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The Value of Men

The Value of Men

    I live in drought country (California) and this place is starting to turn into a prequel for Mad Max. Every other pickup truck on the road has huge water containers strapped to the back. That’s because the local waste water treatment plant gives away recycled water (non-drinkable) to anyone who wants to keep their lawn alive. 

    I have yet to see a woman driving one of these improvised water trucks, although I’m sure it happens because this is not Saudi Arabia. But generally speaking, these bringers-of-water are manly men who know how to fix things and do things. Somehow they all figured out how to convert their vehicles into water trucks, complete with safety straps and portable pumps to get the water to the lawn. Some have gravity solutions. It is all quite impressive. Lots of ingenuity in play.

    I reckon each of these manly men spend half a day each week keeping their lawns on life support. These are resourceful men. Men of action. Men who care about their homes.

    Oh, and they are all married, I assume. No single guy would do that stupid shit. Single guys would just let the lawn die, like 80% of their neighbors that have no trucks.

    So why do married guys put so much effort into keeping a small patch of grass alive? Well, maybe it is because they think the drought is temporary. But that would not be well-informed. We’re in this for years unless you see a guy named Noah building an ark.

    Maybe some of the men enjoy the challenge. I have to admit I felt some jealousy that these men of action were saving precious blades of grass with their ingenuity while I sat idle. My guy-genes want in on this. Trucks, tanks, hoses, pumps, and – best of all – the smug drive across town with my own improvised water truck. That is good stuff, and I totally get it. But I don’t think that thrill is what is compelling these men to action.

    My hypothesis is that the married men with trucks are trying to improve their perceived value in the eyes of their spouses.

    Humans are visual creatures. If I see you do something valuable right in front of me it means more than if I hear about something you did in the past. It works the same at your job. If your boss sees you doing something, it means more than if she hears about it later. Optics rule our perceptions.

    For many homes, the lawn is the biggest visual cue to a husband’s contribution. In all likelihood, the husband did not build the house. In a two-income household, he didn’t even pay for the entire house. But given our sexist culture, he is probably in charge of the lawn. So if the lawn goes south, he has little to show of his value. His spouse, on the other hand, is often doing one visual thing after another, involving grocery bags, kids, dinner, and keeping up the home. The husband is home at night and on weekends to witness a lot of that action, and, according to studies, he is usually doing less than half of the chores. The husband can witness his wife’s value in a clear, visual way. 

    The children themselves are also a visual representation of a woman’s value. The man contributed some sperm long ago, probably in the dark. His contribution was visually empty. But nine months of carrying a human in your belly, followed by birth, nursing, and childcare is as visual as you can get.

    A typical husband’s contribution to the family happens when he is at work. And unlike the old days where the guy might drag home some animal he killed –which would be visually impressive – today he probably has direct deposit. No one even sees a paycheck.

    In 2015, a husband is just an asshole who disappears for half of the day while the wife does all the work. I’m exaggerating, but you see my point that the man’s contribution to a marriage has turned into an abstract concept that is easily taken for granted. If money keeps showing up in the bank account, thanks to direct deposit, human nature says we will start to devalue where it came from.

    But if that same husband spends half a day each week doing his manly water-gathering task, and his lawn is the greenest on the street, and his big manly water truck is parked in the driveway, that’s a guy who contributes in a visual way. I think that is the driver of this behavior.

    My other hypothesis is that I don’t own a truck so I am writing an insulting post about men who do. I can’t rule that out. 


    In Top Tech Blog:

    – Ford is putting cameras on the exterior of its cars. If others follow, it won’t be long before someone builds a storage device so you have a record of everything that happened around you. Being a criminal keeps getting harder.

    Drone technology is coming to toys. Soon we will have many more ways to terrorize a sibling.

    – And some engineers at Stanford figured out a cheap way to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. I wonder what it feels like to invent something that could change the entire world. I drew a comic today.

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