Being a Man
So, you have a girlfriend at school. She’s new this year and you’re crazy about each other. She’s your favorite and you’re her hero. It’s mad cute. The other day though, one of the “cool” girls (and I say that with a touch of irony as I know everyone is 3 and 4) told your girlfriend that she could sit beside her. Your girlfriend was thrilled. She’d finally been accepted! You, however, were not so thrilled. As it worked out, there wasn’t enough space now for you to sit. You tried to finesse one but it wasn’t happening so you stood in front of your girl and wailed. You cried and cried until I came and lead you away. What I told you then makes me laugh just thinking of it. It went kinda like this, “Loch, I understand you’re upset. I know you want to be with her but you can’t be the guy crying in her face. Go play with your boys. Sit with someone else. Have fun and just hang out and she’ll come back to you. She has to sit with the girls right now. That a big move for her. But she’s crazy about you and she’ll come back just as long as you aren’t the boy screaming in her face. You don’t wanna be that guy.” Honestly, Preschool mirrors Jr. High more than I can possibly say. But it got me thinking. I told you you “don’t want to be that guy.” But what kind of guy should you be? What kind of man would I like to see you become? What could I possibly have to teach you about being a man?
Loch, you have a wonderful father who has been loving and involved in your life since before you were born. You will learn how to be a good man from him. Sensitive but not wussy. Confidence without arrogance. It’s such a relief for me to know that should I not be around, your father will be. Listen to him. He is a spectacular role model, and despite his rocky beginning in the teenage behavior department, he became one of the best men I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. That being said however, women have a unique perspective on what makes a man. What qualities we value varies from person to person but since you are my son, I want you to know what I see as the markings of a truly good man.
When you’re young and dating, people always ask you what your “top 5” requirements are. You’ll answer this question many times in your life. MY list looked something like this:
Top 5 Qualities in an Ideal Man
Sense of Humor/Funny
Ambition is a big one and one that still rests near the top of my list. Ambition is a bit illusive as you can be ambitious without being successful, but, I feel that truly ambitious people eventually succeed because they’re not the type to give up. Determine goals for yourself. Set the bar high and be tenacious working towards them. You gotta be “hungry” and not afraid of the work it will take to get where you want to be. Men aren’t lazy. Boys are. Ambition can be a wonderful trait. It can spur you on when you feel like stopping. It can inspire you to find a new way to do something. It can focus your life like no other. Just be sure that your ambition doesn’t overshadow your life. Push yourself. Aim high. Go for the gold, and all the other cliches you can think of, but never at the expense of your family or friends. Getting where you want is not worth anything if you’re alone. Don’t step on anyone on the way up that you wouldn’t want to see on the way down. Remember who helped you. Help others. Be a man you can be proud of and that others are happy for.
Sense of Humor is on everyone’s list. I read once that to most people sense of humor simply means, someone who laughs at my jokes. Funny would be someone who makes you laugh. Strive to be both.
Ultimately people just want someone who gets them. Funny people are almost always liked. I don’t mean being a comedian – someone who’s always on or pushing to find the humor – or a comic who is funny for a living, but just someone who enjoys the lightness of life and isn’t afraid to laugh at himself. Sense of humor also means someone who can see the humor in a bad situation. Who can brighten a room and make others more comfortable. There’s nothing worse than people who take themselves too seriously. People who are too self aware to laugh a little. A real man uses humor to his advantage and isn’t afraid to poke fun at himself.
Smart is big. You want to be a smart man. Smart does not mean intellectual. Often the most intellectual people aren’t very smart. Smart, to me, means clever. Well educated. Aware. People who are exceptional in their given field but who are also clued in to the rest of the world. You should have a working knowledge of many areas of life. You might not care about sports (that would be me) but you should know the names of at least 6-10 teams in each league. You should know the names of major sports stars of the day and you should have a working knowledge of how the games are played/scored. (Unless it’s cricket. I don’t get that game.) You may not be a business guy but you should at least comprehend the stock market and interest rates (I plan on putting you in classes for this since this a problematic department for me). Fashion might not be your thing but you should be able to name at least 8 designers and know how to dress yourself so you don’t look like a douche. You may be ambivalent about entertainment (almost impossible growing up in this house) but you should know certain actors, bands, author’s names. I don’t watch reality television but I could have a relatively interesting conversation on the topic. You have to be aware. It’s not enough to say, “I’m a guy. I don’t know about that stuff” or “I’m too busy to watch the news.” Get a clue. Life is happening. Not just your life. Be part of it. There’s nothing duller than a man who knows infinite amounts about only one topic.
Attractive is totally subjective and on the surface might seem shallow or irrelevant. At the end of the day you will be attracted to who you are attracted to and vice versa. It’s a lot of chemistry that is sometimes unexplainable.
When I talk about begin attractive I am really talking about taking care of yourself. You’re going to look how you’re going to look. Currently things are looking good and I’m not going to lie, the world is kinder to attractive people. It’s a sad but true fact. What I’m talking about though is taking pride in how you look. Working out. Staying in shape. Respecting your body for what it can do, but also for how good it can look if you put some effort in. I’m talking about showering and smelling good. I’m going to insist on deodorant – preferably non-aluminum. Musky is nice. Too much musky is rank. Get a cool haircut. Put product in or don’t. Have nice nails and non-Hobbit like feet. Avoid sketchy facial hair. Care, within reason, about your clothes. Don’t be too cool to dress up. Be respectful of where you’re going. You can still be manly if you make an effort. Just don’t get prissy about it. Men that take longer than women to get dressed are unattractive no matter how handsome they are. And that’s the long and the short of it, isn’t it? Attractiveness has a whole lot to do with attitude. You don’t have to be the best looking to be attractive. You have to be at ease in your skin. Confident with yourself. And those things are easier to do if you smell and look nice.
