The Nice Bill era, week two

As I told you last week, I've put all snotty, snooty and snarky attitudes behind me, and I am now nice and likable. One sweet William, that's what I am. And I am determined to stay that way, no matter what the Republicans come up with next.

But I haven't been a swell fella for even two full weeks, and already, Nice Bill has gotten himself gored on the horns of a dilemma. It's like this: some very pleasant, likable men I've recently interviewed are part of something that I don't much like. I could keep my mouth shut about it and pretend there's no problem, but you might as well ask a cat to stop gacking up hairballs. It is my nature. It is what I do. Without it, I would deny the very essence of my being. Truly, I don't believe I would know what to do with myself if I had to stop complaining about stuff. (Hope the way I said that didn't confuse you. I assure you, gacking up hairballs is not in my essential nature. No sir, I could stop gacking up hairballs right now, this very minute, with no regrets whatsoever.)

The old me would have known exactly what to do in this situation. The old me would have said, "Look, you clowns, what you're doing is stupid and you gotta cut it out!" But that's not in the Tao of Nice Bill. Nice Bill has to find another way. A more gentle way. And unfortunately, since Nice Bill is so new at being nice, he ... er, I ... didn't have a clue how to proceed. So I went to Badger Bob for advice.

"Bob, I am gored on the horns of a dilemma."

"Oh, Jesus. Here we go. What's it now, Cope?"

"OK, you know I've been working on that feature story about Freemasonry and the big exhibit the historical museum is putting on this summer, right? Say, Bob, you're not a Mason, are you?"

"Used to be ... they kicked me out."

"OK, well, um, it was a fun story to do, and I learned a lot about Freemasonry, and I really liked the Mason fellas I interviewed. I don't know if they're all like that, but the men I met were awfully, awfully nice. And so were the people I talked to at the museum. Awfully, awfully nice."

"Cope, would you speed this up some? I'm heading for the hills and I'd like to get out of here before Labor Day, for Christ's sake."

"Um, OK. This is what's got me bothered ... Masons won't let women become Masons. Still! Did you know about that? After all we've been through with the women's movement and all. One guy ... a real nice guy, let me tell you ... he told me how just about the strictest, most unbreakable rule they have is that no woman can be a Mason. They call it one of their 'landmarks' ... like it'll never change, get it? He said that even if one of their lodge thingies allowed women in, then all the other lodges would stop treating them like brother Masons. That's how strongly they feel about it."

"Now, Cope ... with all this research you supposedly did ... surely you found out Masons have separate outfits women can join? Eastern Star? Job's Daughters? Ring a bell?"

"I know about that stuff, yeah. But that's not the point. Those things aren't the real deal, know what I mean? If I were a woman, I'd be pissed that all I could do was join these auxiliary groups. It's like when you take your kids to a Super Bowl party and make them watch Finding Nemo in another room, just to keep 'em out of your hair. Know what I mean?"

"So what's it to you anyway? You aren't a woman, you aren't a Mason, and even if you decided you wanted to become one some day, they wouldn't let you in, anyway. Believe me, you're not Mason material, Cope. So why should you care if they don't let women join?"

"Um, well, that's the hard part, Bob. You're right, it's really no skin off my personal nose, seeing as how I'm never going to be a Mason, and I'm probably never going to be a woman either. But the deal is, those nice guys were telling me what a neat thing it is to be a Mason, how much it's changed their lives and how much better men it's made out of them. So I got to thinking, if it's so darn neat and great and makes people better, why can't they share it with women? I mean, supposing they actually do learn some arcane and ancient and important truths in those rituals of theirs, and they refuse to share it with any woman who's willing to go through whatever they went through to learn it, isn't that like, um, uh, well ... selfish? And hey, what do you mean I'm not Mason material?"

"Masons want people who can get along with other people, Cope. They don't even let anyone talk politics or religion when they meet. So where would that leave you? You can't go three minutes without bitching about George Bush or some creationist crap or how Bill Sali's such a ..."

"Darnit all to heck, Bob. That was the old, nasty Bill. Nice Bill isn't like that. That's why he's gored on the horns of a dilemma, don't you see? Nice Bill is trying to find ways of saying how crummy things are without making anyone mad at him. And he isn't sure how to do that ... which is why he's asking you for advice."

"Cope, what the hell's up with talking about yourself in the third person?"

"Um ... yeah. It's something I've been doing ever since my vision quest. I don't mean to. It just happens."

"Well cut it out! It's creepy, and the last f***ing thing I need is for you to get even creepier. Now look, dammit, can't you understand why a bunch of men ... or women, too, for that matter ... might want to get off by themselves now and then? You know good and well that I'm with the gals on Chapter Nine, equal pay for equal work, no discrimination in advancement policies, women in the military, women in management, women in leadership, blah, blah, blah ... but this is different. This hasn't got anything to do with business or opportunity or equality or fairness or nothin'. It's just a bunch of fellers who like to get together and dress up funny without any of the sexual tension that's bound to be there when men and women socialize together. So just drop it, Cope. You aren't going to change the Masons, you probably aren't going to convince any women they ought to be in the Masons, and if you try, you're just going to sound like a meddlesome boob ... whether you do it as Mister Nice or Mister Nasty."

So that was Badger's advice, and I'm gored on the horns of the dilemma of whether to follow it or not. I suppose you could say I am now gored on the horns of two darn dilemmas, and like I said, I've only been Nice Bill for a couple of weeks. If I'd known it was going to be this complicated, I'd have stayed an a**hole.

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