I met him in Arnhem and recognized him. The son of a motorcycling acquaintance, now it seems that he is already a well-worn thirties. So the son, not the father. I knew he also rode a motorcycle and he was wearing an old leather jacket with a sewn on Triumph emblem. The jacket was really old. Not fancy vintage. As I said, he looked rather drunk for what I remembered as his age.
"John, how are you?" The politically correct answer from any vague acquaintance is, "Good." Then you chat a bit and you go on with your own business. The answer, however, was a heartfelt “Shit”. Then of course you can say: “Okay! Good to see you again. And strength is it.” But if you have a little more time in your life, you can say: “We'll go into the pub here and have a cup of coffee.”
It really went bad. The son of an acquaintance had moved in with his love after a few years of pioneering. She was not a motorcycle woman, but let him have his way as long as he continued to fulfill his relational and social obligations. He did. And then came The Wish for Children. That was a bit of a shock, because children's wishes are usually more of a woman's thing. And something for kids when it comes to wish lists. But because life is a give and take, parenthood seemed like an option.
At least the base seemed better than a couple I knew. There was an age difference of 23 years. And he already had grown children when she wanted at least one of her own when she was 35. That was neatly negotiated: She became pregnant, he bought a Harley. She had a Caesarean section. He has a fat tattoo. Also a deal. By the way, he made quite a few miles on his Harley. Because changing diapers had never been his thing.
But here in the pub the story turned out to be different. When my table partner came home one day, he found his Lief and her mother. The message was clear: Now that a child was on the way, the motorcycle had to get out the door. And there was no discussion about that. The young father-to-be was from the generation of men who still remember the first emancipation tsunami. So he was the kind of man who just realized that he didn't just have his soft side to sit on and that the kinder sculpted sex needed to be heard too. But the confrontation surprised him and he threatened to get angry like men 1.0 did. He gathered himself, took some clothes and a toothbrush and left for the nearby motel.
There, incidentally, he met a friend of his with a lady other than the one the friend was married to. Relationships remain difficult things apparently.
After a cooling off period of a few days, during which a lot of messages had arrived on his smartphone, he contacted his girlfriend. They made an appointment on neutral ground. The mother turned out to be there too. And the hard demand to get rid of the motorcycle had remained. The approach was clear: “The engine will go away, or it will be the end of our love.” Emotional blackmail could have been more subtle. And more effective.
It was quiet at the table for a minute or so. “I am sorry for you and your child. And not because of the child. But I don't want to share my life with such a mother-in-law and such a daughter. And you don't have to leave. I am gone." He greeted calmly. And walked outside. Where I ran into him.
“You know, if she had tackled it differently, I would have liked to put the engine away. But now I felt that I was sitting in front of a court. And how much she actually looked like her mother. The scales caught my eye. "
I've been a man for as long as I can remember. I know from experience that being a man is not everything. But I have not been tempted to convert to one of the currently 23 other possible genders. You have to make of it what can be made of it. And I have seen several emancipation waves. Emancipation in the truest sense of the word is fantastic. Just like democracy or liberalism.
But there is quite a tension between reality and theory. And between men and women. But still: emancipation is fine. But there is an age-old wise saying among men: “Women are like mushrooms harvested by themselves. If you hit the wrong one, it will destroy you.” And a hard decision can be a good decision.