The Male Ego: I Catch Fish, Therefore I Am

by Melissa Karnaze

The weight at the end of my fishing line touches the bottom of the river as I bob my fishing rod up and down. We’re back-bouncing in the Kenai River in Alaska.

All of a sudden I feel a tug on my line. It gets stronger and I jerk my rod into the air to set the hook in the fish’s mouth.

It’s set, and now I can feel the fish’s resistance. My line gets tangled with another line in the boat, and as I trip and bang my shin on the hard edge of a seat box. But I get up as quickly as I fall and I scurry around the boat, following the line’s movements — to the bow, down the other side, around the motor, and back to the bow.

I keep the pressure steady, reeling in line whenever the fish allows some slack. We go back and forth — she swims out, and I pull in — and after about fifteen minutes she’s close enough to the boat for us to net her.

Feeling the fish high

Since I decide to keep the fish, I have to put my rod to rest — there’s a limit of keeping one King Salmon per day. I sit down on my seat and my fellow fisherman congratulate my first landing.

I’m beaming with satisfaction.

(I did come to Alaska to hunt for salmon after all — not for sport fishing or anything recreational. Because I had been wanting to come to terms with my carnivorous nature for a long time, as I don’t like to kill spiders in the house and have to transport them outside instad. So I figured that one way to integrate this was to partake in the act of hunting itself.)

Well, I’m not sure why exactly I’m so ecstatic — maybe it’s because I can relax for the day, maybe it’s because I have bruises to show for it, or maybe it’s my brother telling me I looked pro — but my ego is clearly bloated. The other fishermen look over to me and I’ve got a smile plastered on my face — they understand the feeling and laugh. It’s such a powerful emotion that I start to wonder if I somehow tapped into a hunter-gatherer reward circuit in my brain, because everything seems okay. I feel no worry about the future and no regret about the past.

I have what they call the “fish high.”

And I start to see how catching that fish turned me into a fisherwoman — before I was just a girl tagging along with some guys on a boat.

It feels like that fish validates my entire existence.

The male ego

And then I start to think… “Wait a minute! That fish so does not validate my entire existence! I’d be the same person had I not caught it!”

Before the analyzing gets too far, I say to myself… “Maybe so, but my ego is happy right now and I’m going to let it bask in its glory while I sit back.”

Naturally the analyzing continues on a subroutine — so as not to interfere with the feeling itself — and I realize that my ego has not felt this indestructible in a long long time, if ever in such a pronounced way.

The female ego

This puzzles me, as I wonder if I’m feeling something I’ve never felt before, and I search my memory for the last time I felt a sense of proud accomplishment.

The most recent incident was the traffic spike on this site last week — but that’s not anything like the feeling of catching a thirty-pound fish. First of all, conceptualizing the traffic spike is a complex phenomenon, which requires imagining the virtual presence of visitors, among other things. Catching a fish doesn’t get any more complicated than, well, catching a fish.

And more importantly, the traffic spike represents something that’s more feminine than masculine. Traffic is something that my site (which is an extension of me) receives, whereas in fishing I go out and take the fish from the river. Furthermore, the site is set up to inspire thought, conversation, and connection — in some respect a nurturing environment — whereas fishing is a hunter-gatherer thing to do.

Why gender the ego?

We all have feminine and masculine aspects of our ego, and we all have egos, since we are by nature multidimensional.

Gendering the ego as feminine or masculine isn’t necessary; your ego has the respective characteristics either way. But assigning a gender helps you to understand your ego better, and why you behave in the ways you do. And this understanding helps you lead a more response able and emotionally intelligent (read: emotionally healthy) life. It’s when you don’t try to understand your ego that it can more easily lash out and harm others.

Additionally, assigning a gender to your ego during an egoistic circumstance can help you relate to it, rather than shutting it down as being nonhuman. And that’s much better than suppressing your ego so that you can’t recognize it and you inadvertently let it take the driver’s seat throughout more of your life than you’d like to admit.

Another benefit of gendering your ego is that it helps you tune into what feminine and masculine really mean, and how both of these aspects are integral parts of you.

So the next time your male ego comes out, pay attention, have a listen. You might learn something about yourself.

Something for your male ego

Now, for those of you in touch with your male ego — you’re absolutely right, if there is no picture then it didn’t happen!

