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Louis Roney

Columnist Louis Roney

I keep changing my ways to be contemporary.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was a great moneymaker in movies a generation ago. With Arnold, "macho" came in to stay and "wimps" went out the back door.

A girl who dotes on "macho" men told me that she views wimps with utter scorn. She asked, "Why are most men I meet these days wimpy?"

Abe Lincoln might have answered her, "Well, somebody up there must like'em, there are so many of them."

I told her that if her definition of "wimp" was true, I don't cotton to people who are "wimpy" either.

I thought of a lady in New York who met me, and asked, "Who is your analyst?"

"My what?"

"Your shrink."

I told her, " I don't have any" and that "my dentist takes care of problems I can't handle by myself."

Celebrated Viennese wimp leader Sigmund Freud, who wrote the Wimp's Manual, left wimps a legacy of case histories when and if their minds ever stray from themselves. If I were a wimp, I'd tell everyone I met — interested or not. I'm told that delicious self-effacement is de rigueur for distinguished wimpishness. Intense zeroing in on oneself is good hangdog wimpism.

The word "aware" is fraught with adventure for Tenderfoot Wimps. "Getting in touch with one's own feelings" is even more thrilling, opening up long narcissistic vistas to those who wanly aspire to the rank of Eagle Wimp.

Out of nowhere, the thought comes to me that I have never known a wimp who could sing Verdi — or Puccini. The operas of Puccini and Verdi, whose own lives were the antitheses of wimpism, demand unembarrassed, naked expression of strong desires.

Both Puccini and Verdi dealt with passionate drama about love, and political conflict full of violence. The characters in these musical dramas make difficult, even perilous, decisions.

I have the feeling that wimps have a hard time identifying with such visceral stuff. Don't ask me why. I am simply a battle-scarred observer of the human predicament who is laboring to provide his best guesses with a higher education.

Jane Austen didn't dwell long on melodramatic characters of sizzling romance and stark emotions. She gave little room in her novels to people who were short on genteel gab and parlor-game-playing. Nothing goes "bang" on Austen's pages.

Had she written the libretto to Verdi's "Otello," she might have had the Moor whimper "Oh, dear!" ever so quietly, and then sit down over tea with Desdemona for a gentle heart-to-heart tete-a-tete about what's-what.

Austen would probably have subtitled it "Otello: A Macho's Just Downfall."

Her wimpy Lion of Venice would have explored Desdemona's inchoate self-image.

Was it true that the child-bride daughter of the Doge, as Otello was told, had kinkily satiated her alleged fantasy-need for another man? If so, what was her deep-down inner motivation, Id-wise?

Otello would, above all, be calm and attentive. He would indulge in no crude, loud raving about his life's "falling apart." Here, in Austen's version, Otello would walk to the curtain, his back to Desdemona, and sing his famous monologue, as follows: "I daren't lose my cool. I must perforce render my thundrous voice soft as very lambswool while proffering my alabaster dove full understanding most empathetic. Away! And I had no annoyance in the sinking of the cursed Turk and all his monstrous fleet and 'twas but yesterday.' God forbid I now founder in this trifling squall for its guise so alien to my life's brawny tempest."

You see, by "talking it out" the civilized way, Austen's wimpy Otello would quickly ascertain that Desdemona had done nothing wrong, period! End of story.

Where's your opera, Miss Austen?

Of course, in all honesty, if Otello had actually been a wimp, Desdemona would never have married him. Wimps, who are perhaps the worst of men, are often "best men" but seldom marry gals like Desdemona, who have stars in their eyes for strong, decisive guys who drink their coffee "standing up."

Please note: Just because I am also a great aficionado of such composers as Debussy, Handel, Mozart, or Faure, don't get the idea that I am a closet wimp!

Even if you smile mealy-mouthed all the while in self-deprecating wimpishness, don't you dare pin that label on me!

By the same token, I don't cotton to being called "macho," even though I admit to having some of those super masculine qualities that daytime radio talk shows avow are now high style. It's the labels that I don't like.

I frankly admit that inasmuch as machos are disinclined to spend hours identifying their real selves to themselves, my own strong dislike for such centripetal goings-on could in itself be labeled as "haut-macho."

On the other hand, when I can manage to find my new glasses, I can sew on a button niftily with no loss of masculine self-esteem.

Does that tell you anything about the nature of the human psyche?

At our house my beautiful wife and I may listen to Mahler or Haydn while Brett Favre or one of the Mannings are romping on the tube. Doesn't everybody?

As to b.w., I knew I had to marry this run-of-the-mill, garden-variety child the day I met her. I still don't know what it was about her that particularly caught my attention. Of course, on that world-shaking day she did play the French horn for me. Then she sat down at the piano and played the score to "Tannhauser" while I sang. Then we washed my poodle, and cooked a nice dinner together, all the while arguing about writers and politics. Afterward, we grabbed a subway to Yankee Stadium for a night ballgame. Nothing really out of the ordinary on Day One!

I've admired many macho guys. Singers such as John Charles Thomas, Enrico Caruso, Ezio Pinza, Jussi Bjorling, to name just a few. In other fields, Bobby Jones, Joe Louis, Jim Thorpe, Mark Twain, Robert Frost, Ernest Hemingway, Artur Rubinstein, Fritz Kreisler, Charles de Gaulle and Harry Truman come to mind. Most of these men were well-rounded. When they were asked for courage, they delivered. They may have been scared, but they didn't run. At the same time, most of these men were able to be gentle and caring, and were not embarrassed of showing tender feelings.

The heralded return to favor of "macho" hasn't altered my existence.

While I have no reason to mourn the contemporary Twilight of the Wimps, I'll fight for their right to pin the wimp label on themselves if it makes them jolly.

As long as I share life with my zippy Renaissance Maiden, just label me "lucky." Whenever I do something that pleases her, whether it takes brains or brawn, courage or tenderness, she says huskily, "You're quite a man!"

"Croon that by me again," I say.