George, we’re men here. And I’ll tell you what the hard part is: starting up. Standing up. Breaking free of this bullshit, this enslavement to some guy, cause he’s got the upper hand.
—Dave Moss, Glengarry Glen Ross
All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.
There are three kinds of men: The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence and find out for themselves.
You know the hardest part of being a man? It’s all the people who want to weigh in on what makes a man.
Oddly Enough, Not a Bruno Tie-in
I started thinking about it after a recent marketing promotion by Gillette. You know, the company with the criminally expensive razor blades? Well, in the name of selling a bunch more, they now want us all to look like gay porn stars. If you hop over to their web site or YouTube channel, they’ll gladly help you learn to remove every last hair from your body, and then sell you the load of extra blades you’ll need to do it.
They don’t tell you, however, about the painful itching you’ll feel if you don’t keep it up almost daily. Or how much women dislike touching your naked body when your chest is the exact consistency of 40-grit. Or about the ingrown hairs and razor bumps (nothing says “sexy” like getting them in your nether regions and having a sex partner confuse them with an STD). Or how you’re going to keep this up until you’re 50. Or 60. Or 70. Or that to many women, it feels like being with a 12-year-old.
I’ll say here and now, I’m not against manscaping. Keeping the hedges trimmed is important, and strategic removal of hair in odd places is never a sin. But the idea of going baby-smooth, especially in the nether regions, is kinda creepy. It’s hard enough that young guys who watch way too much porn are trying to convince every woman under 30 to go hair-free. Although I see the humor in the turnabout, I also see raw capitalism driving us down a slippery (at least until the next day, when it’s scratchy) slope.
So Easy a Caveman Can Do It?
Shortly after this, dating guru David Wygant asked the question, “Do You Overmanscape?” I initially thought he was responding to Gillette, but in fact he’s railing about metrosexuals in general, which seems about 5 years too late – that trend seemed to peak when Queer Eye was big. (Today’s more misguided young men get an assembly-line haircut, pick up whatever’s new at A&F or Gap, half-tuck the shirt and call it good. I’d give anything if they actually developed enough style to have more than five pairs of pants.)
He concludes, “men are meant to pass gas, belch, scratch their balls and have women reprimand them for having poor manners.” Well, there’s a vast gulf in between feeling pressured to shave your groin and armpits, and behaving like you haven’t yet discovered fire or the wheel.
Yet there’s something in both these extremes that I think can help guide us down a third path to manhood.
At his core, a man is – or should be – his own person. His role models should be neither models from the UnderGear catalog nor Artie Lange. Instead he should keep his eyes open wide, gathering wisdom from all around. He should travel as much of the world as possible, or at least get out of his own community and mingle with strangers from time to time. He will have to take cues from society at large, while seeking enough information to figure out that body shaving is to the ’00s what multiple facial piercings were to the ’90s and acid-washed denim was to the ’80s.
A few simple words of advice:
- Trust your gut. Risk-taking is fine, but when something seems wrong or dangerous, it probably is.
- Just because everyone else jumps off a cliff doesn’t mean you have to. Yep, mom was right.
- Your idols have flaws too. Be observant enough to find the flaws and don’t copy them.
- Try to understand things (and people) you don’t like. Use critical thinking. It will make you smarter.
- Be congruent. That means walk your talk. Always, always, always.
- Meditate. Seriously. Pascal was right. I’ll write more on this, but for now Deepak Chopra can get you started.
Don’t worry about whether you need to scrape yourself newborn-smooth or whether you’re going to be able to keep the hatches battened after that huge Mexican dinner. These are small things. Keep your eyes on the bigger picture, and the small things will fall into place.
But you know, sometimes you just have to pee on the electric fence.