Tag Archives: manliness

I Have

As I watch so many people post #metoo, I look back on my youth and I think I was, and try to be now, one of the good boys- and this terrifies me because I was horrible. If I was a good kid, and I know how bad I was, how much worse were, or are, the others? And even now, like someone carrying a benign cancerous tumor, I wonder how healthy I really am.idahobeach

I grew up with strong female role models, grandmothers, mother, four sisters, and my father demanded the women in his home be shown respect. So much so that the only time I can recall my father ever raising his arm as if to hit me, was when I made a flippant remark toward my mother. I had not defied her, but simply been less than respectful. Dad would not stand for that. I had women teachers in school who were formidable and bright, I knew and believed that the smartest students in my grade were all girls, and in church I was taught of the existence of a divine feminine, a Mother in Heaven.

And still, in my mind, women became objects.

I had no idea how to talk to girls. I couldn’t do it. I was so caught up in an internal inferno of sexual desires, hyper male competitiveness, and crippling pubescent insecurity that I could not deal with anything beyond myself in the presence of a girl. All I could see was the shape of her body. All I could think of was whether or not she wanted me in the same way I might want her and if so what were the physical possibilities and how could I really know what she thought, or wanted, and how could I get there.

Sex was everywhere and in every thing. It was in the music I listened too, the shows I saw on tv, in my science text books, in Sunday School lessons, in the jokes my friends and I told each other, and most of all, it was in my head and all throughout my body. It was simply a part of the atmosphere, like oxygen or carbon. There were other things there too, like ozone, STD’s, and god given commandments against fornication, but somehow there was so much sex that if it didn’t crowd everything else out, it at least engulfed it, like an oil spill covering a beach. There might be a bird on that beach, but it would be an oil covered sex bird.

And this was before the internet.

The other things, the ones that were not sex, were either trivial, like algebra, or important, like football. Football was power and glory both on the field and off. It rewarded strength and violence with points on the scoreboard, and it brought me, or anyone associated, an elevated status among our peers. It wasn’t just football, there was basketball and baseball too, and all were important, almost “most” important. And they were really meant for boys. There were of course girls’ teams and even a separate girls’ gym. It was smaller and less elaborate. The girls sports did not have cheerleaders or dancing girls at half time. The sports I played did. The boys with status played and the girls wore short skirts and cheered us on. It was how the school, and the community, were set up. It did not matter that the girls teams won more games and garnered more awards, the pageantry and focus was on us- the boys.

And I bought it all.

Because of all this, and because of me, I went on dates, and took girls to dances, and talked to girls in class and on the phone and all the while I am not sure I ever truly treated them, or considered them fully, as people.

They were body parts. They were trophies. They were potential reflections of myself. I did not go on dates to share ideas or witty banter. I did not have a relationship because I valued the companionship of this other person’s soul. I surely did not share my soul with any of them, I was simply navigating the build up in the teen movie relationship where looks and status are the driver and there might be some words or events that crescendo in what it is all really about anyway- which is the kiss, or depending on the movie, sex. That was the win, the goal, the point.

This was me and I do not think I grew, or evolved, or was taught, out of that mind set and attitude. I wonder, or fear, that I might not have ever changed at all had I not detached from society all together for a full 2 years. For me that is what it took. I went away to a new geography without my friends where I knew that for a solid 24 months I would not go on a date, hug, or even hold a girl’s hand. I did not listen to the radio or watch tv. I wore uniform clothes in a uniform style where status, sex, or social rewards were completely off the table and my only true focus, was talking to people about what was important to them. That time taught me a lot in a very fundamental, very foundational way.

I went through a 2 year hyper masculinity detox, and in large part, I think it worked. I hope it did. But when I came home, it was all still there, it was all the same, it was just me that changed. It was like I had been washed free of the oil slick but no one had touched the beach and I was back. So I wonder how clean I really am and want to know how much oil I swallowed with all those years of swimming. I wonder how clean I ever really got because that 2 year detox wasn’t built “for that”. There was no lesson or curriculum deconstructing paternalistic hyper sexualized masculinity. There were lessons that related, or maybe correlated, but brushing against is not the same as confrontation. Correction and eradication, while related, are not the same.

