Retro Relapse: Misconceptions of Manliness

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2014.

There is a lot of division on the idea of what manliness is or what it should be.

Some people have this idea that a real manly man is a guy who is a big bearded, muscled alpha lion wearing a trucker hat made of bison jerky that surfs on top of a 1967 Shelby Mustang GT500 while chewing shotgun shells wrapped in raw ribeyes.

Others believe a manly man is an “evolved” species who is respectful of women’s rights, accepting of a more androgynous society and is able to do women’s work and cross the gender line.

Some people, think that a manly man is an Aston Martin driving guy wearing one of his four dozen tailored suits and a watch that costs about as much as the vintage wine collection he has just to impress girls half his age.

Many believe a manly man is a dominating douchebag that conquers women and bullies the betas into doing his bidding.

The fact of the matter is, all of these are wrong. Although the first one does sound pretty badass, right?

Manliness can’t be summed up in a style or a hobby. It certainly isn’t defined by a political or social ideal. It’s not the car you drive, the clothes you wear or some non-prescription monocle that makes you feel like the gentlemen of yore. It certainly isn’t the food you eat, the heavy things you lift or the washboard abs you are striving either to get or to maintain. It’s not the Mossberg 500 in your closet, the heavy bag in your garage or the $1200 bicycle parked next to your hand-crafted canoe. It’s not the 20 mile hike you did or that time you went camping in bear country. It isn’t even the mustache wax you bought after having to “man up” and go into the beauty supply store to buy it.

It is none of these things.

Manliness isn’t some quantifiable physical thing or activity. Despite the nine bottles of whiskey you drank last week and the hair it put on your chest, you have not been magically transformed into the pillar of manliness. You are just a fuzzy drunkard. Granted, a fuzzy drunkard can still be a man but it is not some sort of prerequisite. A man is much more than all of these things and he is none of these things.

It is time for males, especially those wanting to be men, to come to terms with the fact that manliness has nothing to do with these exoteric things. Manliness is something that comes from the mind, the spirit and the heart. It’s a philosophy of life and being – not triceps, beards, paleo diets, crossfit or fancy hats. It is an attitude, a way to carry oneself. It is the way one handles situations and crises and constantly moves forward. It sure as shit isn’t about creating some ultimate ideal masculine persona. At its core, it is about substance and application. Real men already know this. False men may be a bit confused and not following along very well.

I feel the need to write this because I’ve been writing about manly issues since starting this website. At times, posts I’ve written have been misperceived and misrepresented by those with agendas or ideas of their own – people who can’t see the big picture and cherry pick for what they want to get out of my writing. I’m not sour about it but I at least wanted to clear the air and be straightforward about where I’m coming from.

While I pick on men who can’t handle ribbing or handle their alcohol or text like girls, it’s all in good fun and none of it should be taken too seriously. While I countdown manly movies and post reviews of manly grooming products and recipes for manly meals, it in no way means that you are less of a man for not embracing the lifestyle I’m selling here. And none of it will make you more of a man just for participating and taking my advice or recommendations. It may help at boosting your confidence to manly levels but unless you understand that real manliness has nothing to do with any of it, it won’t make you a true man.

My goal is not to sell a persona. My goal with what I write is to entertain and to help those who can read between the lines and truly see what I’m getting at. Most of the feedback that I have gotten has shown me that several things I’ve put out there have been pretty effective. Yes, I am a dick at times but that’s my personality. I’m a sarcastic and snarky guy and I’m not going to apologize for it. However, sometimes that may make my words seem like they are coming from a place that is mean spirited. Maybe that adds fuel to the fire of the hardcore male rights activists on one hand and the angry militant feminists on the other. Unlike them however, I, and most true men, don’t live in those extremes. We don’t have time for it.

I post the reviews, the recipes, the grooming stuff and everything else because it is stuff I find badass. You might disagree and that’s fine. When I talk about a manly movie, it doesn’t mean that my assessment of it is some sort of law. I am no expert, I’m just a guy with a lot of opinions and ideas that writes about them.

However, guys like feeling badass and looking badass. It builds confidence and security. The same way lipstick, heels and Gucci bags make women feel more confident and badass. I’m not saying that we are stuck in specific gender roles defined by old societal standards but for most people, they typically embrace the generalized image of their gender. Because of that, there is nothing wrong with enhancing that and boosting confidence and embracing whatever it is that makes you feel awesome. What I positively review or talk about, is what makes me feel awesome. It makes a lot of other men and often times the women that love them, feel confident and secure too.

There are various qualities that make a man. To name some, there is respect, loyalty, courage, honor and an overall sense of doing the right thing. No one is perfect and we all falter. There are times where I don’t necessarily do the right thing or make the best decision. I’m human, I have faults but the fact that I can see that in myself and know where I slipped up, means that I am moving in the right direction. The way to keep moving forward, is to recognize your flaws and do what you can to improve them and to rectify the mistakes that you may still have the opportunity to fix or alter. You can’t control the world but you can control how you respond to it and interact with it.

The thing is, everything I’ve said above also pertains to women. The goal here is to be better human beings. Whether you are a man or a woman makes no difference. I feel like this should all be common sense but many people seem to be ignorant of these universal truths.

This brings me to the whole concept of gender roles. Who really gives a shit about all that? Sure, there are things men are traditionally better at, as there are things that women are traditionally better at. That doesn’t mean that these things are limited to the gender that tradition dictates must fill that role. Many men nowadays shuttle the kids around, cook all the meals and clean house. Many women work corporate jobs or even manual labor jobs and excel at it. This is a much different world than it was even fifty years ago. Props to the guys who have evolved enough to handle these tasks and extra props for them having to most likely put up with their male friends giving them shit for it. But guys rib each other and I am guilty of it too. Having thick skin is another manly quality. Not giving a shit what other people think, is one of the best manly qualities.

How manliness is perceived in the physical sense is really in the eye of the beholder; it’s all subjective. In many instances, it is also cultural. However, despite the flannel shirts, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, 50 caliber rifles, monster truck tires, lumberjack competitions, weightlifting and smoked rib roasts, manliness is something inside of your core. Manliness is a product of who you are and how you carry yourself. All this other stuff is just window dressing. But feel free to soak up the window dressing.