You may have seen my “…Like A Man” photos, and I’ve been thinking more about what this series means to me as I grow older and figure out what it really means to be a man. I have recently seen more stories written by men sharing their feelings and opening themselves up to the world. I’m not saying this is going to be one of those type of stories, but I do believe in having cathartic experiences, whether it be from reading blog posts or from real-life experiences.
I believe that many men don’t learn how to be men from their fathers. My father definitely didn’t teach me about the birds and the bees (save for a very awkward 1-minute conversation we had pulling into the driveway when I was visiting home from college), how to manage money, and lift weights. These concepts are the first things that come to my mind when I think about what type of lessons fathers typically teach their sons, but even these assumptions are worth questioning, but we’ll leave that for another time
I came across the magazine Esquire in 2010, and I thought it was just another one of those artificial magazines about what type of gadgets to buy or cologne to impress the ladies. Upon further reading, the magazine is filled with great stories, biographies, and my favorite pieces in the magazine: stories about being a man.
I realized that I learn what is to be a man from reading stories, watching movies, and basically consuming media to broaden my definition of “man”.
As I grew up from my teens into my 20s, I learned from men of all ages just from going through life. I also learned a great deal from reading, watching, and consuming. I discovered the importance of work through reading biographies of men in Esquire whom drive trucks for a living to make ends meet. I saw how friend stay loyal to each other throughout their lives from watching Entourage. I learned how men deal with fear, loss, and teamwork by watching the movie Deliverance (and also learned that men raping other men is a real thing).
This may not be the best way to learn, but taking real world experience and meshing it with what are fictional stories helps me reflect on why I think the way I think. More importantly, it helps me figure out who I will become.
Society places a large responsibility on fathers to raise their sons the right way, to make sure they know what is right from wrong. This seems like a huge task, and I don’t think many fathers can really say they know exactly what they are doing. Perhaps that is why there is so much literature, film, and stories out there about what works and doesn’t work.
My favorite clip of what it means to be a man comes from Ron Swanson in Parks and Rec. Ron talks about being the handbook he wrote as the troop leader for the Pawnee Troop Rangers. The handbook, in its brevity and simplicity, encapsulates man and his way of thinking.