So here it is:

melissa-catching-Alaskan-King-Salmon-fish
(Photograph taken by Andrew Karnaze)

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Cognizant July 31, 2009 at 4:22 am

I cant kill spiders either, and I hate them. A few years ago I bought a spider catcher off Ebay. It looks like a penis pump. I tell everyone its not, but they never believe me. :(

Also: OH MY GOD at the size of that fish. I was reading your article thinking you caught something the size of a hand. Damn woman, nice catch.

I’ve never really thought about gendering ego, not even ascribing masculinity to anything I experience. In those rare moments when I feel on a high, its as a human being and not a male. I wonder what that even means. I went canoeing for the first time in my life a few months ago, with a bunch of guys, so that has to be one of the iconic masculine moments of ego, right? I had a great time, there was a sense of accomplishment, i.e – rowing a boat without it tipping over and me drowning (note: I’m not the best swimmer in the world), but at the time it didnt feel like a ‘boys adventure’ type ego moment. Maybe it did and I’m denying it? I have no idea, I had a great time though. My buddy who I visited to go canoeing with, wants to go camping next. He’s a real outdoors type, I definitely want to try doing that too. Though, uh, I hope there’s an elevated sleeping bed in the camp or something. Might have to bring my peni – uh spider catcher with me.

ITS A SPIDER CATCHER OK? Its like a tube, and its battery operated, and it sucks up the spiders and then I can open the nearest window and tip them out, then afterwards I can chase people who annoy me with it.

Karen August 1, 2009 at 11:06 pm

Hey, nice fish! We just fished the last 10 hours straight on the last day for kings. Didn’t catch anything. But that is OK, I am used to it. I have been here for 25 years and still haven’t caught a Kenai King. But next year I am sure I will. I look at them as winning a lottery! See ya in Seward for the silvers!

Melissa Karnaze August 2, 2009 at 9:30 am

I’ve never really thought about gendering ego, not even ascribing masculinity to anything I experience. In those rare moments when I feel on a high, its as a human being and not a male. I wonder what that even means.

I had never really done so before either, Cognizant. Except when referring to my Inner Child, who is female. That’s why the event was so profound, sparking a blog post!

And yeah, the King Salmon get to be very big. Alaskan fishing is serious business. They were running smaller in size and numbers this year though.

Karen, thanks! We only fished for about four hours on the last day. I didn’t get any bites, but one of us did catch thirtysomething-pounder and one of us lost a bite. I did not want it to end… but we had to pack up and get ready to return home. I miss Alaska already, the clear air, the cool breeze, the natural landscape, the simplicity, the small number of people. Learning to fish was awesome, and it’s growing on me.

Sorry to hear you had rough luck on Friday. I guess I was pretty lucky given the slump year. Let me know when you do catch your Kenai King!

Carlos August 2, 2009 at 1:23 pm

Thats one hell of a catch Melissa, Wow! Talk about not kidding when you said “gone fishing”. lol loving it..

Can’t wait to you get back to the interwebs as there is bigger fish to fry ;)

Melissa Karnaze August 2, 2009 at 2:43 pm

Thanks Carlos, I was lucky enough to tag along with some experienced fisherman!

Yes, I am officially “back” to the interwebs, ready to get back to my projects with some fresh perspective. :P

Anthony Oliver August 3, 2009 at 5:16 pm

Ummm….I think you are mistaken, that is a whale not a fish. ;-)

Definitely an awesome catch. It is weird to think about the gender roles, I was just thinking that the other night while playing disc golf with some buddies, all guys out on the course.

Alaska is definitely on one of my places to visit soon, I just went to British Columbia a few months back and it was incredible. It is nice to get away from the people and technology, unplug for a bit, and remind ourselves of where humanity came from.

Melissa Karnaze August 3, 2009 at 5:23 pm

Hehe, thanks Anthony. My fellow fisherman wouldn’t have normally kept a King that “small.”

I recommend Alaska, especially a cruise if you can do that: absolutely gorgeous.

It is nice to get away from the people and technology, unplug for a bit, and remind ourselves of where humanity came from.

Totally. It took two weeks of solid fishing for me to get a better grip on what my priorities really are each day.

Anon October 16, 2010 at 11:02 pm

As a woman who is often very in touch with my male ego (and other aspects), that is some catch!! I love it and can completely relate. Thanks for sharing.

http://www.etherealhighway.blogspot.com

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