Baby Mama and I went to a movie yesterday – perhaps the last one we’ll see together for a long time (that doesn’t involve Pixar animations). We saw Horrible Bosses – a benign comedy chosen primarily for Baby Mama’s crush on Jason Bateman. I didn’t mind it, although I had trouble suspending my disbelief for the part about the guy who hates that his uber-hot boss Jennifer Aniston keeps trying to have sex with him. During a scene where the guy feels harassed because she’s wearing just a lab coat and panties in the office, one moviegoer in the theatre actually said out loud “How is that a problem?” – thus vocalizing what every straight guy in the place was thinking.
By contrast, I had no trouble at all believing Jason Bateman’s monologue at the start of the movie: “My grandma came to this country with 21 dollars. After working hard her whole life and taking shit from no one, she turned that 21 dollars into 2000 dollars. That…sucks. Grandma’s problem was that she took shit from nobody. These days, the key to success is taking shit.”
Baby Mama’s boyfriend isn’t wrong – as I learned from my McQueen experiment, standing up for yourself and doing your own thing rarely gets you anywhere (unless you’re Steve McQueen, and he’s dead). As I mentioned in a previous post, people claim to admire individualists, but in truth they usually try to oppress and kill them. If you’ve read of a true maverick who successfully blazed their own unique trail in life, it’s probably for the same reason you’ve read about a recent plane crash – it happens so infrequently that it’s newsworthy.
For many males, this is perhaps one of the most emasculating truisms of professional life: in the workplace, a handful of us get to call the shots while the rest of us have our shots called by that handful. In such a top-down management structure, some shit-taking may be required, and no doubt it’s hard for a man to feel like a man when he’s kissing his boss’ ass – unless, of course, that boss is Jennifer Aniston and he is literally kissing her ass.
Not me, though. Just like Jason Bateman, I’ve learned to appreciate the art of going with the flow…basically, of puckering and planting. Perhaps it’s the failure of my experiments in hubris, or the recognition that fatherhood requires me to place my unborn child (and my responsibility to provide for it) ahead of my own ego – regardless, I now believe there could be few things more manly, more necessary to being a Better Man (and father) than knowing how, when the occasion demands, to eat shit and call it pudding.
To explain why, it might help to re-frame the discussion using terms other than “eating shit” – that suggests any man who understands the dynamics of his workplace and acts accordingly is a bit of a pussy. Really, this is about adaptability, a subject I’ve covered before: Navy SEALs are expected to adapt to shitty situations all the time, and I doubt they hear people calling them pussies that often.
So maybe it would help to quote some more movie dialogue, this time from a character in the David Mamet film Redbelt: “Everything has a force. Embrace it or deflect it–why oppose it?” That movie was about jiujitsu, and the character was describing a prevailing concept of that particular martial art. The meaning is simple enough: resistance is futile.