You’d think getting through 30 years of life without ever once questioning your manliness would be a positive thing. You have a penis. It works. Quite well actually, often on its own with very little, if any, encouragement on your part. You have hair in lots of places too, some appropriate and some maybe not so. You participate in perceived manly activities on a day to day basis – sports or weightlifting for example. Heck, you’re even partial to the odd spot of manual labor – changing a light bulb for instance. All of which we thought were fairly standard prerequisites for falling into the more ‘manly’ category of the male species.
Needless to say, you probably feel fairly confident in your own personal man’s world. But what happens when, after several weeks of dating someone new, you overhear your potential new mother-in-law set her inimitable stall out and utter six unforeseen, confidence-crushing, impotence-inducing words:
“But he’s not a man’s man.”
As those words ring in your ears it feels as though being male alone isn’t sufficient to allow you to be classified as one of the blokes of this life. You’re left with wounded pride. And worse, instead of a vehemently executed defence of your manhood, there’s no retort and you’re left to fester in the indignity of your unexpectedly overheard verbal castration. Understandably, all of this leaves you questioning yourself; where, if I’m not a man’s man, do I fit in then? And what the holy fuck is a man’s man anyway?
Yes, you’ve guessed it. This has happened to me. But is it all that simple? Is the divide that clear cut between those that are seen as men’s men and those that, well, just aren’t?
A swift internet search of man’s man returns no fewer that 280 million pages of opinion and guidance. It appears that the entire world has a viewpoint or stance on this subject and no two perspectives are the same.
Each web page offers up a plethora of advice as to what a man’s man should be. A man’s man should be supremely masculine, with the strength to conquer, rule and defend his interests, offers one website, whilst another denotes the ability to grill, hunt, fish, build stuff from nothing and conform to a traditional framework of gender roles are all key traits to being a man’s man. Other opinions of note state a hairy chest and a penchant for downing pints of real man whiskey or liquor in seconds followed by a hearty, bone-rattling belch loud enough to wake the dead, are positive indications of one’s manliness.
But at the other end of the spectrum, remarks can be found regarding the importance of being well dressed, clean shaven (that’s the jaw, not the scrotum), educated and worldly wise, as fundamental traits of what constitutes the man’s man. Indeed, one’s ability to do yoga is also cited as a key factor in achieving this coveted status. But is having the dexterity of a pre-teen Chinese gymnast really manly according to traditional values? We’re not so sure.
Perhaps the true mark of a man’s man is one that takes points from both ends of the scale. He’s the kind of alpha male that other men look to as an example. Something they should aspire to become. He is polite and respectful without being a soft touch. Strong in his conviction, and confident in himself. He should have subtle masculinity and an awareness of his own emotional stability. Educated. Intelligent. Unwavering personal integrity with an appreciation of old values and social etiquette.
Of all the conjecture and teachings available on the world wide web, the poem ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling encapsulates the traditional and often forgotten values. It affords us the insight that lives, lived by these famous words, may just allow all men to become more. Maybe even a man’s man.