On manhood, rain and umbrellas

One of the few consistently thought-provoking and enjoyable reads I have each week is Kortina’s weekly newsletter. This week he remarked on the English contingent of our office’s habit of not using umbrellas. In Betaworks, it serves as a clear demarcation between American men who find it incomprehensible to venture into the rain without protection and British men who often turn up looking a little bedraggled but defiant.

I found myself musing on this and wondering where such a distaste for a palpably useful tool came from. Maybe it’s a reaction to a previous generation of bowler-hatted umbrella-toting men that may or may not have existed but should certainly be resisted. However, I think it comes down to something more basic than that, it comes down to environments.

An umbrella is an attempt to create our own controlled environment in the middle of a situation over which we have no control. We don’t try to live within our world, to embrace its unpredictability but instead slide the lock up to the apex and stay safe within an area we control. It’s the can’t-live-without-aircon, mod-con, everything’s-deliverable world in miniature.

One sees the same thing when seeing those used to an umbrella caught out in the rain without one. Their shoulders will hunch, their neck will subside into their body and they look down towards the ground hurrying towards anything that promises respite, enduring each raindrop as a personal affront to their wellbeing and sense of place.

One of the wonderful lessons I learned from my round-the-world yacht race was that (when getting wet was inevitable) one could either make a feeble attempt to hunch away from the rain and hate every minute of the torrent, or one could embrace it and take the rain as a moment to be enjoyed. Now when I find myself battling against the rain for a moment, I remember those days and straighten my shoulders, bring my head up and slow my pace. I enjoy an environment I did not create and cannot control and it usually brings a smile to my face that seems absent from the commuters hurrying by. Next time it’s raining , just try it; you might not think those umbrella-less Brits are so crazy after all.

5 responses to “On manhood, rain and umbrellas”

  1. From Tim Krabbé’s The Rider:

    “The greater the suffering, the greater the pleasure. That is nature’s payback to riders for the homage they pay her by suffering. Velvet pillows, safari parks, sunglasses; people have become woolly mice. They still have bodies that can walk for five days and four nights through a desert of snow, without food, but they accept praise for having taken a one-hour bicycle ride. ‘Good for you’. Instead of expressing their gratitude for the rain by getting wet, people walk around with umbrellas. Nature is an old lady with few friends these days, and those who wish to make use of her charms, she rewards passionately.”