At the corner of Swanston and Flinders you wait with a throng of Melburnians for the traffic lights to change so you can become part of the surge crossing the road and heading toward the clocks of Flinders Street Station. Flinders Street is Australia’s oldest train station and is the busiest suburban railway station in the southern hemisphere. Back when all suburban trains would finish their journey at one of the station’s sixteen platforms. The train driver and conductor would swap positions and the train would leave to go back to where it came from. The clocks under the main dome of the station have always shown the departure time of the next trains; they date back to the 1860s. Melburnians have always, and still do, meet under the clocks. I stopped under the clocks and looked back to the Young and Jacksons corner I had just crossed from; a new throng was beginning to form. I waited for the light to change. And there it was again; a green female pedestrian traffic light; a pedestrian light no longer gender-coded. I stood under the clocks and started to muse about gender coding.
Describing a girl as a tomboy seems to be falling out of fashion. A tomboy girl was a girl who took an interest in and enjoyed activities that had been conventionally coded and culturally accepted, as boy stuff. Shops in the U.S. have now removed gender-based labels from their toy and bedding shelves. The bedding area doesn’t have labelling suggestions for boys or girls, and the toy aisles are identified by what’s in them; an action figure aisle or a doll aisle rather than specifying a gender. Chemistry sets and LEGO toys aren’t in a boys section, and play kitchens and dolls aren’t in a girls aisle; they’re in the kid’s area.
In The Land Down Under the state of Victoria is changing its school uniform policy; girls will have the option to wear shorts or trousers, instead of dresses and skirts. And so girls who like to kick the footy will be able to do so in a pair of shorts instead of a dress or skirt. And wearing trousers or a pair of shorts should make a girl more comfortable when she ducks under a desk to plug in her laptop. The school uniform has become gender-neutral.
At last, society is becoming gender nonconformist, and gender expansive. Activities and interests are no longer being coded as a girl thing or a boy thing. But I think there are some things that are just men things; things that men excel at, and are even better at than women.
Moving the Lolly
Most Australian men’s urinals have deodorising blocks resting in the bottom of them. Urinals tend to collect a lot of liquid, so the blocks are put there to neutralise the smell of the urine that doesn’t wash down the drain. The scented block isn’t called a deodorizer; it’s a cake, puck, biscuit, or trough lolly. Regardless of what it’s called, it’s there for one thing; to overwhelm the persistent scent of standing urine. Most men’s dunnies at pubs and sporting venues have an against-the-wall urinal; either porcelain or metal. A classic against the wall unit will comfortably accommodate up to eight men.
Usually, there is a hinged floor grate to stand on and some sort of water flushing fixture. There is a drain under, or beside the grate because when you’re aiming against the wall the stream is directed toward the floor. Several trough lollies usually sit in the drain; the more lollies a urinal has, the less sanitary the place. This rule doesn’t apply to sporting venues. After a few beers with the boys, the challenge is always offered to see who can move the lolly the greatest distance. Some maintain the secret to being on target with the lolly and moving it is the angle your stream hits the lolly, and varying the angle during the lollies journey. Others claim the secret is controlling the amount of stream dribbling and maintaining control of its velocity from the start to the end, but a technique that allows control and mastery of the stream begins with just guiding it in circles around the lolly.
The Comb Over
Men welcome and applaud hair loss. We choose to proudly announce and flaunt the progression of our hair loss with a comb-over; combing long strands of hair from the sides or the back of our head over the hair loss area. As the area of visible scalp expands we strategically lower the hair part so more hair can be placed over the balding area; the part moves to just above the ear or to our neckline. Men start wearing the comb-over at any age; abandoning it only when there is no longer sufficient hair to cover their baldness. The comb-over is adaptable and on some reaches the height of tonsorial artistry.
Taking Rubbish to the Tip
There’s no other way to say it; men are just better than women at taking rubbish to the tip. We excel at hauling dirt, wood, furniture, household electrical items, appliances, corrugated iron, or anything no longer useful to the tip. I remember going to the Williamstown tip a few times with dad. I can’t recall any other meaningful father-son activities that we did together; activities that became opportunities for shared learning promoted my self-confidence and character development and caused me to pass into manhood and grow into a well-rounded, successful, man. There’s nothing like throwing rubbish out at the tip with dad. The tip was a short drive down Kororoit Creek Road; the houses lining Kororoit Creek Road stopped several hundred feet before the tip. There was a dirt road leading into the tip and you followed a weaving corrugated trail toward the swarming flocks of seagulls to unload your rubbish. The weaving corrugated trail would change its route every time you went to the tip. The Callander and Cody families lived on the tip. It was before bulldozers and bobcats; it seemed they raked and moved the rubbish by hand to eliminate mountains of dumped rubbish. And I think they salvaged what they could sell. The tip is now a housing estate.
Consuming Large Amounts of Beer
Men are designed to drink beer better than women; they have a larger build, more blood volume, and less body fat than women. Because body fat doesn’t absorb alcohol all that well, the alcohol level in a women’s bloodstream after a night out drinking will be more concentrated than in a man’s bloodstream. And men have about ten per cent more water in their blood than women; we are better equipped to dilute alcohol so after doing a few rounds, men will have a lower concentration of alcohol in the bloodstream than women. The higher alcohol level in a woman’s bloodstream means that more alcohol will travel faster to their vital organs and brain than it will with a man. Excessive amounts of ridicule have been levelled at beer bellies. Some say that drinking beer can put on weight; claiming that if you weren’t drinking beer your liver would be metabolizing and burning fat cells from food instead of switching gears to work on the alcohol. But I like to think that instead of suffering ridicule, all of us men who like bending the elbow should be admired and saluted.
We acknowledge the health benefits of beer. It has been suggested that beer can lower the risk of kidney stones, protect us from heart attacks, reduce the risk of strokes, strengthen our bones, decreases the chance of diabetes, reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, cure insomnia, stop cataracts, and cure cancer. Men know that they have been built to drink beer instead of Zumba workouts, muscle-sculpting Pilates, or Shake Weight routines.
The Trouser Cough
Men enjoy letting one go in public. Ever since we were young lads in a schoolroom we’ve challenged each other to let one rip. The coup de grâce was always the silent, but deadly smelling one that wafted throughout the room, with nobody knowing where it came from. But if the general agreement was that it was a winner, then everyone claimed ownership of the Master Blaster. As the legitimate owner of the Blaster, you would sit back at your desk with proud smug satisfaction. Men have no problem letting a loud one rip in mixed company and we’re usually praised with resounding cries from the mates with; the mighty chocolate lips has spoken. And there isn’t one of us who hasn’t challenged a partner to a game of Dutch Ovens; putting both of your heads under the bedsheets after you’ve just let one go and then seeing who is the first one to crawl out from under the sheets. The first one out is the loser.
I think it’s time that I slipped into the Chloe Bar at Young and Jacksons and ordered a few pots of the ice-cold amber and toasted the famous nude portrait; just as men have done since 1909.