Afraid of Becoming a Man

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About Oliver Lee Bateman

Good Men Project contributing editor Oliver Lee Bateman is one of the founders of the Moustache Club of America and Penny & Farthing, two blogzines specializing in flash fiction and creative nonfiction that he co-curates with web developer Erik Hinton, medical consultant Nathan Zimmerman, and freelance writers Christie Chapman and J. R. Powell. He is a lawyer as well as an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. Follow him on Twitter @MoustacheClubUS or on Google+. Oliver's Spring 2014 US History From the Civil War to the Present course is being live-streamed by UTA. You can access these lectures by clicking here.


  1. Good luck OLB as you leave the “Cocoon of Academia” and not only venture into the real world, but take on the dual role of Husband and Father. It can and will be , if you let it, the most harrowing and at the same time, the most rewarding thing you ever do with your life. I took the plunge myself many many years ago and if you want some unsolicited advice, here goes. “Take the plunge” literally. That means “Ready or not, here I come” 100% of you (Trust me, you get back what you give and then some). When it comes to child rearing ,I prefer the KISS method(Keep It Simple Stupid) Take all about your childhood that either you liked or wished you had, and give that to your children. Take all that you DIDN’t like about your childhood, and banish all that you possiblly can. (note; I’m not speaking of necessarly speaking of material things). One more thing. As my children are all grown now, Ican say the first memoties that come to them are the memories of times we spent doing things togeather. Look, just lead with your heart and you’ll do fine.

  2. I’m glad you’re making choices that suit you and that you think will bring you happiness and fulfillment.

    Why you equate YOUR particular choices with “being a man” puzzles me, though. Other males do the same and make very different choices–are you saying that they’re NOT men?

    If “marriage with kids = manhood” for you personally, that’s one thing. Saying that it should be everyone’s definition is quite another.

    • I don’t think OLB means that to be a “Real Man” you have to be married with kids. If this site does nothing else, it shows some of the MANY ways someone can be a “Real Man” / “Good Man”. I think he means(and I totally agree with) is that to be a good Father and Husband, you need to be a “Good/Real Man”.

  3. Why reduce your options to either “a self-absorbed lifestyle in a rat hole apartment” or a traditional marriage with procreation as its main purpose? It seems that a lot of the questions you are struggling with stem from your inability to divorce masculinity from this narrow definition of marriage. I think the piece is less about becoming a grown-up than it is about how patriarchy hurts men as well.

  4. Hmm, your plans sound highly stereotypical. I wonder how much is “your true self” and how much social conditioning.
    But ok, whatever floats your boat. :)
    Best wishes anyway.

    But, please, don’t call your course of producing offsprings and living in a house “being a man”.
    That sounds:
    1) So much 1950′s old clichè
    2) Disrespectful to men choosing to live in different ways

  5. Exceedingly valid points. I was merely trying to offer a sense of the stress that accompanies the acceptance of adult responsibilities, regardless of what those responsibilities were. The inclusion of so much personal information serves only to raise legitimate concerns about outmoded social expectations. If I were to re-write the piece in light of these criticisms, I’d couch my argument in more general terms. That being said, I stand by the link that accompanies the phrase “getting my cherry popped” in the first paragraph.

    • @Oliver, after I posted my comments, I realized it sounded harsher than I meant.
      I didn’t mean to criticize (hey, it’s your life, after all :) ), just to state my POV.
      Sorry if it has come out rough.
      Kudos for your replying with poise.

  6. Why would you marry?
    It’s a contract with the State that will cause the loss of all you hold dear and ever worked for.
    Spend a day in family court first my friend.
    Look up Briffaults law.

  7. Oliver, I found 28 to about 33/34 to be a weird time. I wasnt young anymore, yet I wasnt a mature man. It was a time of confusion for me – i was neither young nor old, what was i?
    I was less and less identifying with adults and their cultures under 25. Yet the suit of maturity was still ten sizes too big for me, and mature men still looked ‘bigger’ than me – they existed on another higher level.

    What happened in my case, is that the brain hardened around 34 (i swear this is biological). Suddenly the ‘suit of maturity’ was no longer ten sizes too big, but fitted perfectly. Fears seemed to have less intensity. Other mature men were now on the same level as me, and even if they could destroy me – i knew could stand toe to toe with them

    Perhaps you will identify with my posts in this thread, on the process of aging

  8. I don’t know why you’re taking all this flack OLB? You clearly stated this is what your choosing to do with YOUR life. I didn’t read anything into it where you’re saying this something EVERYONE should do. Has this site become so avant garde that anychoice that seems in anyway traditional must be ridiculed? I mean, some articles on this site are “from the edges” , but I never hear the authors attacked like this.

  9. Jean Valjean says:

    I’ll admit it, after the first few sentences I stopped reading. I find it offensive that I have to become anything at all let alone the arbitrarily and capriciously assigned designation of “man”.

    What is a man? To me a man is a slave. A person who puts the needs of everyone else (women and children) above his own. A person who is expected to be a provider but is limited by laws and custom in making the most of his talents and ambition and is often pigeonholed into a death occupation because that’s the only way he can put shoes on his kids feet and appease his wife’s material whimsy (or attract a wife in the first place).

