“We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the gelding be fruitful.”
– C.S. Lewis
About a year or so ago, the New York Times published an article online which attempted to define the “Modern Man”.
I thought it interesting, if only as a commentary on how our definition of manliness has changed over the last couple of generations. I thought I’d give a response to each of their twenty-seven points… counterpoints which contrast the difference between the “Modern Man” and what I consider to be real manliness:
- When the modern man buys shoes for his spouse, he doesn’t have to ask her sister for the size. And he knows which brands run big or small.
A real man understands that his wife loves buying shoes and it’s the process of selecting them which brings her joy more than it is the actual purchasing of them. He also understands that his wife knows far more about this sort of thing than he ever will, so while he will occasionally make a gift of a pair of shoes he thinks she’ll really like, he makes sure to get a gift receipt.
- The modern man never lets other people know when his confidence has sunk. He acts as if everything is going swimmingly until it is.
A real man knows his faith is shaken in times like this and he has at least one person in whom he will confide, and the most important is his wife. He understands, if only instinctively, that if she believes in him he can face almost anything. He will avoid confiding in her if he thinks it will protect her, and he’ll probably be wrong.
- The modern man is considerate. At the movie theater, he won’t munch down a mouthful of popcorn during a quiet moment. He waits for some ruckus.
A real man has at least some manners, so he doesn’t eat so loudly that it matters.
- The modern man doesn’t cut the fatty or charred bits off his fillet. Every bite of steak is a privilege, and it all goes down the hatch.
A real man knows how to trim and cook a steak. If at a restaurant, he’ll send it back if it’s not done properly because if he’s going to spend that much money on a meal, it should be prepared correctly. He also knows which cut of meat is which … so he knows a filet doesn’t have fatty bits.
- The modern man won’t blow 10 minutes of his life looking for the best parking spot. He finds a reasonable one and puts his car between the lines.
Real men agree – however, they’ll drop their wife off at the door if it’s raining or cold.
- Before the modern man heads off to bed, he makes sure his spouse’s phone and his kids’ electronic devices are charging for the night.
A real man will do this for his wife if she forgets because he loves her and likes to pamper her. He will not, however, do this for his kids as he wants to teach them responsibility. He will also expect them to always have their phones charged when they’re not at home so they can be reached at his and his wife’s convenience and so they can reach their parents when necessary.
- The modern man buys only regular colas, like Coke or Dr Pepper. If you walk into his house looking for a Mountain Dew, he’ll show you the door.
A real man tries to be an accommodating host when he can and doesn’t really judge you by what you drink – as long as you don’t do something stupid like mix 18 year old single-malt Scotch Whisky with Coke.
- The modern man uses the proper names for things. For example, he’ll say “helicopter,” not “chopper” like some gauche simpleton.
A real man isn’t pretentious.
- Having a daughter makes the modern man more of a complete person. He learns new stuff every day.
Real men know this to be true – and know this is true for sons, as well.
- The modern man makes sure the dishes on the rack have dried completely before putting them away.
A real man is not defined by such trivialities.
- The modern man has never “pinned” a tweet, and he never will.
A real man, if he uses Twitter, uses it in whatever manner he wishes.
- The modern man checks the status of his Irish Spring bar before jumping in for a wash. Too small, it gets swapped out.
A real man doesn’t waste anything, if he can help it.
- The modern man listens to Wu-Tang at least once a week.
A real man may not even know who or what a Wu-Tang is.
- The modern man still jots down his grocery list on a piece of scratch paper. The market is no place for his face to be buried in the phone.
A real man gets the job done and uses whatever tool is best for it.
- The modern man has hardwood flooring. His children can detect his mood from the stamp of his Kenneth Cole oxfords.
A real man doesn’t stomp around like a child and doesn’t gratuitously throw in a brand name when describing his clothing – see 8.
- The modern man lies on the side of the bed closer to the door. If an intruder gets in, he will try to fight him off, so that his wife has a chance to get away.
A real man also does this and for the same reason. He will visit upon the intruder an overwhelming degree of violence which will ensure any threat is eliminated, sacrificing himself in the process if necessary.
- Does the modern man have a melon baller? What do you think? How else would the cantaloupe, watermelon and honeydew he serves be so uniformly shaped?
See 14. Although, of all the types of kitchen gadgets and tools which exist, one wonders why a modern man would be defined by something so silly as a “melon baller”.
- The modern man has thought seriously about buying a shoehorn.
A real man may very well own a shoehorn, but never thought seriously about it.
- The modern man buys fresh flowers more to surprise his wife than to say he is sorry.
A real man does this and whatever else he can think of to delight his wife.
- On occasion, the modern man is the little spoon. Some nights, when he is feeling down or vulnerable, he needs an emotional and physical shield.
Good God, I don’t even know what to say about this.
- The modern man doesn’t scold his daughter when she sneezes while eating an apple doughnut, even if the pieces fly everywhere.
One would think this would go without saying.
- The modern man still ambles half-naked down his driveway each morning to scoop up a crisp newspaper.
A real man may still receive a newspaper as most real men each adhere to and respect various traditions as they see fit. However, they don’t go out half-naked.
- The modern man has all of Michael Mann’s films on Blu-ray (or whatever the highest quality thing is at the time).
A real man isn’t defined by his movie collection, although his character is revealed by his library.
- The modern man doesn’t get hung up on his phone’s battery percentage. If it needs to run flat, so be it.
A real man ensures he is reachable by those who are important and depend on him, and he never wants his wife to worry.
- The modern man has no use for a gun. He doesn’t own one, and he never will.
A real man understands the role firearms have played in our history and is not afraid of them. While a real man may not own a gun, he respects the rights of those who do. While owning a gun does not make one a real man, most real men own guns – see 14 and 16.
- The modern man cries. He cries often.
A real man understands there is no shame in crying, but does not cry over the trivial. He is strong enough to not be emotionally overwhelmed by adversity, but tries to be wise enough to know when his limits are being reached. See 2.
- People aren’t sure if the modern man is a good dancer or not. That is, until the D.J. plays his jam and he goes out there and puts on a clinic.
A real man pursues his passions and seeks excellence – whether it’s dancing or anything else.
Obviously, their list and my responses are entirely subjective. I do wonder, however, where masculinity is headed. It seems that our focus has shifted from the substantial to the superficial; we’re more concerned about the appearance than about what lies beneath.
It seems having a big beard is more important than having strength of character.