Disclaimer: Men and women are created equal. In no way does this blog suggest that one gender is superior to the other. However, some of us are from Mars and some of us are from Venus (read the book if you don’t believe me!). This makes us uniquely different. So please don’t get your panties or briefs in a ruffle after reading this blog!
It was the start of the 2016/2017 season and our seasonal mushing family was lined up and ready to get underway. This year the family was different. Different from anything we’ve seen in previous years. Different in a softer, more feminine way. Different because it was all women!
The kennel was about to enter the estrogen zone. I just hoped for all our sakes we were all on a different heat cycle. Sorry, a little dog humor. Seriously, for me this was exciting and I welcomed the estrogen comradery since I’m usually the only woman amongst an all-male crew. I’m used to it though as I’ve been doing it all my life; golfing, snowmobiling and working in a male dominated industry. A woman develops certain coping skills in those situations; a tolerance for toilet seats never being down, an immunity to musky smells, a very thick skin and most importantly the ability to wear the “bitch” hat proudly as you earn that label instantaneously just for having an opinion. So I welcomed this new change with open arms.
Bruce, on the other hand, had good reason to be a bit trepidatious about our new situation. He was born into a male dominated household and has worked in a very male dominated industry since he was young. This left him ill prepared for estrogen overload. It didn’t help that his wife had the above skill set and; therefore, further removed him from a world of femininity. This new situation was about to rock his testosterone laden world.
We started the season with 4 women at the training kennel and if that wasn’t enough, in December, we threw in one more from South Africa just for good measure. Then when that wasn’t enough we had another one come visit during the TCSDR race. This was on top of all the women who call him regularly during sled season to talk dogs. As a friend so eloquently put it, “Bruce was floating helplessly in a sea of estrogen.”
I wanted to prepare him, but then on the other hand I didn’t. He would not be getting a life preserver from me; I wanted to watch! It was sort of like not being able to look away from an accident. Horrifying and intriguing all at the same time. Bruce was going to need to get in touch with his feminine side in a major way. All the football games and endless sports talk that I endured over the years would finally be paid back; YES!!!
Initially, we didn’t notice the different dynamics of the team, but after a while they became more evident. Our first observation was the after dinner conversations. They were far from the sports and political analysis of year’s past and more akin to the Vagina Monologues. We referred to them as our after dinner therapy sessions. To some men this would be their worst nightmare! However, Bruce didn’t let us see him sweat. He would sit in his lounge chair calmly listening, but I’m sure, there were times he was cringing in fear the conversation might take an uncomfortable turn. To his credit, he was a great participant and willingly gave his male perspective on issues. This was welcomed and, at times, met with silence and wide eyed stares when he missed the mark. It didn’t faze him though; in true male fashion, he carried on oblivious. He stayed engaged, but never gained an understanding of why we constantly talk about wine and chocolate. From his perspective, “For gosh sakes it’s food and booze – get over it!” Pshhhhh, MEN!
Bruce may have dug deep for some conversations, but he literally quit digging when it came to emotions and there were A LOT of emotions! The emotional dynamics of the team were a bit much for him and when they reared their weepy head he retreated like a gazelle from a hungry cheetah. His cardio is top notch now. This retreating, of course, left me in charge of placating the tears and mini-meltdowns. Not something I can credit myself for being very good at. At times I worried these poor women would need therapy after the season was over as I patted them on the back with two fingers saying, “There, there; it’s ok” When that didn’t work I was famous for, “Ok, it’s over; now get over it!” Yep, Mrs. Sensitivity! Just another coping mechanism from the male dominated world, but I had to toughen these chicks up! If I didn’t, it was going to be a long winter.
I’m not sure if we succeeded in toughening them up emotionally, but physically that was another story. Bruce quickly learned chivalry would be the death of him. When normally he might be the guy to do the heavy lifting for a gal, he realized that if he continued to do that he would be the only one doing the work. He had to refrain from being chivalrous so that he wasn’t a lone man working while a gaggle of women stood around and watched. This created tension when he didn’t transition back and forth for the sake of his marriage. I’m pretty low maintenance, but I appreciate chivalry in my marriage. I recall carrying a box on top of another box of heavy gear walking in the snow while he stood and watched. He got the look; however, he had done such a good job transitioning he had forgotten what the look meant. Suffice it to say, I had a few doors slammed in my face as he exercised his new found freedom. I understand though as he had to treat us all equal; Lord help him if he carried a box for one of the girls and not wifey; what a disaster that would have been! He did so good that I fear it could be a long road transitioning back.