    A man is property on loan from the state and until he turns 42 (and is no longer physically useful) will always live under the threat that some draft dodging rich ass politician will decide that a war is necessary (for his cronies to make a buck) and pull him from his family, job, and life to resume his birthright as government issued cannon fodder. But this is OK because we would never do it to teh wyminz!

    A man must surrender his hard earned money to his wife even if she treats him poorly. He has no reproductive choice. He has limited property rights. He has limited parental rights. He will be sexually mutilated at birth without anesthetic by the preference of his “loving” mother who thinks he’ll look nice with a viable piece of his sexual anatomy electively amputated. If not done properly his penis will likely curve sharply, he will suffer pain during erections for life, his scrotum may be pulled up the shaft during erections, he will endure abrasion around the most sensitive parts when he runs and exercises and works (and he will surely work). And because he’s a man he will be ridiculed and shamed if he complains about any of it and ridiculed and teased and even shunned if his partner doesn’t like the “new” way his penis turns out.

    A man is shit. A dog, a pig, a bastard, a loser, a creep, a pervert, and a million other derogatory labels that women think up whenever he fails to meet their arbitrary and often contradictory expectations. And most men will fail at many of these expectations because some are impossible paradoxes.

    I don’t believe I have to be anything except happy. I don’t have to be a father or a husband or pay women money for children I never consented to in order to be entitled to the human respect, dignity, and deference that all women get for having the good fortune of being born without a penis.

    I don’t believe my value and worth as a human being should be contingent on how much money I make or how willing I am to give it away to selfish women who use and exploit me.

    I believe that my value as a human being should be inalienable and that if I make mistakes I shouldn’t be branded for life and put on watchlists so I can be hounded and shamed long after I’ve served my time.

    The very notion that I have to be “a man” is itself an expression of hatred towards all men.

    I shouldn’t have to be anything in order for people to treat me with respect and dignity. Qualifications such as this not only belie the so-called theory of “male power” but reinforce not only unreasonable stereotypes but also unreasonable expectations.

    MODERATOR’S NOTE: This comment is in violation of our moderation policy because it is much too long. This is a warning. Further comments that are in violation will be removed. See complete commenting guidelines here.

  10. wellokaythen says:

    Not the most nuanced, balanced view of reproductive choices. I recommend a little research on being “childfree” before setting it up as a choice between 1) waiting selfishly for the apocalypse and 2) becoming a man. Seems to me that one should decide to have children or not based on good reasons and not vague stereotypes that one swallows uncritically. Have you had a frank and open-minded discussion with someone who chose not to have kids?

    I think I read the article carefully, but I never did spot your reason for having children. You just sort of decided that you would in a few years because…? Because you’re getting married and so that’s what you do because…?

    I’m sure many fathers out there would say that when they became dads they were forced to be more responsible, forced to grow up, etc. I have no doubt that’s true in many cases. But, that raises at least two questions:

    1) If a guy needs to grow up, is becoming a father really the best way to do it?
    2) How do you avoid being one of those men who still doesn’t grow up even though he has children?

    Yes, I’m childfree myself and am obviously biased to some degree. Speaking for myself, I think the environmental rationale for being childfree is pretty lame. (I don’t mind stupidity that blocks reproduction, however. Better to be childfree for stupid reasons than to be a parent for stupid reasons.)

  11. Wellokaythen, you bring up the dilema for the “Modern Man”. To have or not to have children. Once upon a time it was automatic. Now not necessarely so. My take from his article is that OLB feels that his (Pardon the expression) shitty childhood leaves him somehow “incomplete”, and he would like to show some innocent life a much better one. It’s been my personal (And very unscientific) experience that these are the very people that make GREAT parents. They make happen the childhood they wished they had. That’s my mt advice (For what it’s worth) is GO FOR IT!!!

  12. “First, it helps greatly that they were dismal parents: emotionally uninvolved, concerned with their own messy lives, unstable, chronically unhappy, impossible to please, and largely unsupportive until well into my early adulthood.”

    Actually that probably doesn’t help at all. They were your model for what a parent is, no? How else do we learn parenting–or at least a large majority of it– than from our own parents/caregivers?

    Well, yes, I am trying to learn more about it in the “Family” section of this magazine, but a lot of parenting is an immediate–sometimes emotional–response to a given situation with your child. And for me, that response seems to be influenced greatly by what at least one of my parents did in such a situation. There isn’t always time to rationally plot out the best parenting choice in the moment. Sometimes you just have to react. Some examples: 1) Your kid is about to put their finger in the eye of a younger baby, 2) They are kicking some delicate part of your body while you change their diaper, 3) They are weeping into their homework because they don’t understand the lesson and have a test the next day.

    Anyway, I ramble on… This isn’t a contest right? Just because there is a strong chance you can do better than your parents doesn’t mean you’ve done a stellar job.

    And is this you or your parents talking: “What could you possibly share with this little person, other than a household and a handful of reciprocal duties?” — I would say there is a lot more you can share with the little person! You don’t have to kid yourself into believing you know what they do on Sat night, but if you try, you can share a lot with that person. One day they won’t be so little, and that could be when you most get to reap the rewards of your hard parenting work.

    Thanks for the article and sorry if this sounds harsh. Good luck on your journey!

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