Male Privilege – His Perspective
– by Colle Davis
I offer no apologies for an being an old white male. Aging is a privilege denied to many in this world but, it’s true, I’m an old white guy. That’s who and what I am. It has taken me a long time to even accept the word ‘old’ in connection with who I am, but that’s my story.
I’ve learned that men of any age can learn new behaviors and I’ve also learned what it means to women, when given the opportunity and encouragement.
My wife, Phyllis, is a glamorous firebrand in her own right is a successful artist and businesswoman, but she has been incapacitated for two years. She required spinal fusion surgery and a hip replacement to correct age-related problems (she jokes she is now bionic). Her once hard-charging self that once carried the household and worked as a co-equal business partner now required my help to take care of her while she was bedridden. It was not a good look for either of us. This piece is not about her; it is about male privilege. Besides, she still runs our five companies with a phone and a laptop from bed.
My role as a tall, fit, capable male over seventy years has been the strong, smart and funny guy who helps a bit around the house. A single mom raised me, so I thought I knew what it took to run a household. My willingness to expand my household duties as a caregiver seemed menial and beneath me.
Eighteen months ago, we bought a very large and rambling house 99 miles South of Washington, DC. It was formerly a beautiful 80-year old church, all designed on one floor and perfect for my wife to accommodate her limited mobility. Then, my reality changed. Overnight, I became the one in charge of running the house, and I was responsible for making sure it was clean (we have a maid, as we always have).
I make sure there was always food in the house (my wife does the ordering, and I pick it up at Kroger, plus we have a meal-kit delivery service for most of our meals). I prepare the meals on time and then I clean up afterward and prepare the kitchen for the next meal or the next day. She still manages to help with laundry because the laundry room is near the bedroom and she wants to contribute. I help fold.
Here is where my male privilege reared up and blasted me into reality. The strange part is how long it took for my new role to become routine.
- Making the coffee each day for the next day had been part of my occasional duties, now it became a daily responsibility.
- I learned to prepare our meals in advance. I set the meat out to thaw and set out the meal kit on the counter to make sure everything was ready. Next, I chop, mix, cook and plate our meals.
- After that, I place her meal on a bed tray and deliver it to her with a broad smile.
- When she is finished, I collect her tray, clean the kitchen, load the dishwasher and turn it on.
- I have learned to glance over to make sure the coffee is ready for the next morning.
- When we wake up, I go to the kitchen (the coffee is ready thanks to a timer), and I put cream in the cups, pour the coffee and take her a cup of the morning brew.
- I have also learned to clean the counters to a spit-shine after each meal, but that task has taken me a while to remember to do it.
Now my male privilege has been exposed. The act of remaining humble is the best word to describe the feelings attached to my new realization. Men have no idea how male privilege damages societal roles.
It has taken me over seven decades to appreciate the incivility of what privilege does to those around us. For this, I offer no apology, and I am doing my penance with grace and accepting my role as an old white guy who laughs often, cares for my wife and those around me. I now understand the value of contributing and the gift it is to others.
From one side, white male privilege is invisible and normal, but from the other side, it’s mean, cruel, selfish with obvious impacts.
I accept I’m a better man.
Male Privilege – Her Perspective
by Phyllis Davis
Allow me to interject my appreciation for Colle’s willingness to care for me during my long rehabilitation. He is a very macho guy and wears big hats and boots. My nickname for him is Cowboy. He is happiest when he is covered in saw dust from his wood-working studio, or on his tractor hauling trees to a nearby ravine. We live in a dense forest and there are always ‘manly things’ that need tending.
As he began to accept himself as a caregiver after my surgery, he fumbled and was able to laugh at his new challenges because after all, I’d always taken care of the household tasks and meals during our decades-long marriage. I give him full credit for asking questions, sharing his frustrations and laughing at the challenges of his new responsibilities, but as any caretaker will tell you, it requires patience and stamina.
Did it make him ‘less masculine?’ No. He is still has a sprinkling of saw dust (I call it man glitter) as he prepares meals and manages the house. He’s kind and patient. I am a very lucky woman.
I am walking again, slowly, and I expect to return to my busy and active life by summer without the need of a cane.
Millennial couples seem to be accepting this more quickly than our Baby-Boomer generation. Today, men often care for their children, cook meals and do grocery shopping but it’s not considered ‘women’s work.’
Perhaps we all need to forgo privilege as we age so we can be fully human to care for ourselves and others, if we’re lucky, we can learn this at any age.