Thursday, July 14, 2011

What Does it Mean to be a Man?

I wrote this for a contest that was cancelled. So what better place for it than The Unpublishables?

If you can get your mitts on a dictionary these days, you’ll find that one defines a man as, “an adult male person, as distinguished from a boy or a woman.”

Fair enough, and quite literal, but there is also the sexist definition of, “the human individual as representing the species, without reference to sex,” as in “mankind.”

That kind of talk will get Gloria Allred on your tail.

Google Images is no help whatsoever, as they will give you photos of everyone from Iron Man and Spider-Man to a pregnant guy and some dude with three ears.

Modern culture, meanwhile, has relegated man to the buffoon in every sitcom and commercial who farts and watches football with his buds in a “man cave,” and goes fishing or hunting while on something called a “mancation.” So there is no known formula for being a man, other than having an Adam's apple and external genitalia.

Still, I stood outside Men’s Warehouse last week and asked several guys named Dan and Stan, who are always nicknamed “The Man,” what defines a man. One told me that it involves, “standing up to urinate and not talking during movies.” This made sense, as even my own wife loves to talk during films.

“Why’d he do that?”

I don’t know. Let’s watch the rest and find out.

This gave me the idea to ask my Grampy, the oldest man I know, the manliest man I know. He dictated the following rules to his nurses:

1.) Having a reasonable number of shoes, hair brushes, and purses. I mean no purses. This is a man bag.
2.) Drinking one’s weight in beer and being able to fix things, be it a car engine, a high school volleyball game, or the neighbors’ beagle.
3.) Not having to give birth, and if we bleed for five days in a row, we’ll probably drop dead

It was after crumpling up Grampy’s answer and tossing it in the trash that I realized it’s our modern rock and roll poets to whom we can turn to get an idea of what a man really is. For example, Tom Scholz of the band Boston, said that being a man takes –

The will to give and not receive
The strength to say what you believe
The heart to feel what others feel inside
To see what they can see

Amen, Mr. Scholz. And only the bards from the Sacramento band Tesla could put it into these words –

I know what it takes to be a man.
It ain't the way you look
Or the clothes that you wear.
That ain't what it takes to be a man.
Do right by the ones you love,
Always lend a helpin' hand.

I’m crying right now because this hits the nail right on its flat little head. “Do right by the ones you love.” Just because women can do it doesn’t mean it can’t also define a man. So that’s my answer: See Tesla’s “Be a Man.”

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