There comes a time in every man’s life when he needs to prove his manhood, he needs to show that he’s a “real man” –- or about to become one. For the typical male, this isn’t a one-time act, but something he feels compelled to do every few years, just to reassure himself, just to calm one of his greatest fears –- that his manhood is shrinking.
The first act of proving his manhood usually happens early in life, when he’s still a teen-ager. He looks in the mirror, discovers that he has grown a mustache and, with great pride and excitement, shaves it off and applies aftershave. He purchased the aftershave five years earlier in anticipation of this historic moment. He forgot to buy a razor, but thankfully he has no trouble finding his sister’s.
If he lives in certain parts of the world, this first act may be starkly different. It may involve circumcision, a word that’s derived from Latin and literally means “Ouch! My manhood!” (Trust me, there’s no more painful way of proving your manhood than losing part of it.)
It may involve fighting and defeating a large, ferocious animal –- a lion or bear or professional wrestler. In some African tribes, you aren’t a real man until you’ve gone to the forest and come home with a lion, preferably a dead one. Bringing home a lion is a daunting task, needless to say, especially if you can’t afford the prices set by the local entrepreneur, the one who has a chain of Rent-a-Lion stores.
During a man’s lifetime, proving his manhood may involve any or all of these acts: climbing Mount Everest, bungee-jumping, swimming the English channel, dating Padma Lakshmi, winning a drinking contest, running from stampeding bulls, barreling over the Niagara Falls, and, of course, eating an extremely HOT curry.
The latter is how I proved my manhood. I was with a group of friends at an Indian restaurant and decided to impress them by ordering one of the hottest items on the menu, something called “mutton vindaloo.” What I didn’t realize is that “vindaloo” is a Hindi word that means “only idiots order this.”
The waiter asked me if I wanted the curry to be hot, medium or mild. “Hot,” I said, feeling a little offended that he should ask. Couldn’t he see that I was a real man?
When the dish arrived, I took a bite and smiled at my friends. “It’s not that hot,” I said, feeling for a moment like a comic book hero: SuperCurryMan. Then all of a sudden, my tongue seemed to burst into flames, like the chef had seasoned the dish with a mixture of curry powder, chili powder, and gunpowder. My friends laughed as I gulped all the water on the table, trying in vain to douse the fire.
This is what I don’t like about Indian restaurants: they keep salt, pepper and sugar within arm’s reach, but don’t have the courtesy to supply each table with its own fire extinguisher. I had to run all the way to the kitchen to find one.
I may have scorched my tongue, but I still felt like a real man for trying the dish. Until, of course, I heard about Anandita Dutta Tamuly. The Indian woman recently earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records by eating 51 of the world’s hottest chilli peppers in two minutes, and then celebrated, as most people would, by rubbing some of the chilli peppers into her eyes.
I’m not sure if she was trying to prove her womanhood, but she certainly managed to unprove my manhood.
Now I need to find a way to reclaim it. I’d climb Mount Everest, but I’ve heard that women do that too. They also bungee-jump, swim the English Channel and run from the bulls.
They don’t date Padma Lakshmi, but it’s only a matter of time.