© 2012, Davd
When i sold fresh herbs to “the better restaurants” on mid-Vancouver Island, chefs used to buy heavily the week before Mother’s Day. Several said it was their biggest business day of the year. Not some time in the High Tourist Season, not Christmas party time or even New Year’s Eve—Mother’s Day was the day the most people come into those restaurants and spent the most money!
It was a good day for a single father and his son to go fishing at the popular spots—so many of the other guys were stuck doing Mother’s Day ritual and not out scaring the fish.
Men whose mothers are truly worthy of respect, don’t need the suggestions that follow. They can “do the regular Mother’s Day stuff” or perhaps do something that is special to their particular family—for instance, the heavy work to help a 7x year old mother get in her garden. Even married men with children, whose mothers weren’t very good, but whose wives are, have plenty to celebrate1.
This message is for “the losers and the rejects”—for men and large boys who don’t have a decent reason to celebrate Mother’s Day. After decades of easy divorce, sects of Feminism that hate men (and sometimes accuse any man who disagrees with one of them of hating women—something Freud once called “projection”), and even a minority of mothers who significantly abused their own sons; there are many, many more such men than there were two or even one generation ago. If you’re lucky enough to have mothers in your life to celebrate, you probably know at least one man, probably half a dozen or more, who don’t.
Men whose mothers were not great and loving can find Mother’s Day stressful, because of all the pressure to show how much they love someone who hasn’t been as lovable as a good dog. So can men whose wives have deserted them or been unfaithful, and taken away their children. If they “do the regular Mother’s Day stuff” they are pressured by convention to feel inadequate, insincere, even guilty—and to take the blame for what women in their lives have done to them. (When this happened to women in the latter 20th Century, Feminists called it “blaming the victim”. Men can be blamed victims also. Part of the message of this ‘text’, is that women can be abusive, men can be victims, and men deserve support when we suffer, as much as women do when they suffer.)
Abuse victims tend to be called “losers” and “rejects”—perhaps especially if they are male. This is not entirely false: Being abused is a kind of loss—not deserved, but a loss—and abuse usually entails some degree of rejection. The problem with those words is that they condemn men for having been mistreated, when what those men deserve is fellowship and support.
To admit a man is logically a loser or a reject, is one thing. To reject him even further because someone abused him already, is evil. We can do better. Here, me-thinks, is a way to do better for men and boys who Mother’s Day reminds, that they didn’t get the love that naturally belongs to children and fathers. Most of these men who have no reason to joyfully celebrate Mother’s Day, do have good things about them to celebrate instead.
So let’s get men together and—to repeat a theme—do something honest this Mother’s Day, and something fun if we honestly can, which most of us can in the right company. There are two “do nots” implied by that criterion: Don’t go to a restaurant, because Mother’s Day will dominate the scene there and interfere with having fun if Mother’s Day is a feel-bad day for you; and Don’t imagine you have any duty to lie!
While we’re at it, let’s confront those words “rejects and losers”: There are some fine, indeed excellent, men and boys who have been rejected and have suffered loss. Nelson Mandela was put in prison for years for seeking racial equality. Oscar Romero and Martin Luther King were murdered. Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Louis Riel were executed. Does not the Bible itself say that Jesus was “despised and rejected” (and didn’t Easter Weekend just remind us of that?) If you do not have a mother you can honestly honour—find some friends in the same situation, who you can.
Call it “Orphans’ Day”, maybe.
It will help if the weather’s good. Not very many mothers choose early-May barbecues or picnics or fishing trips as their celebration—so those are promising alternatives for abused and rejected men—and for boys who have mothers they can’t honestly celebrate (and who are free not to tell Nice lies.)
Sharing Food is a good idea: Cooking and eating together is a good way to get acquainted and make friends. If you were a Boy Scout, or a backpacker, or did training excursions in the military, you know this already. And if you’re going to spend more than an hour or two together, guys are going to get hungry. So my default plan for a first-Orphans’-Day Celebration is a barbecue, with some sports and games, maybe a sing-along—and somewhere to get together under a roof if there’s rain.
Since we can’t control the weather and the Weather Office can’t predict it extremely well even three days in advance, i do suggest you have a rainy-day alternative planned. What that means at the minimum, is a building with a roof and a little heat2, a cook-stove and a table and enough chairs, that will hold the group if the Great Outdoors isn’t great for weather. (If you’re all the hardy type, a big tent might do. Just be sure you’re really the hardy type.)
