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March 16, 2010

Foolish Man Pride

Having read over several of my recent posts, I realize I’ve become quite good at making fun of myself. No surprise really, as I have so much material to work with. However, today I’m going to turn the lens on someone else. It’s time to make fun of Dad. She rides, he pays too.

Have you ever noticed the phenomenon called foolish man pride? In some families, it’s hereditary. I’ve noticed that it’s a particularly strong trait in the Howell line. What is foolish man pride, you ask? Let me explain by example.

Exhibit A: Paul N. Howell, Jr., my father-in-law, who I love dearly. Last summer, my father-in-law drove up from Massachusetts and for two days, coordinated parking at our barn’s first-ever horse show. He worked like a dog. It was also to be the first time he would see his granddaughter show. When it was time for the girl’s classes, I radioed down to Grampy to tell him to swap out with someone so he could come watch his granddaughter. He tried to tell me he didn’t think he could leave his post. Foolish man pride: once you take a job, complete it, no matter what. Note to self: give him no responsibilities whatsoever when Samantha gets married.

Exhibit B: Paul N. Howell III, my beloved spouse. Almost 20 years ago, Paul and I lived in Griffin, Ga. He worked as an aviation mechanic at Delta Airlines, and I temped feverishly in the hopes of landing a full-time job. One night Paul was very sick. Having not had a lot of experience with this kind of thing, I didn’t know what to do. I tried to convince him to go to the hospital. He finally agreed, but he wouldn’t let me drive. One of the first signs of an oncoming bout of foolish man pride is irrational decision making that is offered up as perfectly ordinary.

Once we arrived at the hospital, but before we got out of the car, Paul changed his mind and drove us back home. My meager attempts to suggest that this, perhaps, was not a good idea, were dismissed so out of hand, that I seriously started to doubt my own sanity. A few hours later, we were back in the car. I wasn’t driving and this time, we made it all the way inside to the emergency room.

Turns out that husband had a large kidney stone. Covered in sweat, he gritted his teeth and tried not to scare off the nursing staff with his down-home Boston cussing. He was offered a horse-size dose of painkiller, which he declined. They wouldn’t let me have it. Foolish man pride: never take the easy way out. Any loss of control (real or perceived) is a threat to the male race. 

Exhibit C: The boy, currently age 9. This unfortunate incident occurred when he was about 5, proving that foolish man pride is, indeed hereditary, and has no age restriction. One night at bedtime, while reading the boy a story, in a state of exhaustion, I complained about his lack of interest.

The boy responded by picking up the (hardcover) book and throwing it on the ground. The corner of the book landed squarely in the skin between my toes. Owwwwww! I told the boy (before I’d ever seen the Charlie video, if you’ve never seen it, do so, now): “That really hurt!” Being at the end of my rope after a long day, I actually cried. The boy was frightened by this unexpected turn of events. Rather than attempting to soothe me, or apologize—heck—a hug would have been awesome, he yelled at me. He said, “YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE HAD YOUR FOOT THERE!”

Foolish man pride—if you hurt someone—emotionally or physically—(inadvertently or not) redirect the blame to them. That way, there’s no need to apologize or acknowledge any personal feelings. This is a relatively embryonic example of foolish man pride, often only seen in the very young.

You may have seen foolish man pride manifested in a variety of ways: lifting items that are too large to be lifted by one person, purchasing the largest or most expensive of item irregardless of actual need, (television, appliance, chain saw, lawn tractor) or doing tasks that have specifically been forbidden by a doctor.

Is there an upside to foolish man pride? Absolutely. About eight years ago, we met a couple, and a few weeks later, the husband deployed to Afghanistan for nine months. Although he hardly knew the family, my husband cut their grass and plowed their snow for the length of the deployment. There was just a little bit of man pride involved. And there was this one time, when a little girl lost her pony. Her daddy sold his Cadillac so his little girl could have another pony. Foolish man pride at its best.

Elizabeth Howell grew up riding on the hunter/jumper circuit in Massachusetts. Now she is a horse show mom. She holds a day job at The Emily Post Institute and slings horse manure on the weekends.  Her web site is www.sheridesIpay.com.