Role Models

October Men's Room column

At the Women to Watch awards, you’ll find me watching from the back, measuring my self-worth.

It’s a tough room for it. For one thing, the other men present will be attired in serious duds – suits crafted by Italians, watches that not only tell time but also flash the headlines and monitor the heart rate (for them, it’s always in the optimum range), and shoes shiny as a supernova. Those guys go to appointments at salons, where they get their full heads of hair cultivated by quaff artists called Esmerelda and Georges. They drink cocktails named after people: Gibson, Negroni, Rob Roy.

Me? Some of my clothes didn’t have labels when they were donated to the thrift store where I bought them. My watch, like my shoes, bears scuffs from some previous owner’s carelessness. I get my vanishing hair buzzed at a strip mall by a stylist named First Available. I’m just guessing here, but I think Tom Collins is a professional bowler.

Next to the other guys, I won’t compare so favorably.

But none of us will measure up to the women at this event. They’re a power pack, the embodiment of what it takes to get Big Things done in business, education, medicine, the arts, community service, and everything else that keeps the lights on and the world spinning.

The women to watch will be introduced, their many accomplishments summarized, and one by one we men in the room will slink into our shirt collars, aware that we’re being shown up by these warrior women with their vast intelligence, high-definition focus, limitless compassion, and natural leadership skills. If the other guys and I tried to walk a mile in their treacherous shoes, we’d end up in orthopedic surgery.

Sure, we might spot a proud grin on some man who’s there with one of the women, but that’s success by association. It doesn’t count.

How do these super-successful women do it? I have no idea. Their vision makes me look near-sighted. Their drive leaves me in the dust. Next to their doggedness, I feel catatonic. Plus, a bunch of them are mothers. I’m doing all I can to keep a peace lily alive.

By the end of the Women to Watch evening, I’ll know one thing: In this room with these power women, my wisest move is to stand back here, watch, and stay out of their way.

And afterward, I need to stop on my way home and buy the best candy I can get my hands on. Soon, the trick-or-treaters will show up with their bags out, and this awards ceremony tells me to give them the good stuff because on Halloween night the future will stand on my front porch.

That witch who can barely reach the doorbell? She might grow up to be the best teacher her students ever have, mesmerizing them with classroom magic.

The diminutive mermaid could become a marine biologist.

The pint-sized princess might turn that wand into a judge’s gavel.

The little one looking proud in a costume that’s just too weird for description, well, she could be destined for the arts.

And that 3-foot-tall Wonder Woman? She might be the one who gets us out of the next pandemic.

They can make anything happen. Just watch.

Tim Bass is coordinator of UNCW’s bachelor of the arts program in creative writing.

To view more of illustrator Mark Weber’s work, go to

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Categories: Culture