Have you ever thought about what manliness means in the 21st century, compared to generations past? I have. The men from my childhood modeled a type of manliness that is difficult, if not impossible, for me to replicate today.
The men on my father’s side of the family were soldiers, farmers, and truck drivers. My maternal grandfather—also a former soldier—worked as a manual laborer for most of his adult life. All these men were either the sole or primary providers for their respective families, and the fathers of my boyhood chums were no different. Each possessing alpha male traits of one kind or another, these men stood out to me as exemplars for how to be masculine.
I shipped-off to the Army six days after my 18th birthday and became an infantry paratrooper. After the Army, I went into the electrical trade, followed by stints in factory labor, grounds keeping, bartending, and manufacturing. I played baseball in a local men’s league up through my 20s, and I boozed and partied with my buddies almost every night. To me, this was manly living. Manliness meant working hard, being strong, partying hard, and taking no guff from anyone.
Shortly after landing a job toting stacks of lumber in a truss factory, I was fired for trying to fight a coworker some stupid reason—I no longer remember the specifics. It was after this incident that I decided to go to college, which was a big leap of faith because no men in my family ever gave higher education “the old college try.”
Up to that point in my life, I had never stopped to think about what it meant to be manly. I followed the examples set by my father, grandfathers, and those of my peers—individuals whom I thought were the manliest of men.
It was sometime after my first year of college—around the time I chose to major in psychology—that I realized my future career path would diverge from those of my forefathers. For the three summers and winter holidays that followed, I continued to work in factories and restaurants to save money for the school year, but instead of drinking beer, cruising around town, and generally raising hell with my old buddies, I laid low, read the classic works of great social scientists, and studied for the graduate school entrance exam. All the while, I was conscious of the fact that I was becoming dissimilar to the other men in my life, which resulted in me reflecting upon my own manliness. I wondered, “Am I becoming less manly than I was before?” That thought stuck with me for some time, but it eventually lifted.
I do still think back on those days sometimes. My conception of manliness has evolved quite a bit from back then, but, I am still a product of my upbringing. To some extent, I still carry some of those old ideas with me. I am now a “soft” social scientist/hilarious t-shirt vendor, which, in my opinion, is downright unmanly compared to the rugged, blue collared manual laborers who raised me. But hey, it is what it is, right?
My opinion is just that—an opinion—so I have little insight into others’ ideas about what makes a man “truly” manly.
It is important to understand that everyone has different truths (little t—individual truths) about what makes a man manly. If you seek to discover a magic bullet to greater manliness or even a single form of manliness that is True (capital T—the one and only truth), then this blog will not be useful to you… nor will any other. The only Truth is that variability exists.
So what do you think is 21st century manliness?
What are the traits of truly manly men??
I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments section.
Also be sure to:
1. Go check out the other Manliness & Humor articles.
2. Get a load of these bomb-ass shirts.
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