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Is all this Promise Keepers stuff worth it?

September 24, 1997

These Promise Keepers caught me somewhat off guard, I have to admit. I'd been aware of them in a vague sort of way, kind of like the way you're aware that your dehumidifier has been running a lot but it never really triggers your conscience until the pan overflows and soaks your memoirs.

I kept hearing "Promise Keepers" and I thought it was some sort of butter substitute. "Promise Keeper, the spread so smooth you won't believe it's not rich, creamery butter." Then wham, a half million men on the Mall at D.C., pledging to, you know, do stuff.

Or more accurately, not do stuff. "You can make the promise to remain silent. If you give up the promise to remain silent anything you say..." whoops, wrong pledge card.

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I have been kept in the dark about the Promise Keepers, no doubt because of that no-good hippie-freak Democratic elite press. I like the phrase liberal elite because it reminds me of a political rally I covered maybe 10 years ago. Some GOP candidate had just railed on about the Democrat elite and gotten booed off the stage by a bunch of union chaps.

Some hairy old union dog sitting next to me slowly scoped out the crowd of tobacco-chewing, patched-flannel line-workers back and forth and grumbled "Which ones is day EE-leetes?"

But with this big march on the nations capital, soon the media, liberal or not, had me up to speed. The Promise Keepers, they said, were men who agreed not to beat their wives.

Let me state here and now that on this issue I am with them. I will not beat my wife. Naturally I reserve the right to change my mind perchance I should actually OBTAIN a wife, but as we go to press the odds on that seem to be standing at something like 1 in 40,000. So it's no lint off my gabardines.

Next, the Promise Keepers agree not to drink, smoke, gamble or cheat on their honeys. Flip Wilson once did an impersonation of a boxer who, asked how he prepared for a fight, said "Well, first thing is, I think clean. I think clean, I act clean, I don't drink, I don't smoke I don't curse and I don't fool around. So by the time I get into the ring I'm so frustrated I could kill the guy."

In other words, these fellows' wives might be safe, but pity their co-workers. The men at the rally waved their Bibles and cried a lot, which, if you have read the Bible, you realize you are likely to do. After all, wasn't it David who sent his friend to the Eastern Front because he wanted his wife? Bible verses are helpful, but selective.

The women who are protesting this event point to the caveat that in exchange for all this sacrificing, the man gets to be the grand pooh-bah of the household.

And of course they reacted in a totally professional manner - some "Lesbian Avengers," as they call themselves, pulled off their shirts and ran down the street. Promise Keepers, who have obviously not been watching the Clinton campaign finance hearings, asked "what do you have to do in this town to get arrested?"

Women say the Keepers' dogma sounds strangely like "If you do everything I tell you to do, in exchange, I agree not to get drunk and beat you up." Whatever works, I guess. If they can't get drunk anymore though, no wonder they're crying. I mean, is this quid pro quo (master of the house, keeper of the keys, in exchange for being a good boy) worth it?

Men, are you with me here?

Pretty soon a lousy, picking-his-teeth-with-the-mail tramp such as myself is likely to found the Promise Breakers. We'll confront our significant others and say, "Ladies, we fully intend to get drunk, miss soccer practice and maybe slap you around a little bit, but by gosh you can pick the movie for the VCR tonight. "The Piano?" Lovely. Couldn't be happier. Now let me pop a cold one.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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