They’re Really More Like Guidelines

man scratching head

Recently, my girlfriend Jodi tried to set me up by sending me a link to an article about The 20 Defining Traits of the Real Modern Man. Great, I thought! Guidelines for being a man. (sigh) She knows these Real Man™ articles tend to get my Irish up as I hate these glib little lists that either mask male chauvinism or are an attempt to feminize men to make a woman’s life easier. With that in mind, I read through the list and, you know what? It wasn’t all that bad.

Yes, it’s still a glib little list and, at first blush, just repeats some of the same tropes we see time and time again. Heck, I just did a write-up about mistaken ideas of being a man. But for whatever reason, perhaps my morning coffee had a little extra caffeine, perhaps it was the fact it was a Friday and I was looking forward to the weekend, I saw something new. Maybe these aren’t rules to be taken at face value. Maybe they’re examples of some deeper truth. Whoa!

Consider the first suggestion, that a man have a standard, classic go-to drink so he doesn’t hem and haw when he approaches the bartender. It isn’t really about the drink, is it? It’s about being decisive. Confident. It’s about making up your mind, having the courage of your conviction, and then living with the outcome, good or bad. Now that is something I can agree with when it comes to being a Real Man™.

Suggestion 2 isn’t really about a man knowing what his girlfriend’s favorite drink is, either. It’s about thinking about the special people in your life and keeping them special. Remembering things about them because you know it’s important to them. Doing nice things, not because of notions of chivalry but because that particular person in your life values those actions.

As I worked my way down the list I saw more of the same. The specifics of the rule weren’t all that important. They were examples of underlying truths. Selfies? Stop looking externally for validation. Have 2 or 3 dishes you can make well? Embrace being responsible for your own life, your own care – your adultness. Have a dog? Learn how to care for and nurture another life so that you can feel part of a bigger thing than just your own place at the center of the universe. Personally, I’m a cat person.

No list is without some flaw, however. And no Straight Talk article is complete without me pointing it out, right?

Number 10: No dieting? Look, for all sorts of reasons there are men who have found themselves in less than stellar shape. Getting back into shape requires work. Often times very hard work. A Real Man™ is willing to put the work in to make it happen, but don’t try and take away the tools that will help him accomplish this. Counting calories is where it starts. Ensuring a proper balance of nutrients is equally important. A Real Man™ doesn’t guess – he doesn’t fudge his numbers. Sorry, I just said fudge when talking about dieting. My bad.

Number 5: They think about and worry about their mothers. Really? There are good parents and bad parents in the world. If you had a good one, by all means make the effort to recognize that and be thankful. If you didn’t, however, a degree of forgiveness will go a long way toward making your own life better, but that can take work and may still not lead to a point where you are grateful for them. Cut yourself some slack. A Real Man™ will learn from the past but won’t dwell in it.

All these lists that try to define what being a real man or a real woman is seem to be making the same point, but do so in various ways and with varying degrees of success. They still boil down to some of the basic truths that the great philosophers and religious leaders have been telling us for centuries: treat yourself and others with love, respect, and compassion. But who wants to read a Top 3 list?

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