Living as I do in the remote provinces, I often find myself fascinated by the cultural advances of America's great metropolises. Last week, for example, The New York Times featured an entertaining column urging people to walk cats on leashes. If I tried that, I'd definitely have a fight on my hands.
Now and then, Albert the orange tabby follows the dogs and me on our daily constitutional. Mostly, however, he's too busy snoozing. Or hunting rats, his favorite pastime since we left the farm and brought him to town. He deposits their corpses where the dogs are sure to find them.
So, yes, it's true, as the Times columnist lamented, that free-roaming cats kill many small mammals. Also that most of them need killing.
But walk on a leash? Let me put it this way: Two years ago, after I broke several ribs falling from a horse, Albert clearly felt my pain, as Bill Clinton used to say. He transformed himself from an outdoor to an indoor cat for a few weeks. We watched baseball together on TV until I quit crying out in pain every time I moved. Then he headed back to the barn to kill mice.
Those, he eats.
But Albert doesn't even particularly like to be carried. Put a leash on him and he'd fight like a barracuda. I might never see him again.
A neighbor recently asked me to do something about our other cat, Martin, visiting her yard. She'd grown sentimental about wild baby rabbits -- the McDonald's quarter-pounder of the animal kingdom, predated by everything with sharp teeth or talons. (But not by Martin, more lover than hunter.) I told her I'd speak to him, but that the best solution would be to spray him with the garden hose. Then she took offense on the cat's behalf. Happily, she's moved away.
The new neighbor knows a pacifist when she sees one.
But hook Martin up to a leash? Passive resistance would be more his style. He'd just lie there like a lump and I'd have to drag him.
But I'm only guessing, because I'd no more walk a cat than attend a meeting of the ManKind Project, this week's trendy Manhattan thing. According to author Hannah Seligson, the organization focuses "on men's emotional well-being, drawing on elements like Carl Jung's theories of the psyche, nonviolent communication, breath work, Native American customs, and good old-fashioned male bonding. Minus ogling women, drinking or fist fighting, of course."
Those apparently being the only options in the author's mind: drunken brawling or hippy-dippy cant. Supposedly ManKind's deepest goal is "to break down patriarchal and hierarchical ideas of masculinity," a phrase that has more than a whiff of the campus about it. (To give you some idea, I once got scolded from the audience during a college talk for using the word "murderess," as if the gender-neutral "murderer" were an honorific.)
Illustrated by photos of men hugging and petting each other and gripping a feathered totem like bearded Cub Scouts, Seligson's article describes ours as a particularly "fraught" time for American men -- which would probably confuse most of our fathers and grandfathers, the men who built the nation's railroads and highways and fought its wars. Apparently, there's also a lot of eye contact and crying.
This too: "Some retreats have optional nudity, in an effort to promote healthy body image." Does this feathered headdress make my butt look big? Football locker rooms have nudity too, of course, but that's a different story.
Elsewhere, the author informs us that "most men would rather be electrically shocked than be left alone with their thoughts" -- more bad news for somebody like me, as like most writers I spend many hours by myself.
Seligson interviews a TV actor for whom most of humanity's ills can be laid at the feet of the accursed patriarchy. "'The stoic male who doesn't express or share his emotions, I see that as being extremely detrimental,' (Eka) Darville said in a phone interview. 'A lot of pathologies in society, such as entitled masculinity, are related to men who are repressed.'"
In short, it appears that the ManKind Project's main goal is preparing "woke" men for a lifetime of being bossed around by aggressive New York career women who disapprove of such ordinary male pastimes as playing ball, attending Yankees or Knicks games, or having a few cold ones with your pals.
Because out here in the boondocks where I live, that's where most guys find male companionship: They play basketball, golf or tennis. They watch sporting events together. Some, like me, mess with horses or hunting dogs. They go on fishing trips, canoeing expeditions, even deer camp.
Stories get told; intimacies shared.
Often enough these activities also involve women.
Others participate in community theater or art exhibitions. They play in bands.
But above all, they DO something besides sitting around complaining.
Arkansas Times columnist Gene Lyons is a National Magazine Award winner and co-author of "The Hunting of the President" (St. Martin's Press, 2000). You can email Lyons at email@example.com