Laura Lord at History of A Woman wrote a wonderful article called How to Be a Man – For My Son a few months ago and my thoughts on it were long enough I figured it would be courteous to write a post in response rather than a really long comment.
Awhile back I wrote a post for my daughter: Life Hacks for My Daughter. I was struck by the unfairness of that. I mean, here I am, a mother of two wonderful children, and I only dedicate a post to my daughter. I mean, surely there are some “life hacks” out there for boys…ones I would want to share with my son.
But I’m a woman.
I don’t have the necessary equipment to figure out what is hack-worthy when you’re a grown up of the male variety.
Now the inner little boy inside me says, “Ooh, me, me, me!” while raising his hand. “I’m a boy! I know!” Hehe. Yep. There’s actually some great resources on the Internet– one of them The Art of Manliness, which I will refer to a few times in this post.
Laura’s a smart cookie, though, and I think she understands that good advice is good advice, even if it doesn’t come from a gender-specific authority figure:
I may not have life hacks for my son, but I have some serious advice on how to be a man I won’t be afraid of passing along to some unsuspecting woman some day.
It is good advice. Consider, dear readers, since I do have the necessary equipment, that I can confirm it as such. So, on to her list of advice.
1. Hold the door (and other good manners)
The business world has changed this a bit, since manners are not dictated so much by royalty anymore. It is for everyone, and I think it’s built on common courtesy and respect.
The Art of Manliness has an illustration series called “Dim and Dash”, which is based on the “Goofus and Gallant” feature from Highlights magazine.
Here’s an example that would apply specifically to the examples Laura gave:
Obviously, the McKays and Ted Slampyak are drawing on a familiar idea, but upgrading it for young men. If you’d like to look at more of Slampyaks’ “Dim and Dash” illustrations for The Art of Manliness, click here.
2. Learn to Cook…Something
As Laura points out, this is a domestic skill that benefits men and women. But I’ll put this from a guy’s perspective– cooking for a potential life partner DEFINITELY says, “Hey, I’m ready to settle down, quite very possibly with you.” Now, I was born and bred to be domestic. Although my blogging started out sorting out how my mother hurt me, I have to give credit where credit is due. I learned a lot of domestic skills from my mother (and her mother too, actually), and one of them was to cook. When my son was born, I decided to take over the bulk of the cooking… and I found I really liked it, and that I was pretty good at cooking. After a while, my mother started to feel jealous.
Cimmy knows how to cook, but she’s much more talented at baking, especially since she knows VERY well how to make bread completely by hand. So one of my pet nicknames for her is Baker, because I’m the Cook much of the time.
Yep, The Art of Manliness has this covered, too (although good manners of dress, i.e., wearing clothes, is included in this category). I learned about wet shaving with an old-school safety razor from the site. Even more specifically, Brett and Kate wrote an excellent article called Heading Out on Your Own — Day 4: Keep a Regular Grooming and Hygiene Routine which covers most of the basics.
Laura speaks more particularly about facial hair, though. I usually keep some, because I have a boyish looking face (and I’ll use the same image she did):
But I won’t tolerate ANY man who tells me facial hair is to save food for later. That is DISGUSTING! I’d much rather someone give me a “beard check” (i.e. let me know I’ve got food in it). I use a fine-toothed comb– one to nitpick head lice out, even (it’s disinfected regularly, settle down)– to make sure the face dandruff, food, etc. is picked out. I don’t always oil my beard, but, in general, some vitamin E and tea tree oils do a lot to keep things clean, disinfected, and healthy. Tea tree oil has a strong scent to it, but Cimmy likes it well enough. And while I tend to let my beard grow out full and bushy in the wintertime, by the warmer months, I prefer to keep it neat and trimmed. (Sometimes even in the winter I get tired of it looking too bushy.)
Verbal self defense, or what the late George “Doc” “Rhino” Thompson called Verbal Judo or Tactical Communication, is a must here. Words, carefully and thoughtfully chosen, can actually help to prevent, de-escalate, or even end confrontation, and physical violence.
Dear readers, I would recommend that you look into this further– it is difficult for me to sum up these techniques succinctly. It is far more than Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. It is tactically engaging people with respect, clarity, and precision– even when people are difficult (Doc Thompson said he was one such person) or cowardly (who he simply called “wimps”). Thompson applied this specifically to law enforcement first (in fact, the L.A. officers who beat Rodney King had been scheduled to receive such training), but he wished to share it with everyone– parents and anyone working in a service profession.
It works. I have seen it for myself.
5. Learn to Clean
This is something I actually teach my son– and I have him wipe the floor too, if possible. I started doing more maintenance cleaning– cleaning and squeegeeing the shower after I use it, and scrub and wipe the toilet and countertop, etc.
There’s something to be said about cleaning up a mess immediately after it’s been made! I still have some areas I need to work on, but trust me, it does a lot in the long run.
And Cimmorene has turned over a new leaf and done some great tidying up. (I used to be a neat freak– she is the more slobby one. But her side of the bedroom now is the tidy one.)
6. Hands Off! (I will add: have some decency and modesty)
Generally speaking, scratching your nether regions, picking your nose, breaking wind, popping acne pimples, etc. in public is a bad idea. Also, know what is considered appropriate dress and behavior. Many people aren’t terribly interested in buttcrack, man cleavage, or T-shirts with stupidly crude messages.
7. You Are the Handy Man
Well, Laura, actually, Cimmorene will fight me to fix lots of things.
Cimmorene jokingly calls me “The Foreman” much of the time, because with my sciatica and chronic back pain, I can’t effectively do some jobs and I just engineer and direct projects now and then. But seriously, we both do the work– it just tends to be an arbitrary decision of who does what, and it’s not divided by she does the stuff inside, I do the work outside.
8. You Are Not a Robot
I don’t think I have to worry about this too much with my son… he is rough-and-tumble, but very sensitive. I was teased mercilessly for crying as a boy, so I am still trying to figure out the balance.
There is a time and a place to show emotion, that preserves dignity and composure, yet punctuates thoughts and sentiments perfectly.
Here’s a wonderful example Aussa Lorens shared with me:
I think Kevin Durant shows the appropriate amount of tears here– he expresses love and respect for his friends, and especially his mother, giving her credit for her part in his success.
9. One day… (about sex, love, and relationships for the long haul)
To sum up and add to what Laura said, I want my children to know the reality of sex and sexuality. My daughter is learning that quite nicely, especially thanks to Cimmy’s part. My son is still too young to grasp such notions– we’re mostly working on #6.
But she is absolutely SPOT ON in pointing out that children will learn what romantic relationships are about by observing their parents. I am grateful that my daughter is still willing to hug and kiss me on the cheek before bed, although she is 12 now. I want my son to know that how I treat her and their mother is a template on how he should behave for women.
and adding one more item–
10. Take the Hero’s Journey, my son.
I know that my posts about the Monomyth/Hero’s Journey are deep, esoteric, and sometimes very hard to understand. But I think there’s a reason why this cycle is told over and over again (and it’s not just for men– it applies to everyone). It tells of how societies regarded the transformations of boys into men, as well as girls into women. They speak of rites of passage, of overcoming obstacles, outer and personal struggles, to find a place in society. They are not just about superheroes becoming gods… they are about grasping responsibility, maturity, and happiness.