Be A Man

He is a composite of various men. Some real. Some fictional. He is part Magnum PI, John Wayne, Hank Williams Jr., and the Ultimate Warrior. He is specific to my context, my history, and my upbringing.

He is part of my understanding of what it means to be a man.

He is a tenacious part of that understanding.

He was downloaded from newspapers and novels, textbooks and history books, billboards and bus stop benches, magazines and movies, music shows and television shows.

I was programmed from a very young age – as soon as I was wrapped in blue.

He was reinforced by the men and women of my family and my community. Just like their respective roles were impressed upon them.

He is a complex set of expectations, norms, and customs.

He is a code-of-conduct.

He is a body-image.

He is a benchmark, a yardstick, a touchstone.

He is the critic inside of me. He is the one looking back at me in the mirror. And, he is not always pleased.

He is unreasonable. He is unrealistic.

He is a ploy of marketers, an artifact of advertisers, and a fantastical creation of our consumerist culture.

He is bait.

He is powerful.

He shapes my choices, molds my behavior, and controls my impulses. And, when I act in ways that are inconsistent with my cultural programming, he berates me. He mocks me. He insults me. I feel shame and guilt. I do not like these feelings. I try to avoid these feelings. So, I have been known to conform.

Indeed, there are times when I am not sure where I begin and he ends.

Do I imbibe my coffee black and my bourbon neat because I like to or because I am expected to?

Am I exercising my volition or is it my conditioning?

I want clarity.

So, I am going to expose him. I am going to detail him. And, I am going to show you how I measure myself against him:

  • He has a six pack. I have a 1…2…3…and ¾ pack.
  • He is six feet tall. I am five foot seven and three fourths inches tall.
  • He has a belly button that is centered. I do not.
  • He has a head full of hair. I have a head.
  • He has strong calloused hands. I have the hands of a gentleman.
  • He has a square jaw. I have a square(ish) jaw.
  • He has flawless skin. I have eczema.
  • He is has a total body tan. I have a farmer’s tan.
  • He has normal sized facial features. I have diminutive facial features.
  • He has straight teeth. I have a snaggletooth.
  • He fills out an 11 inch shoe. I fill out an 8 inch shoe.
  • He can handle himself in a bar fight. I can handle myself in a coffee shop throw down (they are not pretty).
  • He is a warrior. I am an academic.
  • He can air box. I can air guitar (if I wanted to but I don’t because that would not be manly)
  • He can survive alone in the woods. I can plant a flower garden.
  • He can grip a basketball with one hand. I need two.
  • He played Division I football. I played Division III.
  • He can break down an engine block. I can break down mathematical model (well, I used to be able to)
  • He eats raw meat. I eat raw almonds.
  • He can back up a trailer. I can back up a computer.
  • He hunts and chops wood. I wash dishes and vacuum.

He is the strong silent type. He tells me that there was a time when a man was a man. He kept things to himself. He didn’t belly ache. He didn’t cry. He didn’t whine.  He did not feel the need to share his feelings. And, he definitely did not write a blog.

He tells me I’m a pussy. And, part of me believes him.

I want to critically deconstruct him. I want to redefine him. I have. And, I am.

He is malleable. And, that is good. However, I wonder if it is possible to arrive at an original understanding of what it means to be a man – an understanding that is unique to me.

I also wonder what understanding of manhood my son is arriving at.

How I am influencing his understanding?

Who am I helping him to build inside of him?

Who do you have inside of you?

When someone tells you to “Be a Man” what does that mean to you?

When someone tells you to “Be a Woman” what does that mean to you?

I wonder when we are going to get to “Be a Human.”

What do you think that means? And, how do we get there?


If you enjoyed this blog, you may enjoy my Man Manifesto newsletter.

Thanks. – shawn