There’s a great quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson I’ve always loved: “The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.” I always thought the same could be said of guys who brag about how manly they are. The more they thump their chest, the more reason you have to doubt it – or more specifically, the more reason you have to think that they doubt it. Sadly, there is no reciprocal effect for guys like myself, who openly doubt their manliness – when we say we’re aren’t men, people tend to believe us.
That’s probably why many guys keep their manly doubts to themselves, and why it often feels like masculine angst is something unique to me. It doesn’t help that I have several friends discuss my efforts to be a Better Man in the same soothing tones they might use with mental patients brandishing firearms, or blind children who say they want to be a pilot someday. Still others point out that as an educated, (failed) professional, urban-dwelling, single, childless adult heterosexual male about to breach his forties, my personal experience is too removed from the reality of an actual male’s life to have any relevance.
Well, to those people I say IN! YOUR! FACE! Move over skinny jeans – male angst over being unmanly seems to be the new black. How do I know this? Because Newsweek tells me so. This past week, the magazine made the male condition the subject of its most recent edition. The cover features a father holding a child, with text in a large font, barking at all males lingering in newsstands between airport layovers to “MAN UP!”