So as I see people post #me too or #I have and I consider them and I reflect on me, I know that I have a part to play. I know I have been, and probably am, part of the problem. Sexual harassment and objectification isn’t a them problem, or a girl problem, or a Hollywood problem, it is a me and us problem. And when I reflect on my own experience and heart, knowing my own truth, my own sincere desires for goodness, I have to admit- I have.

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Not Hipsters

There is, or at least can be, a fine line between clothing and costume. A fine line between doing your thing, and schtick.

I appreciate those who do their thing, but I fear far too many are just trying to do “a thing”. For example, I present to you Teddy Roosevelt doing “a thing”.IMG_2573

Now compare Teddy doing his thing.IMG_2571

See the difference?

In one, there is a born and raised New Yorker who has gone out West and dressed up in what he thinks Westerners wear, and in the other, he is wearing something suitable for what he is doing, and where he is doing it… in New York.

So on that note, and along those lines, I present some archival finds that should make any hipster eat his own heart. Not to say that any modern day man trying to claim gender normative manliness with a little extra panache’ shouldn’t rock a hat, but these guys absolutely do it better.IMG_2596

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Rifles, Guns, and Muskets

When I was 12 years old I won a dutch oven by beating a grown man in a “mountain man run”. Technically we tied in the run but I broke the tie by shooting a gong that was placed 300 yards up on the side of a mountain.dalynflintdownrange2I won with a flinch. The first time I pulled the trigger the hammer just snapped back to half-cock and I flinched so hard I almost fell over. When I reset the hammer I was shaking so bad I should never have hit anything. But I did. The gong made its noise and despite the groaning and laughing of everyone involved, I was crowned the victor.

That was the last mountain man run I ever entered.

pistolsMy Uncle Tommy was never really my uncle but my step-great grandfather. My great grandma went through multiple husbands and he was the one that lasted the longest. He was a giant man whose shoulders appeared to attach right to his ears with hands like bloated catchers mitts. He who would sit in a chair at my house and just talk at whoever crossed his path.triggerguards

He would talk about things like how he was the direct descendant of an Old West outlaw called Kid Curry that used to run with Butch Cassidy, about how he used to cook for the mob in Vegas, and how he once choked a man to death when he was in the army. That last one always kind of freaked me out because his victim was a fellow American soldier. It only sorta freaked me out because like most everything Uncle Tommy said, we didn’t believe him.pistolpointUncle Tommy owned more than a dozen hand guns, most of which he kept in velvet Crown Royal bags. My Dad tells a story of how one day he had heard enough of Tommy’s tall tales and that it was impossible for this ogre of a man to be as good a marksman as he claimed.

Tommy arranged for the two of them to go out to the desert with a Smith & Wesson revolver and a bag full of pre-school building blocks. You know, the multi colored wood blocks that have letters on their sides.

marcelfireDad would throw a hand full of blocks up in the air and while they were flying Dad would yell out a letter. Tommy would raise his pistol and shoot that letter out of the sky before the lot of them hit the ground.

He did it again and again to make sure all doubts were put to rest.dalynonehandUncle Tommy passed away before I got a chance to see this trick first hand. I could just trust my dad but he has a trophy on his shelf that is shaped like a bull. He won it for telling stories.

 

 

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Algebra and Tomahawks: when will I use this in real life?

I am quite skilled at a number of things that have no practical use. Like most suburban kids, all of my time and efforts during youth were spent acquiring those abilities. But unlike those other kids, my dad never taught me how to properly throw a spiral, I don’t think we ever played a single game of catch.

But he did teach me how to throw a tomahawk.medoubleThere really isn’t much to it. The secret is all in your distance, the number of paces you are away from the target. At five and a half paces I can stick a hawk in block of wood every time. So can my little sister. At seven paces I flip the blade around backwards and the hawk sticks upside down.

meheadonI have labored to teach my daughter about things like oligarchy and the risks of confirmation bias but I was recently excited to teach her something much more important.

