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    The Confusing Case Of Why Dudes Refuse To Carry Umbrellas

    Sure, get soaking wet. See if we care.

    The next time you’re out in the rain, in between dodging puddles and trying your best not to get drenched, take a quick look around at all of the other people with umbrellas. See anything? A pattern emerging, perhaps?

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    Look closer. Notice that there aren’t a lot of men carrying (let alone using) umbrellas. Why is that? Why won’t men carry umbrellas?

    After conducting an informal poll asking men why they don’t carry umbrellas, the answers ranged from “They always break” and “Your lower half gets wet anyway” to “Real men don’t need umbrellas” and (::eyeroll::) “They’re a public nuisance.” Adorably, one woman answered that her partner doesn’t carry one because “he prefers to walk in the rain, as he thinks it’s romantic and it reminds him of childhood.”

    One guy even said, “I have handled rain many times. I believe in myself.” That guy is actually my boyfriend, Ben, and he’s only half-joking.

    Columbia Pictures / Via giphy.com

    I’ve offered to loan my boyfriend one of my umbrellas — I currently own four — or even buy him one of his own, but he always rejects my offers. When it’s raining, though, he’ll inevitably cuddle up with me under my (made-for-one) umbrella. Being a kind and loving person, I don’t usually kick him out from under my shelter, even though it means my left side gets wet. Which kind of defeats the point of me carrying an umbrella.

    And while of course not all men refuse to carry umbrellas and not all women do carry umbrellas — and I’m sure nonbinary people vary with their umbrella-carrying habits as well — there does seem to be a pattern: Men are less likely to carry umbrellas than women are. Joshua Klapow, PhD, clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show podcast, thinks there are a few reasons why. The first? It’s just not worth it.

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    “Men are making a behavioral cost-benefit analysis,” Klapow says. “‘Is it worth the hassle of holding the umbrella while I’m walking, to avoid getting wet?’ For many men, the answer is ‘no.’  Typically the justification is that it’s just water, that they will dry quickly, that the process of walking with an umbrella is more of a behavioral burden than getting wet is.”

    My partner Ben also pointed out that gender-expectation norms around appearance also play into the umbrella debate. “Men’s clothes are primarily functional rather than decorative,” he says. “Women have a long history of being pressured into — and embracing and celebrating — clothing that’s more decorative.”

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    For example, a woman’s silk bomber jacket is going to get ruined in the rain, while a man’s Gore-Tex will not. That’s not the fault of the individual person — it’s straight-up how society has conditioned many of us to dress and behave. And both Klapow and Ben point out that men are more likely to carry an umbrella if they’re wearing something expensive or fancy.

    “I’m more likely to carry an umbrella if I’m wearing a bowler hat,” Ben says. “Or a suit. Or have an umbrella with a silver bulldog on the handle.” (Note: He doesn’t own a bowler hat, nor that fancy of an umbrella, and he almost never wears suits.)

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    And in addition to clothing, men and women generally (and, again, not always) have very different expectations placed upon them when it comes to hair and makeup. While women might spend hundreds of dollars per month on hair coloring and styling — not to mention the time and money spent doing their hair and makeup at home — men generally don’t.

    “If I get wet, the cost is very minimal,” Ben says. “The cost is I’m wet for an hour. But for women, the monetary cost of hair, makeup, and clothing — plus the investment of time — is really high.”

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    Then there are the societal expectations around “what it means to be a man.”

    “Umbrellas are for protection,” Klapow says. “Men often interpret protection from the weather as a subtle sign of weakness. Social norms dictate that men shouldn’t be afraid of getting wet, should embrace the elements, and don’t need protection. As antiquated as this may sound, it still rings true for many men. ‘Real men don’t need an umbrella, because real men aren’t afraid of the rain.’”

    This belief can be seen in the US Marine policy that didn’t allow male Marines to carry umbrellas — but did let female Marines carry them — until November 2019. The official reasoning was that an umbrella could hinder the Marine’s ability to salute. But the fact that they allowed women to carry umbrellas, as long as it was carried in their left hand, hints at a deeper societal belief that men don’t need protection but women do.

    Which brings us back to the under-umbrella cuddle. Cute? Yes. But also annoying? For sure. And if you’re a man and you’re refusing to use an umbrella, Klapow says you don’t get an umbrella. Period.

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    “The only exception is if you are offering the umbrella to your partner because they forgot theirs,” Klapow says. “You must commit, bro: Either you go full protection and take the umbrella, or you go old school and don’t, but you don’t get to have it both ways.”