Joel Schwartzberg counters the stereotypes of what makes a “real man” by compiling a list of the top 25 things men should do in their life.
In the history of American stereotypes, the one we established for the 21st century man is probably the most overlooked, most pervasive, and most deployed. Whereas minorities, women, children, grandparents, and even cats now have nuanced identities (See: Lil Bub), men are still largely typecast into the same flat roles we’ve been playing for decades.
In pop culture terms, what Spock is to Leonard Nimoy*, Magnum P.I. is to men.
On television, we’re useless dolts who don’t know how to make dinner even if it comes in a box. In movies, we’re virile dolts for whom roundhouse kicks come as naturally as adjusting underwear. In sports, we’re muscular dolts who can throw, run, and take shots to the head. In music, we’re all of that, but also thinner than we were in eighth grade.
These are generalizations (some of us were heavy in the eighth grade), but much more the rule than the exception. Even in popular men’s magazines – which supposedly cater to “real” men – we’re reduced to power-tool-loving garage nerds, perma-stubbled models, and immature, bar-hopping thrill seekers.
A 2012 — not 1962, mind you — issue of Esquire magazine lists things a man should do “at least once in his life,” including these 25 encouragements:
- Play rugby.
- Repair an appliance.
- Fly the red-eye from Vegas.
- Fly a Cessna.
- Do a flip off a diving board. Nail it.
- Toboggan, aggressively.
- Drink mescal in Mexico.
- Cultivate a reputation as a rake. A scalawag. A ne’er-do-well. A scoundrel.
- Learn three to four chords on the guitar, until you can play one song.
- Live in a hotel suite for a week.
- Milk a cow. Drink that.
- Build a fence.
- Pick an animal. Something cool like a wolverine. Go see it in the wild.
- Break a sheet of plate glass with a ball-peen hammer.
- Have a threesome.
- Listen to war stories.
- Kill, dress, cook, and eat wild game.
- Make beer, wine, or moonshine.
- Have sex in a body of water.
- Ride a horse.
- Eat congee. Eat haggis. Eat tongue. Eat kidneys. Eat brain. Eat testicles.
- Walk 20 miles. Bring water.
- Sleep outside for a week.
- Put 100 bucks on a long shot. To win.
- Bungee jump.
Ergo, the “perfect man” is a combination of Dos Equis’ “Most Interesting Man in the World,” J. Peterman, Don Draper, and the biggest jerk you knew in high school.
Reassuringly, message board denizens on Esquire.com tore the article apart. Note to the editors: Next time, protect yourself by including: “Tear a magazine article apart in the message boards. Tweet that.”
You may think: Oh, that’s just Esquire. They drink from the same trough as David Beckham, Pit Bull, and Abercrombie & Fitch executives. But then you open up a less fashion-focused magazine like Men’s Health, spot an article entitled “6 Tools You Don’t Own, But Should”, and read:
“You already have the claw hammer, the flathead screwdriver, the Phillips screwdriver, the wrench, the cordless drill. But what’s missing?”
I’m thinking: My tuna fish press? My staple remover? The mile-long receipt from my last CVS visit? But no — it’s the SawStop table saw!
“The term ‘handy’ was never more apt,” Men’s Health gushes. “A must-have if you’re going to do work in your shop.”
Not my shop. My shop is Target.
A wise boss once counseled me to never give criticism without suggesting a fix, so here’s my own 25-item bucket list for Real Men.
- Play “Sorry!” with your kids. Let them win… then let them lose
- Go to the firehouse. Have firemen check your car seats. Thank them.
- Make a perfect tuna fish sandwich
- Repair a Barbie Dream House. Feel like a handyman.
- Screw in new light bulbs. Aggressively.
- Cultivate a reputation as a listener, a contributor, and an empathizer.
- Have a twosome. Enjoy that.
- Decide to have sex somewhere other than your bed… unless it’s too hot. Or scratchy. Change your mind.
- Buy new underwear
- Throw out old underwear. Not just the decade-old boxers, but the two-year-old boxer briefs as well.
- Decide to not watch SportsCenter for a week. Then think, “What’s the point of that?” Watch SportsCenter
- Go to a conference on your company’s dime. Sleep dead center in the king-sized bed. Order room service. Watch TV. Attend the conference.
- Pick up tampons for your wife. Feel like the hero you are
- Shake hands with a soldier
- Say “I love you” to your pet. In front of grownups.
- Go to the mall on Christmas Eve.
- Pick an animal. Something cool like a homeless cat. Rescue it.
- Download a song you liked in high school. Tell someone at work.
- End an online search for porn based solely on the fact that you’ve already killed too much time
- Call your dad. Spend more time talking to him than you typically do washing your hands.
- Stop for directions.
- Tape the playoffs.
- Put your shoes in the closet.
- Close the lid.
- Do any three of these things. Call it a day.
*Even Nimoy tries to break free. His actual 1983 poetry collection Warmed by Love has been hailed as “touching and complex” by critics in this country, and “an outrageous pack of lies” by, of course, the Romulans.
Excerpted from Joel Schwartzberg’s new book, Small Things Considered. For more info or to buy the book, visit smalthingsconsidered.info
Photo By: ModernDope/flickr