Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The New Man? Same as the Old Man, but More Nurturing

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A couple of months back, the Atlantic magazine Hanna Rosin's inflammatory article, The End of Men, as a cover story. Two weeks ago, Newsweek's Men's Lib continued the "death of alpha male" meme with it's suggestion that male-dominated jobs - construction and manufacturing, for example - are gone and that men should embrace "girly jobs and dirty diapers."

Yesterday, the Chicago Tribune's Meet the New Man - Don't panic: He's still got some Old Man in him

I am the New Man. My turn-ons include nurturing, chamomile tea and doing more than my share of the housework. I have forsaken red meat for soy, power lifting for Pilates and world conquest for the simple joy of raising sensible, well-adjusted children.

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You might think you've seen my like before, maybe in the form of Alan Alda, Phil Donahue or those guys who run around the woods naked, banging bongo drums. But they were outliers, mere heralds for the New Man to come. At long last I have arrived, and I'm about to corner the market on masculinity.

He had a little fun with the themes of the recent articles, but he does have a good editorial with a few good points. when he quotes Michael Kimmel the article gets good.

Michael Kimmel, a sociologist at State University of New York-Stony Brook and the author of Guyland, says that transformation is already well under way: Men, by necessity, are taking a larger role at home as their wives' work commitments increase — and they're finding out that it's not half-bad.

"The data are very clear," he said. "Men who have more egalitarian relationships are happier and healthier. The more men are involved in child care, the happier their kids are and the better they do in school."

The revolution is not yet complete. Gender expectations we've inherited from our parents and grandparents are still intact — "We don't live in an Etch A Sketch world where things change and we say, 'No problem,' " Kimmel said — and so we're in a transition period where strange, hybrid forms of manhood abound.

There are Peter Pan types who are full of aggression when they're hunting video game zombies, but who become as mild as mice when they have to hunt something in the real world, like a job. There are the gym dandies who pump their quads and lats to caveman proportions but wouldn't dream of using their muscle to hang drywall or haul roof shingles. And there are the hipsters who combine virile, Grizzly Adams-like beards with T-shirts bearing the logos of kiddie cereals.

This is the real point: we are in a time of flux and transition. Men are no longer happy with the old ways of being masculine, and the culture is phasing out those roles anyway - so we are adapting, slowing, feeling our way into the new options.

What many of us have found is that there is no longer one right way to be a man - we have options, maybe not the ones that Kimmel outlines, and maybe some of those are options as well. We get to choose - we get to find the expression of masculinity that feels best for us, and each of us may come up with different ways of doing that.

Keilman offers his own assessment of how the New Man will live his life:

So let the New Man tell you how this makeover will finally end.

The New Man doesn't fear commitment. He longs for it. He runs after it. He knows that without a spouse, his life will be incomplete. What's more, he'll never be able to afford that 60-inch 3-D television.

The New Man loves spending time with his children. It's good for them to have a male role model. And it's good for the New Man to have backup when he gets in a huge brawl with the other dads at a peewee football game.

The New Man keeps a tidy home. He washes dishes, sweeps floors and does laundry with nary a peep of complaint. So when he and his buddies destroy a hotel room in Vegas, the missis will have to write it off as an aberration.

The New Man, in other words, will never be completely free of the Old Man. He'll be a nurse who enjoys an evening at the demolition derby, a stay-at-home dad who totally rules at Halo. He wants full equality for women, and he wants a Three Stooges marathon.

OK, that is not how I am doing it (especially the Three Stooges part), but I applaud anyone who is blending the old parts of masculinity that still feel good with the new things an evolving culture demands of us. So he gave us his version, so let me give you my variation on the New Man:

  • I rock the gym and the kitchen - I can deadlift 400 lbs or make a fluffy, tasty quiche.
  • I like thick, bitter beers as black as night, and I enjoy helping my girlfriend decorate our new house
  • I will be a personal trainer and a mental health therapist and an editor/writer.
  • For me, emotional intimacy is necessary for good sex - my heart and balls are on the same page and want the same things.
  • My path to spiritual growth is interpersonal and intrapersonal.
  • I can hammer nails, sew buttons, change the oil in the car, or do laundry (and I know how to separate clothes into the correct loads).
  • I love football, soccer, and racquetball, and I use moisturizer, cologne, and keep my hair trimmed.
  • If you threaten someone I love or care about, I'll beat you to submission; and if you need a helping hand, I'll give you all that I have.
  • I kick ass at anything I care about . . . and I do it with compassion and heart.

Those are just a few of the ways I am finding my way into the possibilities of being a man. How are manifesting the emergence of the New Man?

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