Not too long ago A&E decided to run a Sylvester Stallone marathon over the weekend. Mark and I happened to turn it on during Rocky II, and since neither of us had seen it and both of us had work we were trying to avoid, we went ahead and watched.
And as we did, I realized just how much I’d come to understand the masculine mind.
The plot centers on a fight between Rocky and Apollo Creed, the Heavyweight Champion of the World. Rocky knows the fight will bring in a lot of money for his struggling family, but he’s doubting his ability to beat the champ — doubting his ability to even stand toe to toe with him and walk away intact. He explains this to his wife, Adrian, and she says, and I quote,
“You have nothing to prove.”
Brutal! Adrian, baby. Tell me you didn’t just say that.
Now, before my marriage I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have heard that line as such a slap in the face. But living with a dude for six years seems to have had more of an effect on me than I realized. For those of you who don’t speak Man, allow me to translate that exchange into Woman for you.
Rocky: Do these jeans make my butt look fat?
Adrian: I love you just the way you are.
Brutal! Do you notice how Adrian did not tell Rocky that his butt didn’t look fat? How she skirted the whole issue at hand with that namby-pamby “I love you” crap? Why would she do a thing like that? Did she honestly think Rocky wouldn’t notice?
The only possible response when your wife says “Do these jeans make my butt look fat?” is “Hell, no!” And the only possible response when your husband asks you “Do you believe I can do this?” is “Hell, yes!”
Because just like we chicks want our men to view us as supermodels, guys want their women to view them as Superman. This isn’t always easy, especially if the thing your man wants to do is something you’d really prefer he didn’t. This is Adrian’s problem; she’d much rather Rocky get a nice, simple job that doesn’t involve being repeatedly punched in the face.
Which of course is what happens in the final fight. And this, Mark explained to me, is why boxing is a representation of the essential male struggle. It’s not about delivering the beatdown; it’s about taking the beating. And then finding the faith in yourself you need to get up again. That’s Rocky’s final victory: not over the champ, but over his own self-doubt.