Powerful is one of those things I still find attractive but one that no longer makes my top 5. Powerful men are sexy. Powerful men are attractive. Powerful men get things done. And getting things done – being someone who delivers – is a palpable trait. It’s hard not to be attracted to power. It’s addictive. But it can also be hard. It can be vain. It can be short sighted. You want to be someone who gets s#^* done but you don’t want to be rude about it. I’d call it quietly powerful. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for what you want. To let someone know if they let you down. To send a steak back if it’s cooked all wrong or to tell a manager if there’s a problem. Stand up for what you know is right. Stick to your guns. Practice the art of persuasion and learn how to get what you want without being a d*^#. As your Granddad always said, be diplomatic. It’s power…with class.
And though power has it’s place, it’s Kindness that has replaced it on my list. In many ways, kindness has moved right to the top. It took me years to figure this out so I’ll let you know that some women, particularly young women, might not have any idea this is a key quality. They still like bad boys. The men that keep them guessing. The men that treat them like dirt. I understand this phenomenon as, for a time, I was that girl. It wasn’t until much later that I realized love wasn’t supposed to be that much work. It wasn’t supposed to cause me so much pain. That having someone be nice to me was lovely and I deserved it. You deserve it too. Pick kind people to be around if you can help it. Be kind to others. Be empathetic. Think about how what you do or say might affect someone else. I’m not advocating doormat behavior or being the “nice guy”. I’m just saying be a nice guy. Be someone people can count on. Which leads me to…
Honorable. An old word but an exceptional trait. You want to be the kind of man that people trust. That people can trust in. The kind of man that gives his word and follows through. The world has become very wishy washy in the honor department. It’s a trade up world. A world where people don’t think twice about selling out to get ahead. Money is king in modern day America and for that honor has taken a real back seat. I think it’s a real compliment to be referred to as a stand up guy. A gentleman. It speaks to a world of principles that are almost lost to us. And with honor comes…
Loyalty. Real men are loyal. To their friends. To their morals. To their wives. Enough said.
Other things I’d like to see my boy learn on his way to manhood:
Learn to Dance – I’d probably steer you away from competitive dancing, but dancing in general is a phenomenal skill for a man to have. The man that can dance is a real catch. If you can dance to popular music that’s a bonus but learn couple dancing too. Learn to lead. It’s great fun and a terrific way to impress the ladies. P.S. Your dad is awesome at this.
Be Handy – Now this may be impossible as I think it’s more genetic than taught – you’re either handy or your not – but it is my hope, based on the fact that I was quite handy until I met your Dad (who is so handy that I became useless), that you will have some skill in this department. Handy is key. Something is broken? You can fix it. Something needs building? You can build it. I really can’t say enough about this. I remember talking to someone Granny’s age once and she said if she could do it all over again she’d marry someone handy. First quality. I laughed because I grew up with your Granddad who is gifted in so many areas but handy is not one of them. When I married Sean it was such a pleasure to not have to call someone for every little thing. This summer, after 2 engineers, 1 architect and 2 business men tried to put together your swing set at the cottage, your Dad arrived and got it done in 1 day. One day. Get the tools and learn from your Dad. Everyone will be grateful you did.
Change a tire – I am the worst feminist for admitting this, but there are still some things I like a man to do. Changing a tire is one of them. I know I should learn but I still don’t know how. Pathetic but true. But as a man, you better know. My sexism also extends to…
BBQ – I have a hard time thinking of a man as a man if he doesn’t know how to barbecue. Really dude?! You can’t grill a burger? Not cool.
Pay your own bills – A tough one because sometimes it’s easier said than done, but I feel it’s hard to consider a man a real man if he can’t pay his own bills. You don’t necessarily have to be the provider (sole or otherwise) but you can’t have your girl or your parents or your boyfriend always pick up your tab. We don’t want no scrubs.
Develop Manners – Look people in the eye when you shake hands. Be appreciative. Open doors for people – not just women – people. (Though you should help women on and off with their coats and offer your jacket to a cold girl.) Respect your elders and your juniors. Be polite to waiters and people serving or helping you. And apologize when you’re wrong. The world opens to people with manners. A real man knows that, but would have done it anyway.
Play at least one sport (video games don’t count) – I don’t care if it’s golf, football or anything in between. Sports and men kinda go together. It breeds camaraderie. It bolsters healthy competition. It keeps you fit and it gets you outside. It also helps you shape up to…
Lift heavy things or at least open jars – Please don’t be the guy that can’t open a jar. I don’t want you to be a meat head but at least have enough physical strength to help a friend move or open a new jam.
Finally, Listen – Men are notoriously bad at this. Work against that. Pay attention when people say things. Especially special people in your life. The man that brings you peonies because you said they were your favorite flower, is a man you keep. Try not to be the guy who brings the generic roses with the baby’s breath from the deli.
Here’s the thing: Your Dad was an Eagle Boy Scout. He can make a fire with no match. He can find his way out of the forest with no compass. He can shoot accurately with multiple guns, a cross bow and a bow & arrow. He’s white water rafted and jumped out of a plane. He played football in high school and is now into competitive paintball. He’s a man’s man and you’ll learn multiple skills from him. But he’s also an actor and a dancer and a romantic. He tells a great joke. He knows about wine. He takes pleasure in his appearance. He’s loyal to his friends. He’s a hands-on father. He works his heart out for his career. He remembers my favorite things and puts his family first. He is a loyal, loving man and a person you should be proud to grow up like.
But for goodness sake, avoid being the punk a@# he was in his teens. You blow up an abandoned car and I’ll kill you myself.