Wednesday, August 28, 2013

How to Be a Man in the 21st Century

Men ain't what they used to be. This is a fact. Males of my generation (I was born in the mid-'60's) and younger have been sensitized, sanitized, and emasculated to such a degree that we're barely the same species as our fathers and grandfathers. In some ways, we don't really WANT to be like them, sure, but it other ways, ways that count, we're less.

We can't go backward to some mythological time when "men were men"-- and I would be remiss not to mention that too many people, then and now, mistake "Giant Asshole" for "Real Man". Masculinity in and of itself is much maligned because too many males haven't understood what it actually means, and have behaved like enormous dickheads.

But being a Man in the manner of our fathers is not something we should want. Being a Man in the 21st century is an entirely different ball game. Here's some pointers, brothers.

-Be decent. That is, treat other people with respect, especially women. Never let the words "whore", "bitch", or "slut" cross your lips. No matter what. NEVER EVER raise your hand to a woman. That makes you a weak little punk.

-Be a man of your word. If you make a promise, you'd better damn well keep it. Be honest and deal square with other people. If you don't have that integrity, you don't have shit.

-Keep your cards close to your chest. Stop talking so goddamn much. You may think you have lots of interesting anecdotes, and maybe you do, but keep some parts of yourself in reserve.

-Stay cool. Don't get worked up. In a crisis, keep calm and level-headed, speak in a low, unhurried voice. Stay in control.

-Don't think you have to go to the gym. A singular fixation on your rock-hard abs might be... over-compensating. Yeah, women dig guys with muscles, but they only dig them on the shallowest level, the way you might dig a girl with a big booty or nice legs. They've been trained to appreciate that, but not take it seriously. It doesn't really mean anything of value; it's eye-candy. If you really want to muscle up, try actual physical labor-- chopping wood or pushing a plow or something. Those are honest muscles, derived from doing something useful, not obsessing on your body.

-Dress like a man, not a boy. Only punk kids wear those big baggy pants, sagging down around their crotch. Only a wuss wears skinny jeans, and tee-shirts with some dumb-ass corporate slogans or hats on sideways. Hair perfectly coiffed with lots of "product" is effete and vain. Have a good haircut, sure, be well-groomed, but not to the point of shallow obsessiveness. Wear clean clothes that are practical but stylish. Have a suit or two tailored, if you can spare the cash.

-Violence is almost never the solution, but sometimes, sometimes, it's inevitable. Learn to recognize when there's no other option, and act on it. Stand your ground in an equal match, control your fear of getting hurt. Don't brag or make threats or try to get cute with the movie-style one-liners. Just fight. Hard. And remember, losing a fight doesn't make you less of a man, not fighting back at all does.

-By that same token, don't be stupid. Know when you can't win. Hey, the guy with the gun or the knife always wins the argument. That doesn't mean anything-- someone who would use a gun against someone who isn't equally armed is a big wussy with some temporarily artificial power. You have to cede to it, though... if only for the moment. Even John Wayne knew when to put his hands up for lesser men.

-Never be the one who starts a fight.

-Don't brag or boast about your accomplishments...

-...but don't pretend to false modesty. Acknowledge, if only to yourself, your victories and your strengths.

-Being gloomy and moody is NOT the same thing as being strong and silent. Pull yourself together, man. Real men smile, even when they don't feel it. If you're having a bad day, that's nobody's problem but yours.

-A real man can admit when he's wrong, and not even mind it (much).

-Don't be snarky or sarcastic. It's a poor substitute for actual wit. Speak plain. When you talk, there should be no doubt about what you're saying.

-Racism, homophobia, and sexism are the mindsets of the ignorant and the insecure. A real man is better than that.

-A real man is kind to children. He's good to animals. He's generous to people less fortunate than himself.

-This one is tricky, if it's not already part of your natural personality-- be stoic. Stay strong and uncomplaining in the face of adversity or pain. Don't cave in. What I'm saying is, stop your pathetic sniveling.

-I mentioned being honest and dealing square with people; equally important is being honest with yourself. The process of "knowing yourself" can be a hard, dark journey, but if you don't wimp out, if you keep going through the darkness, you'll eventually come to some kind of light. The sense of purpose and center-edness that comes with knowing yourself is something that can't be faked-- and people can see it in you.

-And finally, a real man of the 21st century knows that he won't always live up to his own standards. At some point, he will fail, let himself down. But he won't abandon his principles. He'll re-commit, get over it, and move on. Because, really, being a better man just means being a better human being.


  1. Very good advice, worth teaching your kids. And you've articulated what I've been thinking, for a long time, in a better way than I could.

    Human nature being what it is, I'm certain men in the past never lived up to the ideal we have of what a man should be, however what you've described was, more than likely, in much greater evidence than it is today. By that I mean, "what used to be" probably wasn't, and in search of our place now, thanks to our emasculation from Oprah and others (I do lay the blame at the feet of radical feminism and make no apologies for it, men have lost their way. But maybe we can get it back.

  2. Good post. As a "senior citizen" of 65-plus, I agree with most of what you say, Heath. I guess my main difference lies in your statement that "being a man in the 21st Century is an eintirely different ball game" and then your listing of how a man should act --- I think your list is how a man *always* should have acted (and more commonly did in the past) ... It's good to see the terms "act like a man" and "be a man" being used again --- for a while there, telling someone to act like a man was viewed by many to be the same as telling him to act like a racist, homophobic, misogynistic bully ... For what it's worth, I blame champions of "male sensitivity" like Phil Donohue and Alan Alda, as much as the women libbers, for the wussification that ultimately took place but now finally seems to be leveling off ... If you boil it down to one word, a man should be - as you said - stoic.