Since cooking is a hobby of mine, i’ll write a few paragraphs on food:
If you want to have steak, and you can afford it, fine. Most men like steak, most boys like steak, and if you do have good weather it’s especially good cooked over a hardwood fire: Alder, cherry, maple, even oak. (Poplar wood will do in a pinch if you peel off the bark, and so will birch. Their bark tends to give meat a bad taste, though. Alder and pin-cherry are the most available barbecue-smoke woods in Canada; maple and oak are good where you can get them, some can make good results with spruce [e.g “Black Forest ham”]; and if you do use poplar or birch—take off that bark.)
Pork chops, pork ribs, lamb or mutton chops—and salmon if you’re in BC and have some left in the freezer—also go well on the grill. The best trick i know with salmon (or big trout if you live in lake-trout country) is to filet and put the skin side down. When a milky colour, whitish but not paper-white, forms on top and dries, the fish is done. Big filets are usually mighty expensive unless you can get them from a fisherman, or are one.
Chicken legs barbecue well, white chicken meat [and white fish] doesn’t have enough fat. Have some pork, chicken legs, sausages, and-or fish for those who don’t happen to think steak is wonderful. (You probably won’t need very much: Most men—and boys—really do like steak.)
If money’s a concern, steak is not a necessity. Here in Atlantic Canada, ground beef is not that much cheaper than steak if you find a sale on round or sirloin. (Round is sometimes tough; i often marinate it.) Pork chops, or a pork loin roast cut into steaks, are often cheaper than ground beef around here. (To cut a roast into steaks easily and well, put it into the freezer until it is quite stiff but not yet frozen hard. Then a good heavy cook’s knife will be able to make accurate parallel slices. Slice across the grain, i suggest 2-3 cm [about an inch] thick for barbecuing. Chicken legs sometimes “come on special” for less than pork chops—but remember, they tend to have more bone, and therefore less meat, per weight. In other regions, the price patterns might not be the same. I lived in BC in 1990-2005, and there i could usually get much better prices on chicken, salmon, and regular ground beef, than i have ever found here.
“Hot dogs” are often the cheapest meat you can find. Myself, i wouldn’t pay more than $2 per pound for them, and lately have bought them at $1 or bought something else. They do taste better grilled than not—and they can be tasty in navy bean soup—but so can a smaller amount of bacon or smoked-soy imitation.
Beans and lentils can be the bulk-high-protein food if you want to be really careful about the cost, or a backup if you want to have a little steak or pork-chops but not buy a whole pound per man. I have three recipes for beans that can be made from scratch (starting by soaking overnight in savory-water) and require no meat at all: Chili sin carne3, black beans with bay and onion, Navy bean soup with hot-dogs or bacon. Curried lentils also are easy to cook and reliably good, and split-pea soup is another possibility. I can send recipes if you don’t already have recipes you know and trust, but they probably won’t arrive in time for Orphans Day. (Use them for Father’s Day?)
May is not a good month for potatoes; so for the grain-food i suggest a pasta salad with fresh chives, rice with homemade salsa, and toasted bread with garlic margarine [or butter, but good margarine will do].
Fresh vegetables are not in season in Canada in early May. By Fathers’ Day we may have our own lettuce, but not May 13th. Broccoli will be a stretch even in mid-June. My garden so far has one fresh ‘produce’—chives. They are as early as asparagus, or a little earlier. So unless you have free access to an asparagus patch, you get to choose between imported, home sprouted mung beans, and cold-cellar.
Lettuce and tomato salad is never a bad idea, but it will have to be imported and therefore won’t be as good as your own will be starting with those first outdoor tomatoes in late July. Add a little chive or green onion if you make one. It needs no dressing, but tolerates dressings for those who want them.
Corn on the cob is like strawberries—has to be imported this time of year, and if you compared the imports with what you can home-grow in summer, you’d flunk the imports.
I personally would recommend coleslaw and a carrot-raisin salad, both of which you can make yourself using a grater of “salad-master”, with steamed cabbage with caraway seed, steamed carrots, or frozen spinach or broccoli for hot vegetables. If you know how to “grow” bean sprouts, they are good steamed until they brighten, then dressed with oil, chive-blossom vinegar, and a touch of sugar. (Mix before adding the sprouts. If you don’t make chive-blossom vinegar, about as much soy-sauce as oil will also make a good dressing, and a little soy-sauce is always good with bean sprouts.)
