According to a recent personality quiz, I’m a princess. Princess Leia, to be exact.
The quiz was titled “Which Star Wars Character Are You?” and it had been circulating on Facebook for a while. I didn’t care that much at first but curiosity ballooned in a bored moment after my dad posted that he was Chewbacca, because he is “good in a fight, fiercely loyal and proficient in all things mechanical; not great at communicating but loved by all.” My stepmom was Yoda and my cousin Hannah was Boba Fett the bounty hunter.
With idle hands, I clicked on the quiz and did my best to answer each question honestly, starting with my weapon of choice. Obviously, choosing a lightsaber would narrow it down to one of the Jedi, which is a desirable character to associate with, but I knew my impulse was the large gun that looked something like a cross between a sawed-off shotgun and an M-10 assault rifle. Other questions asked what kind of childhood I had; how I would react if a friend got into a fight; and if I was very open- minded to new ideas. According to the quiz, I also listen to others, and, given a choice between studying a foreign language, psychology or combat tactics, I would study combat tactics. I always achieve what I set out to do, and I prefer the desert to a rainforest filled with Ewoks.
Not bad characteristics to have, right? Yet I was horrified to see a picture declaring, “You are Princess Leia,” at the end of my personality test. There she was, clutching the very gun I selected on the first question. Good god — I’m a princess! A princess! Disaster.
I quickly checked to make sure it wouldn’t post to my Facebook page. I would never hear the end of it. Me — a manly man who tolerates dirty bathrooms, risks his life needlessly and isn’t afraid to smell bad for days on end while getting bloody in the woods — a princess? Shiver.
But Princess Leia is actually quite a heroic character. Why does the word “princess” carry such strong overtones that the pink image overshadows the strong virtues that should be more rightly associated to the title? If my stepmom can proudly boast that she is Yoda, and my cousin that she is Boba Fett, why did I feel embarrassed to be Leia? Because I am supposed to be a man!
I think it’s an interesting dynamic in our society that it’s more OK for a woman to have manly traits than for a man to ever admit that a woman might be burlier or more successful than he is.
Case in point is a second-hand story told to me about an infamous “man-off” that took place on a Moab camping trip years ago. There were several couples on the trip, my tough friend Chrissy among them. There was also a rather insecure boyfriend.
Chrissy is famous among her friends for being one of the best mountain bikers any of us have ever met. She simply leaves the boys spinning in her muddy tracks without breaking a sweat. There are many dedicated bikers in this group, and no one compares his pedaling prowess to Chrissy’s, so it’s a fun joke among the group.
At some point on the camping trip, Chrissy chopped wood and stoked a campfire before the others finished setting up their tents, or something like that. One of the women commented that Chrissy was “winning the man-off,” which sparked a theme for the trip. A boyfriend of one of the ladies took it seriously, however, and engaged in fierce competition to prove his manliness. Of course, the more seriously he took it, the more of a joke it became.
“That’s BS!” he complained. “Chrissy didn’t set up the tent faster than I did! There’s no way she’s winning.”
The lesson there, boys, is that you’ll save face more often if you just give the girls credit. I fancy myself a solid athlete, but I know plenty of women who are more athletic and more successful in general. Hats off to them, but sometimes I’m teased about such things as my girlfriend being more financially able. She owns the condo we live in and I pay rent to her, which I should apparently be ashamed about. And I admit, sometimes it does bug me that I don’t fit the traditional, mythical social expectation of a Man.
Yet life goes on much more smoothly for people who acknowledge the reality of situations. Men who dismiss the abilities and opinions of women are missing a lot, as well as holding back the human race.
Maybe I’m among those who are on the cutting edge of this realization. My good friend Cat, who is 20 years older, once told me I’m a “metro man,” which doesn’t mean I dress pretty but that I foster a balance between genders.
I still don’t like the sound of that title, but I think it’s a good thing. I give credit to my mom for raising me to be that way.
This one’s for you, ladies.
I accept the value of your qualities, but you can (please!) keep the dainty dresses — they look so much better on you.
— “Open Space” appears on the second and fourth Friday of every month. Derek Franz lives in Carbondale and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.