Some transitions were easy, but one area he never really got comfortable with was the girly giggling fits. Downstairs all you could hear was giggling. He would announce he was coming down out of courtesy, but most likely he feared what was so funny down there. He is still not comprehending that sometimes it’s nothing specific; it’s just something that overcomes them. Snow in the tire, that’s funny. Food is funny. Snow is funny. Shit, we broke the snowmobile that’s funny. The list goes on. Bruce; however, didn’t find much of it funny.
He especially didn’t find broken stuff funny. Mechanically, he was the only one with any mechanical skills. As we went about our business breaking shit; Bruce was called upon to fix and repair it. There were the emails down state;
Kennel – “The truck won’t start.”
Bruce – “What is it doing?”
Kennel – “I turn the key it won’t start.”
Bruce – “Did you hear a clicking noise?”
Kennel – “Clicking? What kind of clicking? I don’t think so.”
Bruce – “Is the battery dead?”
Kennel – “I don’t know.”
Bruce – “It will have to wait until I get there.”
Kennel – “Never mind, it started.”
Then there was the time the snowmobile wouldn’t shift out of reverse and he had to drive 5 miles home at night backwards. I wasn’t sure how he found time to run dogs. He was a tornado of fixing some days ….”Bruce can you fix this?” “Bruce, I need help.” “Bruce!” On the other hand, he certainly felt needed.
Feeling needed didn’t last long on most days. The women were very conscious of a clean space and went over and above cleaning up their living quarters and the gear. I became self-conscious for my husband and worried that he would expose them to his manly habits. “Don’t leave your shit laying all over the kitchen; the women eat here!” “Have you bathed lately?” “OMG; I’m sure they heard that fart all the way downstairs! Put a cork in it!” “You can’t walk around in your underwear; there are 5 women downstairs!” It was tense as nothing gets by chicks. He was forced to slightly alter his ways. Do you think I’ll get lucky and he’ll refrain from farting ever again? Probably not; oh well, can’t blame a girl for wishful thinking.
Now I would hate to give the impression that this situation was full of negatives for Bruce as that simply wasn’t the case. There were plenty of upsides to his situation; so don’t feel too sorry for him. One; he never had to do dishes or lift a finger to clean anything. There were so many women; they were fighting over the dishes (some actually like doing them). As for cleaning, there were a couple that like things clean and organized so they were all over that. The cabin was like a scene out of Sister Wives some days. Secondly, we provided him with plenty of laughable moments. There was the night I had to park the truck and trailer after we moved it for the plow guy. A 30 minute attempt that resulted in the entire rig jack knifed in a 90 degree parking position in the middle of the parking area. Between my poor backing up skills and the poor directions being doled out it was a task that became impossible to resolve. Bruce was amused at the end result. We provided hours of amusement with stuck groomers, drivers tipping over in the deep snow on snowmobiles and various other miscalculations. So you see he avoided all domestic chores and had a lot of laughs; not such a bad gig.
We all had to be very careful though that Bruce didn’t develop a KING complex. Everywhere he went he had a harem of women in tow. You can imagine this guy walking into a local Yooper bar with 5 chicks. If you’ve never walked into a Yooper bar it goes something like this. You walk in. The 10 men sitting at the bar all stop, turn and look. You can almost hear them thinking, “Who the hell is that? They ain’t local.” We raised eyebrows for sure. Then to do it on more than one occasion; hell, Bruce is probably revered by the local men of Newberry at this point! If that wasn’t enough to contribute to a KING complex, he is presently traveling with two women and only booking one room at all the motels. Ohhhh, the looks! Despite what it sounds like, we managed to keep him grounded in reality. A reality that compelled him to seek ways to escape.
The realities of living with a house full of women taught him to appreciate those quiet moments alone in the woods where there were no women, no words, no broken shit, no giggling and he could fart to his heart’s content. Running dogs took on a whole new meaning this year. Frankly, I’m surprised he didn’t decide to start running 50’s and sign up for the Iditarod.
I think we can safely say that Bruce got in touch with his feminine side, purely for survival. His manly man ways are ingrained deep and I have no concern about finding him painting his nails in the back room or having to share my chocolate and wine with him. Thank Gawd for the latter. However, it has had a profound impact on him. He’s already considering an all-female crew for next year and at this very moment he is listening to an all-female sports show called Trifecta! He has become a believer; “Chicks Rock!” However, he’s thankful that the “Women’s March” occurred after we all dispersed for racing season as he was absolutely adamant the kennel would NOT be acquiring pink pussy hats!