Not all modern men look or act the same. But they do have some key traits in common.
How would you describe a Modern Man?
Would you describe yourself as one?
It seems like it’s a hot topic right now, and everyone has an opinion, so I’m always interested to find anyone willing to put some language around it. I’ve even caught myself comparing myself to see how I size up; looking for reasons to pat myself on the back for a job well done.
Cruising the net, as I sometimes do, in search of some tasty nuggets of information or insight into the secret lives of cats, I came across Brian Lombardi’s piece in the NY Times entitled “27 Ways to Be a Modern Man.”
While I haven’t found the exact language of what I now loosely call “Inspired Masculinity” I’m not so arrogant as to immediately discount anyone else’s effort to name the present state of the masculine psyche.
Who doesn’t want to be a better, or more “modern” guy, right? So I read on.
It’s curious to note that Brian’s work is placed in the Times’ Fashion Section under Men’s Style.
There are, I imagine, men who read the style section who are worthy of this conversation, seekers of a deeper understanding even if they, as I was, are unsure of what the actual question is.
The author starts off the piece, and I quote:
“Being a modern man today is no different than it was a century ago. It’s all about adhering to principle. Sure, fashion, technology and architecture change over time, as do standards of etiquette, not to mention ways of carrying oneself in the public sphere. But the modern man will take the bits from the past that strike him as relevant and blend them with the stuff of today.”
As I read I found myself nodding my head in silent agreement as I went down the page.
The list includes such sage advice as being aware enough to know your spouse’s shoe size, being considerate enough of other theater goers to time your popcorn consumption with the noisier parts of the movie, and being grateful for every bite of steak on your plate.
He writes that time shouldn’t be wasted hunting for the perfect parking place or worrying that your cell phone battery is almost dead.
The Modern Man shouldn’t be a poser; he should purchase only “regular colas” or nothing other than hardwood flooring.
He would never waste time on anything as trivial as “pinning a tweet.”
I was silently congratulating myself as having scored high so deep into the list until I came upon his references to melon ballers, Kenneth Cole shoes, Irish Spring, Michael Mann films or the Wu-Tang Clan. These had me scratching my head a bit.
I came to understand that the author wasn’t describing a Modern Man as much as he was setting down the rules of the road for an Urban Man.
What if you don’t live in a big city, have ready access to public transportation, or have difficulty finding trendy men’s wear shops in your town?
How then do you, or I, measure up as a truly Modern Man?
Is refinement a requisite standard? Does one have to sport a fashionable, neatly trimmed full beard while wearing skinny jeans to be considered manly?
I think that Brian is, in his own way, guiding us to be more present in the moment to those whom we share our day, to be consciously grateful in our consumption, to take only what we need and share what we can with others.
The author encourages us to be free enough to ask for nurturing, to be big enough to admit our needs, and to be ‘man” enough to ask for it.
He also seeks to break up the myth of “the good soldier;” a man devoid of pleasure or joy who just bears down and trudges forward through hardship regardless of the cost, to him or to his family, until he drops dead without ever knowing what losing himself in laughter ever felt like.
I don’t know about you but I don’t remember my father laughing very much, and he was gone at 61.
Being mindful is a big theme of the piece and I couldn’t agree more.
I guess it depends on your perspective, or more importantly your zip code, as to what — or whom — you will be mindful of.
Here in Asheville NC, where I live, there resides a different kind of man than the one in the article, although I would argue, no less “modern.”
Even on a crisp fall day like today in Mid-November, I see groups of men on their bikes, getting ready to do a little stump jumping; their happiness evident on their mud splattered faces. Brought together by their shared interest it looked as though they benefitted from their communal bond.
It wasn’t clear whether any of them cared a whit what a melon baller even was.
Being engaged in a community, having a sense of place, is important here.
The hikers enjoying the many trails that run up from the Blue Ridge Parkway weren’t wearing any Kenneth Cole footwear that I could see but from where I was standing, man-o-man they love being out in, and are fiercely protective of, the woods
It would seem that living your passion, whether it’s hiking, yoga, integrated holistic medicine or cooking farm to table cuisine is important in Asheville.
Here, in the hills I constantly meet kind, thoughtful, well-mannered men who are connected to their families, communities and the environment. I am often humbled that most of these men are actually out there, doing something, anything to better things for those they love, and those they share the beauty of this area with.
I’m not sure whether any of them are Wu-Tang Clan fans. It never came up as a topic of discussion.
Their Carhartt clothing notwithstanding, many of these quiet, composed, sincere men fit in quite comfortably with their more bohemian brothers that are in service at the French Broad Food Coop; hospitality and welcoming has long been part of the fabric in these hills.
It would seem that having a sense of purpose, of being in service to something bigger than yourself is important here.
If you had a sense of place, a sense of passion and a sense of purpose, wouldn’t you already be present and mindful?
Wouldn’t you already be consciously grateful, be more deeply connected to your family and community?
Wouldn’t that be the way to live a full and joyful life?
Wouldn’t you then be, regardless of fashion, music or soap preferences, the quintessential Modern Man?
If you don’t have a sense of place, passion or purpose, what’s stopping you?
Get out there brother, and create your life, in every moment.
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Photo: Getty Images