was impressive. No hard feelings.

Back then, we drank at lunch and after work. Everybody smoked. We were invincible. We were tough guys.

There would be fist fights at work. I was only involved in one.

There was no Human Resource department back then. It was called Payroll. Usually some operations manager or vice president would step in, make us shake hands and promise not to do it again. Today, everyone gets terminated.

Today, if you were to actually hit somebody at work it would be automatic termination and a lawsuit.

Today you can’t look at a woman the wrong way or for too long. Termination. Yell at someone. Termination. Emphasize your point by slapping the wall. Termination. “Oh, I felt threatened. I can’t work under these conditions.” A part of me still thinks, “Suck it up, buddy.”

Incompetence used to make me mad. I have learned that people like sloths for example can’t change. Sloths can’t speed up and incompetent people can’t be any more energetic or competent than they are. It’s just the way it is. <shoulder shrug> <heavy sigh>.

We were raving heterosexuals back then. Our heroes were Hugh Hefner, Joe Namath and Wilt Chamberlain – who reportedly slept with over 10,000 different women. Chlamydia and mono were considered sexual boy scout merit badges.

We would do stuff and say stuff that would get us terminated today. But then, the women gave it right back whether it was critiquing our male attributes or slapping us in the face. The slap in the face always worked. I was a perfect gentleman after one of those.

I don’t dance.

I never had a manicure.

I never wore my wife’s panties when I ran out of underwear. Okay, maybe once.

I don’t know what a metro-sexual is exactly.

Bruce Jenner broke my heart.

I was taught how to box and how to fight dirty. My old man taught me. Ah, those father-son moments where I learned about brass knuckles and a kick in the balls.

I never backed down from anyone when things might get physical.

My old man was the same way. It got him killed. Apparently, at age 72, he laid into two young attackers pretty good. They were enraged. They had baseball bats. They beat him unrecognizable. 

Today, I’ll run away from cats on the sidewalk and old ladies with canes.

As we get older, we have two and only two choices: End up in a bad place or become civilized through learning, knowledge, money and success. At a certain age being tough is no longer a badge of honor. Infirmity eases the transition as well.

Tonight, after using all my strength to get out of the easy chair, I am feeling very civilized.

A hot shower and a couple of Advil – I’ll be fine.

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