Men. I’m surrounded by men. But I am sure, not in the way that you might imagine.
You see, when I was just a little girl, I never imagined men in my life. I dreamed of having my own baby girl, I hung out with the girls or by myself. My older sister would ride motorcycles with the boys, she took on the name Freddie, and would clean my older brothers’ rooms just to be a part of their crowd – to be included as one of the guys.
When I was just seven, my parents opened a gun shop. A small store in the garage, it soon grew to the largest store in Indiana. It was frequented mainly by men, but before my father retired, my mother ran the store when he was at his other job. It was, to me, just a store my parents owned. I had no interest. At one point, my mother decided I should know how to shoot a shotgun and forced me to blast a round in the backyard. The recoil against my small shoulder caused me pain, and I found the deafening noise of the blast an assault on my being. I turned to my mother and said, “Don’t ever make me do that again.”
My first child was a girl, who was followed by two boys. I needed a job that would allow me to be there for my children. Without a college degree, a babysitter was not something that any job that I qualified for would pay enough for. So I went to work for my parents. It wasn’t my dream job, but it was convenient. My kids came with me to work till they went to school, then got off the bus at the gun shop. They learned gun safety and people skills.
Working in a predominantly male world, alongside my two sisters and my brother, I learned to “hang with the guys.”
My daughter and I had a great female bond, but as any parent knows, children grow up fast. She is almost four years older than my oldest son, so when she left for college, I found myself surrounded by males not only at work, but now even at home. Left to fend for the female side on my own. Football games and track meets became my extracurricular activities, and hostess to paintball matches and male bonding.
By now, the gun shop had closed. I no longer needed a babysitter, so took a job at the local license branch. It was refreshing to be surrounded by females, but I was not used to the ways of women anymore. I enjoyed the talk of kids and clothes, but I found that I preferred the conversations of men to the catty, backstabbing ways of women. I soon quit to stay home and run the household while my husband started his construction business.
My youngest son’s interests were not shared by my husband, but were things that I had much experience with, most revolving around hunting. I became his chaperone and chauffeur. He led me on excursions into the woods, hunting with dogs, hauling deer carcasses to the meat-processing center, to bow competitions and shopping at gun stores. I found myself immersed once more in the predominantly male world. It felt strange and familiar all at the same time, for with him, I was no longer the spectator, but the participant.
It was astonishing to my mother to see me embracing this male world. My siblings had nicknamed me Prissy Chrissy as I was growing up. Now here I was, trekking through forests, up hills and through ravines, determined that my youngest son would have the opportunity to follow his dreams and explore the world in his own way. I had no idea what this would open up for me, and we shared many adventures. His desires led me to the world of nature and I fell in love with this life that he introduced me to. We formed a bond that I think one can only find through nature.
I have since taken a job in a predominantly female environment. When I was first hired, I was excited to once again experience the feminine side of things. But when I come home, I pull my jeans on under my skirt and balance the two worlds.
Today is ATV day at my house. My older brother and my younger brother have brought their 4-wheelers and with my son and husband have been riding through the woods and field. I find myself sitting on the sidelines of their male world. I like to ride ATV’s, but in a much more subdued way. Tooling through the woods at idle speed is enough for me. So I have left the racing and climbing to them. I’ve made a pot of goulash for the moment they look to me and remember me once more – even if it is just to relieve their hunger.
Sitting on the patio, I am the dog sitter. My female golden retriever is sprawled out beside my chair, and my brother’s dog, Shelby, paces nervously, afraid her owner will leave her here forever. I think she prefers the male world, too.
It is surprising what life holds in store. I never would have dreamed I would find myself sitting at home surrounded by guys. I imagined that I would instead be at the mall shopping with my daughter or my friends, or sitting in a sewing circle discussing recipes and who did what and with whom.
I guess I feel I am fortunate. I have the best of both worlds now. Theirs and mine. And sometimes, ours!