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Category: Life Events / Topics: Advice, Guidance & Mentoring Attitudes Coping Gratitute Hopes & Dreams Humor Optimal Aging Wellness

The Beauty of Being a Guy

by Garrison Keillor

Posted: May 4, 2023

This week of struggling with the knee brace has changed my life forever. I used to want to be hip and cool and now I just want to be capable. . . . So this week I discovered I can be a guy.…


When you bang up your knee so it swells up like an elephant’s and it brings tears to your eyes to take a step, the orthopedic guy gives you a knee brace to wear requiring four straps to be wrapped tight around the leg and hooked and held tight by Velcro strips, a piece of equipment that I, a professional humorist with less mechanical ability than the average primate, need to remove every night when I go to bed and reattach in the morning. My wife could do this in a jiffy but I made her go to Minnesota to play the opera (she’s a violist) because I love her and because I don’t want her to see me as a pitiful helpless wretch. You understand.

Why should two people be miserable? One is enough.

This week of struggling with the knee brace has changed my life forever. I used to want to be hip and cool and now I just want to be capable. I got wildly lucky finding this woman and she was okay with my being a writer and so she handled all the mechanical stuff — violists have better digital skills — and I sat at a screen and typed. But this week I had to shape up. There are men living in group homes for the immobile because they couldn’t master the knee brace.

New York is a destination for men seeking gender fluidity, you see them in the park wearing skirts — not bearded Celts in kilts but slim sensitive cosmopolitan men with unique pronouns and I think “Okay” but gender fluidity isn’t important for a man with a bum knee. Hydration is important and also urination, and for that you need to walk around.

So this week I discovered that I can be a guy. I thought, “A guy can figure this out. Enough about sensitivity. Be a guy and get the job done. Take out the dead rodents, reach way up and get the casserole down off the high shelf.” And I did.

I grew up among guys in Minnesota, standing around and not talking about our feelings and we never discussed gender. It simply was what it was. But this week I accepted that I am a guy. I can do what needs to be done. I can fasten this crazy thing around my knee.

Women have no equivalent for “guy” — “girl” is close but no cigar — and it’s unfair and I’m sorry about that. Women are locked into womanhood whereas Guy is a very easygoing style of masculinity. You belch and pass gas, snore, pick your teeth with a thumbnail, urinate from a standing position, have a team you’re loyal to, and you’re capable of taking care of stuff. Women are under tremendous pressure to overachieve now that they’ve been liberated for all these years and when they go into formerly masculine fields like ferryboat captain or civil engineer or president of the United States, they have to be not just competent, they have to be Joan of Arc. Guys are not held to the same standard.

Joe Biden is a guy and a good one. He’s not a Mister Marvelous superhero like the man with the ducktail, able to leap over lost elections in a single bound, but his heart is in the right place and you feel like he’d be good to sit down and have a burger with. Joe could figure out a knee brace if he had to, he wouldn’t need to call in somebody from the deep state.

There’s great freedom in being a guy. This is not about conformity. Some guys use power tools, own guns, have gotten into bar fights, have hairy chests: I don’t. Due to my evangelical upbringing I don’t do profanity well and the big famous forceful obscenity I never use because it sounded fraudulent, effete, ephemeral, the two times I used it, but I’m still a guy and at hockey games when Minnesota scores, I bellow and it’s not an ironic bellow, it’s a heartfelt Beowulf bellow. And every morning I put on my knee brace. I figured it out and did it. Solo.

Mr. Marvelous is crazy. Us guys know that and so Joe is going to win this thing. My copy editor, a woman, tried to change that to “We guys” but it’s never been We Guys, it’s Us Guys, me and him and you and you. Let’s figure it out and get it done.

Garrison Keillor © 05.01.23

America's story teller, known for his heartland wit and wisdom, and for many years as the voice of Prairie Home Companion on NPR. For additional columns and postings, subscribe to

Posted: May 4, 2023

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