A Final Thought: Men of Margaritaville


By Mitch Allen

I was saddened to learn of the passing of Jimmy Buffett. I wasn’t a big fan, but I think 76 is too young to go.

Most of his hits were too sophomoric for me, the kind amateur partiers need to help them have a good time. But I’m a professional. I don’t need island music, Saturday night, palm trees, mix-made margaritas, cheeseburgers, and bikini-clad servers to have a good time. I can have just as much fun in a Cleveland-area Mexican restaurant sipping fresh-juice margaritas on a Tuesday afternoon in a blizzard while listening to a Latino crooner lament the loss of his beloved senorita.

Like I said, I’m a professional.

But one song I do like is Jimmy’s biggest hit—Margaritaville. Not because it’s a party song, but because it represents an essential journey of self-discovery, especially for men.

Allow me to explain.

The song begins with the narrator relaxing in his front porch swing while boiling shrimp and watching tourists. But this envy-inducing lifestyle quickly devolves into an admission that he is an utter failure, wasting away in a tequila-induced stupor. He doesn’t know why he’s there. He’s certain of nothing except that he was too drunk to remember how he got his tattoo, a “Mexican cutie.”

He later admits that only a “frozen concoction” can help him.

And who does he blame for his sorry state?

Anyone but himself—at first.

Despite popular opinion that there must be a woman to blame, the narrator takes the easy way out and decides “it’s nobody’s fault.” In the next stanza, he decides, “it could be my fault.” At the end of song, at last, he admits, “I know it’s my own damn fault.”

This journey of self-discovery is one we all should take. We so easily blame others for our problems until we embrace the notion that we are more likely responsible for our situations. I am particularly moved by Jimmy’s line, “Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame.” Historically, there is always a woman to blame—from Eve in the Garden of Eden to Joan of Arc, Catherine the Great, Marie Antoinette, the women accused in the Salem Witch Trials, and today’s strong, female politicians who are demonized on both sides of the aisle.

And for men, we often blame the woman closest to us—our wives.

It’s nobody’s fault, but in Man School, we learn precisely the words to use to belittle our partners and make them feel bad about themselves without even realizing we’re doing it, not because women are overly sensitive to our suggestions (read “criticisms”), but because our behavior is typically a projection of our own incompetence, and a projection, by definition, comes from the unconscious.

Nowhere in my own life is this more apparent than in home improvement projects, during which I lose patience with my wife, oblivious to the fact that “it’s my own damn fault.” The closest we ever came to divorce was hanging wallpaper. (I doubt we are alone in that.) Thanks to my own childhood memories, I am obsessed with butting the seams of each sheet of wallpaper rather than letting them overlap. We failed in this regard, but rather than admitting it was my own incompetence, I projected it onto my wife. It’s no wonder for years she would turn and run whenever I suggested she help me with a home improvement project. “No thank you!” she would say.

I don’t think this phenomenon is only a husband/wife thing. My own father would grow impatient with me during home improvement projects just because I could not read his mind. Don’t get me wrong, my father was the kindest man I ever knew, but even he could succumb to projection. Years later when we discussed it, I learned his own father grew impatient with him while working on projects together. It must be common. I recently saw a meme that read:

You think you can hurt me?

I used to hold the flashlight for my father.

Today, however, I’m a bit more self-aware—a bit. I still find myself mansplaining Newtonian physics to my wife whenever she does something that goes awry instead of asking her if she’s okay. But she is a talented woman, much better than me at spacial issues, for example (I have a hard time distinguishing left from right). That’s why I relinquish navigation to her as soon as we get in the car. And I am always amazed when I declare, “That sofa is not going through that door!” then she proceeds to tell me which way to stand it, twist it, and turn it, as it slips through the doorway.

Not to get even more preachy, but you know where I am going with this, gentlemen: Jimmy Buffett was right. There is no woman to blame.

It’s our own damn fault.


Categories: Smart Living