I’m writing about some of insights I observed as I re-read an old favorite, Mark Twain’s Diaries of Adam and Eve.This is just a short one, today, with seeds of a rant that I will hint at, but probably not develop at this time.
In my last post, there was a hint of a problem beginning to raise its head in Paradise. After Eve started naming and labelling everything around them, Adam says, “My life is not as happy as it was.”
But is there something that is motivating Eve, other than the desire to be the perfect Helpmate? Yes, there is, according to the diaries. For Eve has learned what fear is, and now is starting to get after Adam about his dangerous proclivities.
… the fire had revealed to me a new passion—quite new, and distinctly different from love, grief, and those others which I had already discovered—FEAR. And it is horrible!—I wish I had never discovered it; it gives me dark moments, it spoils my happiness, it makes me shiver and tremble and shudder. But I could not persuade him, for he has not discovered fear yet, and so he could not understand me.
What does he do that scares her, makes her shiver? Well, he’s a guy and he does things that are exciting and dangerous. Here is Adam in his own words:
She has taken to beseeching me to stop going over the Falls. What harm does it do? Says it makes her shudder. I wonder why. I have always done it—always liked the plunge, and the excitement, and the coolness. I supposed it was what the Falls were for. They have no other use that I can see, and they must have been made for something. She says they were only made for scenery—like the rhinoceros and the mastodon.
I went over the Falls in a barrel—not satisfactory to her. Went over in a tub—still not satisfactory. Swam the Whirlpool and the Rapids in a fig-leaf suit. It got much damaged. Hence, tedious complaints about my extravagance. I am too much hampered here. What I need is change of scene.
Can you see the problem? Adam is a guy and wants to do guy things. After all, we are told that the most common last words of men are, “Hey, hold my beer. Look at what I can do.” Thus are many wives made widows.
Eve, as the mother of all women, is the first to try to “civilize” her husband, to tame him, so that he
- is acceptable to take out in public, and
In the movie, Hello Dolly, there is a funny scene in the Harmonia Gardens restaurant where Dolly (Barbra Streisand) starts to cut Horace’s turkey wing, and he gripes, “I don’t want my wings cut!” Dolly’s sly rejoinder is, “No man does.”
And that is Adam’s complaint; Eve is clipping his wings!
With that, Twain shines his light on the eternal dilemma of men, the struggle to balance being a husband with being a guy. There is a popular conceit that men are just big boys. You know the saying, The only difference between men and boys is the price of their toys. It’s not that men are just big boys, we’re guys. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
It’s a wise wife who realizes that her husband is both, and doesn’t try to stifle one to enhance the other, but instead, gives him room to play both roles. And it’s a wise man who realizes that he needs to grow into a husband, but can keep a slingshot in his back pocket, just in case.