It was near a friend’s house, just outside of Reno, that I stopped the van along the roadside. I picked my way across 200 yards of scrub and prairie dog holes to where the bull was grazing alone.

He was big, but maybe not big enough to cut much ice with the herd. Several dozen cows and a few calves were grazing under the supervision of the alpha bulls a half-mile away. This bull was the one, I presumed, who waits his turn, sometimes for years, for the chance to mate. Meanwhile, he beefs up and broods.

I could identify with that. The winters at Lake Level are long and hard, and I recognized an archetype. Resting my elbows on an old section of split-rail fence, I ruminated with my bullish friend as the sun broke through a thin cloud layer, heating the back of my jacket.

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It’s no revelation that many American men are beginning to feel castrated these days. In a society of false promises and empty rewards, governed by scoundrels and dominated by malicious voyeurism, competing for a corner office and a better parking space are hardly the practices that shape a Real Man.

Feeling like this is no new development. The decline of the patriarchy has served up a bewildering array of changes to both men and women. In many cases, instead of reveling in the exhilaration of freedom and equality, liberated women gave new meaning to ‘the meat market’ mentality by participating in an epidemic of gross and dangerous cosmetic surgery: the booming industry of breast implants. Even the discovery of TDA, a carcinogen derived from the polyurethane foam covering implants, in the milk of a nursing mother, hasn’t put a damper on the popularity of the Boob Job.

Meanwhile, men responded to the open-mating market with an unprecedented wave of violence against women. Feminism is no threat to a man unless he already feels beaten, and there is little guidance to negotiate the psychological minefield and confusion between the heart and the hips.

The 1,212-page ‘Ann Landers Encyclopedia’ offers little insight, devoting only 28 lines to Love – less than half the space allotted to warts and wet dreams. The church is no help either, in helping us chart the foreign waters of The New Sexuality: when the task force of a liberal Presbyterian Church last year submitted a report asking the church to extend its blessing to homosexual and extramarital relationships, outraged delegates voted it down.

So what can lead me out of this emotional wilderness? I used to deal with my own crises by tramping the farthest reaches of the mountains with my dog. But my canine companion died, and now most of the time I’m hoping I’ll fall asleep like Rip Van Winkle and miss the next 20 years, which don’t seem to be offering great promise for a Meaningful and Lasting Relationship.

I wouldn’t come forward with all this if it were not for spring arriving with its deluded optimism. My Lonely Hearts Club needs a brand new strategy, and I’ve been working on one I call The Tough Love Club.

Start by flushing the hearts and flowers and other vestiges of sentimentality. Discard the spiritual or vision quest, too: bringing mating aspirations into a Trappist monastery won’t help. Forget about containing the pain or passing it on to wild animals or Mid-Eastern nations. Finally, stop placing her on a pedestal and thinking you’re not worthy. Think instead of her snoring and of what lurks between her toes. Get tough. Dig in. Stop paying admission. Shed the animal skins. Find someone who’s good-natured and has no plans for you that you wouldn’t have for yourself.

Anything less is dreaming for the Call of the Wild.

Go where the buffalo roam, but keep out of the pastures. Those bulls don’t know what they’re talking about.

Author

  • Robert Frohlich

    Former writer

    1955 – 2010

    “If Lake Tahoe ain’t heaven, then heaven can wait.”
    ~ Fro fighting for his life

    “The next morning I arose early to watch the setting moon. The sun hadn’t quite broken out of the dreamy foliage of morning, and all was still: the blanketed dells, ridges, and granite domes. No sound. Something almost creepy hovered over the motionless surroundings. The landscape had a fierceness that made the Alps look tame.

    “There is a small stone fortress built in the 1920s that guards the actual point lookout. I noticed the fellow who’d bragged about skating the 11 miles in two hours. He was probably doing yoga, but he looked more like he was praying. Maybe he was praying not for his deliverance alone, but for mine, too, for our mutual enlightenment. Maybe he embodied the form that transcendent figures assume these days. I felt unaccountably cheered that this guy was a sort of postmodern angel, complete with a caption for people too dense like me to know a vision when they see one. How could it be otherwise? Many people wilt when their lives have been gutted. I’d refused to wilt. I’d been given a second life. In my first life I tried to do everything expected of me and had failed somewhat. Now in my second life I’d try to attempt things not expected of me.”

    ~ “Seeking Mojo at Glacier Point,” published in Moonshine Ink, March 8, 2010

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