The Best of BAMF – Jumper Cables, Eddie Murphy & the Myth of Masculinity

This was originally posted in January 2008.

I was headed out the door this morning when one of my neighbors asked me to help jump start her car. I was quick to tell her that I didn’t have any jumper cables—which I didn’t—that I was sorry I couldn’t help, and hoped that would be the end of that. “Oh, that’s okay,” she said, “I have some cables.” And just like that, I was faced with one of those moments that I have dreaded for twenty years, ever since I got my first car at age 19—using jumper cables to charge a battery.

Here’s the deal, I don’t know how to use jumper cables. The main reason I don’t have jumper cables in my car is because I don’t know how to use them, and having them is simply an invitation to get found out. Now, none of this is to say I haven’t helped people out before, but they always knew what they were doing, so I was never put on the spot. But when my neighbor broke out the cables from the trunk of her car—cables that must have belonged to her husband who split about a year ago—and then handed them to me, I started to panic. “Um…I don’t really know how to use these things,” I said, trying to mask my shame. I felt like I was admitting that I had no penis and no testicles—no manhood to speak of whatsoever. “Sorry, I don’t know how to use jumper cables, but I can make you a fucking kickass omelet.” I was humiliated.

As if things could not get any worse, my neighbor, as it turns out, didn’t know how to use the jumper cables either. So what does she do? She does what most women would do in those circumstances would do; she hands me the case the jumper cables came in, with the poorly written instructions, and lets me figure it out for myself.

So, I’m standing there, in the bitter cold, and wondering if the reason my cock and balls are shriveling is because of the temperature, or because I feel like I’m being emasculated by the damn jumper cables. I mean how hard could they be to use? There are only four cables and four ports to connect the fuckers to. The only problem is that I’m having this crazy, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder flashback to the time I was about seven, when my grandmother was helping some other lady jump start her car, and they got the cables crossed, and sparks flew everywhere and I was convinced the car would blow up in grandma’s face. And so here I am, worried the damn car battery is going to explode in my face, and all the insecurities surrounding my masculinity come racing to the front of my brain, and I start to feel more and more like some sort of sissy-ass bitch-fag.

Well, the battery didn’t explode in my face. At the same time, I was unsuccessful in helping my neighbor jump start her car. Either it was something other than the battery, or I did something wrong, because the damn thing still would not start. But at least I faced one of my biggest fears—using jumper cables.

Now that you are all done laughing, please know that I’m serious. I was terrified of using jumper cables, because I didn’t know how to use them, but it seemed to me that all real men should know how. As a result, I have literally gone out of my way to avoid any type of situation in which I would use jumper cables. And if I had a dead battery, I would fix that problem the same way I fixed all car problems, using the lessons my mother taught me—I called AAA. I know that for many people having a membership to the Automobile Association of America, or any other roadside assistance program for that matter, is simply good preparedness. But for me it was always a sign that I didn’t know the shit other men know about cars. And it fucked with my mind.

>This whole situation with the jumper cables brought to light some pent up issues I’ve been dealing with as it pertains to my own masculinity, and what it takes to hold it down as a man. And as silly as it sounds, the whole thing had me feeling like I was some sort-of fucked up excuse for a man. I don’t know how to use jumper cables. I can’t seem to make a relationship with a woman work. The two are so obviously connected, and reflections of my inadequacy as a man, and my inability to do the things other guys can do. And then Eddie Murphy’s two-week marriage to Tracey Edmonds came to an end. Suddenly I didn’t feel as pathetic. I mean shit, fuck and damn…even my last relationship lasted longer than two weeks.

As I was reading about how Eddie and Tracey were calling it quits, all I could think was how here was one of the richest, most successful black men in the history of entertainment, and this motherfucker stillcan’t get his shit together with women. And not just any woman, ‘cause Tracey Edmonds is drink-a-bathtub-full-of-her-water fine. She’s so fine, that if she had a dick, I’d at least have to consider giving her a handjob. (And from what I can gather, Eddie is into chicks with dicks, so if she was rocking a joint between her legs, he’d probably like that.) Of course this shit made me feel better about my life insofar as not being able to get and keep a woman, as well as not being able to jumpstart a car.

By now some of you may be wondering what the hell is the connection between me not knowing how to use jumper cables, and Eddie Murphy’s failed marriage. Well, both are things that men are supposed to know how to do—jumpstart a car and make a relationship with a fine-ass woman work—but not every man is able to do it. That is the Myth of Masculinity (or MOM for short). It is a myth born out of the notion that all men miraculously know how to do manly stuff without being taught. Sorry, but that’s not true. We even need to be taught how to pee standing up.

A big part of the problem is that there is no definitive guide book out there on how to be a man. Playboy and Penthouse came close, but they have been replaced by Maxim and FHM which are totally useless. And while some would argue that rags like Playboy and Penthousewere poor sources of information on what to do as a man, at least there was something. Between my mother and all the sex education I got in school, the only thing I was prepared to do was hold a woman’s hand and discuss her menstrual cycle.

I’ve written about this before, but without a man around to guide a boy through life, it can be difficult for that boy to grow up to be a man. I’m not saying that my automotive repair skills would be any better if my father had been around, or that I would know how to deal with women better, because that may not have been the case. But maybe I wouldn’t feel the need to question my masculinity so much, or my competence as a man.

Okay, that’s all for now. I’m feeling the need to assert my manhood. I’m going to head over to Home Depot and buy some supplies so I can build something, and then I’m going to go get me a woman and hump her.

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