For dessert—the goodies you really like, whatever those are, plus apples, and bananas or oranges.
What you do in addition to feasting, could include sports (for instance, baseball, dodge-ball, Frisbee, horseshoes, touch football, soccer, tug-of-war, badminton or volleyball if you can put up a net—but basketball, golf and tennis tend to require too much infrastructure for a barbecue or an outing.) You might have a fiddler, guitar or accordion player, maybe even a bass and a drummer, and do a sing-along. You might have some storytelling—i’d suggest there be at least three different storytellers unless you have a very good one to feature.
Consider serious discussion, but don’t insist on it if a right-feeling pattern won’t emerge. I’d suggest at least two topics (from a list that need not be limited to: Abortion, abstinence, co-housing, co-operative farming and manufacturing, custody, infidelity, law and legal [dis]advantages, lying, marriage, sexual harassment [including women harassing men], STDs [and note the order is alphabetic, the intent being not to recommend some of the list before others].) With two or more topics, preferably at least three, if discussion becomes strained or stalled, it is easy to say “OK, let’s consider ___ for a while and maybe come back to this after it’s had a rest.”)
(If by Thursday or Friday the weather looks quite sure to be rain-less on Sunday, then you might consider committing the group to an outdoor, human-powered “trip” by bicycle, canoe and kayak, or perhaps even foot-hiking. If you choose a “trip”, make the destination something special (such as a scenic wonder that does not have car access, a campground or lodge, a place known for good fishing, or possibly, a work-party at a place you’ll return to later on. Whatever destination you choose, be sure no other group is going there that day.) Don’t make the distance too long: Five miles each way should be maximum for bicycling, two or three miles for canoe or kayak, and one or two on foot. Some boys and old men can’t move full speed, and you want plenty of time to enjoy the destination!)
If you’re Christian, and don’t want to simply stay home from the kinds of sermons that assume all mothers are angelic4, you could even organize a church service around texts like Psalm 27, Matthew 10:34-36, Luke 12:49-53, 14:26; which recognize that not all kin are always good to us. Mother’s Day always comes on a Sunday, and if you don’t have a sympathetic clergyman to lead the service, then remember what Luther wrote about the priesthood of all believers, and team up with one to five other men to hold the service at home—or maybe, at a camp that hasn’t started up for the summer, or a picnic ground near a good fishing spot, if the weather be good. You can even arrange so that the Christians in a general group have their service while others get the barbecue fire going or if indoors, watch TV or listen to music. What i’ve just written is a general outline for a first get-together of men and boys who don’t fit in with Mother’s Day. Readers may have improvements, refinements, and additional activities to suggest.
Mother’s Day is less than a week away. To help men interested in having “Orphans’ Day”, or whatever you might want to call the alternative activities in your area, to find one another, a local men’s-group or website is a big help. If not, think about Scouts and search-and-rescue phone trees. Finally, don’t dump on men who feel they have to tell the Nice Social Lies, or are afraid of some of the women in their lives, and say they can’t come for Orphans’ Day. Not this year anyway, and not next year. There was decades ago, and still is, Feminist kvetching and hand-wringing about women who stay in abusive relationships. Men belong to the same species. It will take time for support networks to develop and for many trapped men to find, recognize, and learn to claim their freedom.
I did write, last year, that although Canada has become a “women’s world” whose opportunity structure is biased against men, we can still hear the opposite said on the radio. “Orphans’ Day barbecues” and bike-hikes and sports and even serious discussions, are part of the process of making the truth public knowledge, and very possibly, of fixing the biases and repairing the damage.
There is nothing wrong with enjoying the process! Most men—and most boys—are good company.
1. The worst thing that can happen to men with really good mothers and wives, is if they or one of their children have a birthday that falls on or next-to Mother’s Day. Such birthdays wind up in the shadow of the Biggest Day of the Year, and seldom get lively celebration?one of my own sons, and my friend Greg in Tofino, had that bad luck. They seem to be surviving it.
4. Not all sermons do—but in my experience, at least a quarter and perhaps more than three-quarters, have praised motherhood as if there were no exceptions. One preacher who dared to be a little critical, chided some overly-self-righteous women in his Methodist church who actually requested he re-write two hymns and substitute “Mother” for “Jesus”. “Only One there is who has not sinned,” Pastor Don said, “and He was not a mother. He had a good mother, better than the ones who suggested this little blasphemy …” [paraphrased from memory]