How To Be A Man

The past few years have seen a thundering online onslaught of confused babbling about gender identity. Today’s young man — perhaps prepped by his formative years of video gaming — is chronically susceptible to how-to guides. This is fine, when it comes to most practicalities, but where it really careens off the rails is in the million “how to be a man” guides. There are whole websites devoted to telling the confused but striving youth exactly how to comport himself, what attitudes to have, and what possessions to accumulate, in order to become A Man.

Women have it just as bad — but in their case it’s more subtle: implications are the currency of the “how to be a woman” genre. “To be a woman… you have to weight this much, wear this, do this,” is the unspoken (but largely-documented) message that stiffens the spine of a thousand magazines.

Men, being simpler creatures, have to have it handed to them as a checklist. Like this list of how to be a man, which includes these gems:

  • Time is too short to do your own laundry.

  • When in doubt, always kiss the girl.

  • Buy expensive sunglasses. Superficial? Yes, but so are the women judging you.

  • Desserts are for women. Order one and pretend you don’t mind that she’s eating yours.

And so on. As a matter of fact, there are a couple of pieces of decent advice in there. “One girlfriend at a time is probably enough,” struck me as difficult to reproach.

It doesn’t matter if you sprinkle diamonds in horse manure, it’s still a pile of crap. I found myself honestly offended by both the tone and the content of this list. Following it won’t make you a man — but it will make you a self-centered, materialistic, misognyist boor.

This is what you get when the confused young men of our generation convince themselves they’ve learned “the secret” for long enough to write lists convincing other confused young men that this is the ultimate wisdom.

Well, here is some ultimate wisdom:

There is no social Konami code to level up to Manhood.1

Being a man isn’t about following a set of inane guidelines laid out for you by J. Random Idiot on the internet. Really, I’m confident that it’s not. Being a man is nuanced and complicated and difficult — especially when it’s so hard to find good models of men.

Being a man is not being an underwear model, a football player, a sharp dresser, a big tipper, a big deal on Twitter, a funny guy, an intellectual, a discerning gourmand, a winner. You can be a man AND any of those things, but they sure as hell aren’t what makes you one.

What does, then? Unfortunately, this question is impossible to answer, because guess what: not all men are the same, and not all situations are comparable, and there is no hard and fast rule.

However, if you must have a list of things you can do to become a man, then here’s one that’s as good as any you’re going to encounter. It’s a fairly short one:

  1. Live for others, not yourself.

Worry about that, and the rest will follow. One day you’ll wake up and realize: you are a man. Congratulations.

  1. The Konami Code is a ubiquitous cheat code.