A young woman must be prepared to defend herself against the onslaught of tree stumps.

marleebehindI’m not exactly sure why throwing a hatchet at a tree is so satisfying but trust me when I tell you that it is. It feels primal, is only slightly challenging, and makes a nice little “thunk” sound when the blade buries itself in the wood. It also makes a disturbing “ping” when it ricochets off into the bushes.

ethanhaedonBut perhaps the most satisfying thing about the tomahawk is that I have yet to find a tournament in Brooklyn or Silver Lake. Maybe there is one in Portland but I haven’t heard about it. Not that I don’t like Silver Lake, I rather like the place, but I also like that I have something in my roots that, much like my youth, lacks any social cache’ but is packed with personal enjoyment.

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Special shout-out to my brother-in-law for pulling off the perfect tomahawk version of the “Robin Hood”. You owe my Dad a new handle.robinhood

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Manly Men are and Have Been Dandies

… and for the record I own none of these images nor have I had a hand in their creation. They are just here to illustrate a point.

Dandy is not normally meant as a compliment when directed toward a man. It is considered calling the masculinity of the accused into question. I find this curious.DandyCutout

Maybe the man’s clothing show a little too much flair, a bit too fancy, overly decorated, maybe even froofy in the opinion of manliness police. Calling someone a dandy is often the same as, or at least overlapping with, soft, feminine… gay. Interesting.armor

Now in most cases, someone who would call another man a dandy- or metrosexual, or flamboyant, or prissy- in a derogatory way would also think gay to be bad. I have no intention of dealing with anyone’s opinion of homosexuality here, but I would like to address this curious connection with hetero normative masculinity and fancy clothes.custer-portrait

Clothing does not in fact make the man, or even make someone a man. I say this not to deny that humans signal or communicate when clothing themselves (very much the opposite), but rather to challenge what many think the messaging of frilly clothing means relating to hetero-normative masculinity.george-catlin-iowas

There is a stream of popular American culture that for some reason thinks decorated clothes, or colors such as pink, communicate femininity or weakness. This makes me chuckle. It makes me laugh not because anyone has accused me of dressing less manly (I don’t personally like flamboyant clothes or excessively decorated outfits), but rather because it is historically silly.Teddy-Roosevelt-Was-the-Toughest-Person-Ever

This tends to be normal for anyone mocking someone else for not fitting some imagined standard. Most mockers are ignoring their own shortcomings, however they measure that standard.

Warriors throughout the ages and across many cultures, have exerted hetero masculinity, strength, and aggressiveness… as well as an abundance of feathers, ribbons, and makeup.samuraiWe kid ourselves that armor and military regalia is utilitarian. Plumes on helms deflect sword blows. A forged metal face plate is only for protection, or maybe a touch of intimidation. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

Guys wear that stuff because they think it looks cool.hawaiian-tattoo-on-left-chest

Which is great because in most, or at least many, cases it does look cool… but also super fancy. Super decorated, just for looks, non utilitarian, fancy. I’m okay with this. I understand that such clothing tells me little, or likely nothing, about anyone’s orientation, strength, virility… but it does tell me quite a bit about their taste.Birdman-rapper

And I don’t need to have the same tastes as you. That is okay.mma-karma-elite-daily-800x400

I don’t have to be like you, or like you, but if I don’t (like you) my complaints should not be tied to your clothes.slide_308704_2702404_free

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Wherever You are, Be There: on campus

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Tweed because one should never be above a stereotype, scarf because this is California and you have to capitalize on scarf opportunities (when it dips below 50 degrees), and surly look because you kid yourself that this balances out otherwise pretentious behavior.

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Leaving Nature for my Natural Habitat

The winter break is over and the kids, those of my own and those at the University, are back in class. That means I am as wellIMG_9862

Of course back in class does not mean classy. What it does mean is that if we hope to operate at a university level we could discuss and dissect what exactly “classy” means.

Is it visible? Is it observable? Who decides what constitutes class? What are the ties between what is considered “classy” (behavior, clothing, topics, etc.) and socio-economic class?

Is there value in being classy? Is this value only in how those with high social class perceive the one in question?IMG_9870 (34)

I might suggest that most of us who ask such questions would not likely feel good about the answers.

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