Thursday, July 8, 2010

Real Talk: Guest Post from Adam (@homebrewdharma)

So I was asked by @DaddyYoEffinRox if I wanted to write a guest post on what I think it means to be “a real man”. Sure, I thought, should be easy enough.  But then so many questions. How to define “a real man”? By who’s standards? What are the implications of such a label? So then I tried to just not think about it for a few days.
I struggled while I attempted to write this. I thought about it probably 30 different ways. I tried to define it by this standard or that standard, but none of that really worked. Should I go from a mid-west perspective? A Buddhist one? How does the media portray “real men”? Generally I don’t give much thought to what constitutes a “real” version of anything (I recently blogged about my distaste for those that claim to have the “true” version of their religion) but considering what the media and society at large has to say about this particular subject, I think I owe it to my fellow men to give it a shot, even if I’m wrong. And in the theme of this blog (and my own experience), I think I’ll try and frame the idea of a “real man” into the role of fatherhood.
I had about 1000 words written about my father and grandfather, and how they gave me solid examples of what a “real man” is/should be. Things like fixing your own car, doing things right the first time (half-assed anything was grounds for punishment growing up) putting your family first, having confidence and instilling that confidence in those around you. But then I started to have some real reservations about my childhood models for manhood.
One thing I never learned as a youth was what a man was supposed to be, only what a man was supposed to do. The men in my life rarely told me how to be, rather they just taught me what to do and what not to do. A man was supposed to work his ass off, hunt, play/watch football, work on cars, roof his friend’s house, build decks, mow the lawn, work his ass off, drink beer, wear Wranglers, buy American, work his ass off, and grill in the summertime.  Well, at least those were the most readily available (although a bit exaggerated) examples. But true to the old adage “do as I say, not as I do”, our Fathers all told us “dear god, don’t do what we do! Go to school so you never have to live like this!” So I was immersed in one reality and told to live another that was completely foreign to me, because the ideals that I embraced weren’t really ideals to be embraced even though it seemed as if they should be.
Has every generation experienced this? I know that parents generally try to elevate their children’s station in life above their own. But has society progressed so much that this becomes unrealistic? Is there now too much of a gap to be bridged? Maybe this is why my generation has such a hard time coping with “manhood” and parenting and adulthood. Our whole life we lived in one world, and were told to dream and strive for another with no idea of how that ideal actually works; no idea how to put it into practice. So we struggle. I struggle. I struggle with how to live and raise my children in the utopia my Father hoped to create for me, while at the same time I reach back for those qualities I admired about the “real men” of my youth.
Maybe what was lacking was the spiritual side of manhood, of fatherhood. Maybe when our grandfathers came back from WW2, they had no sprit left to give their sons. So manhood became something that was altogether mechanical, and was out of balance. Our fathers then pursued this mechanized lifestyle which fulfilled the mundane aspects of their lives, but left little room for them in the realm of that which is ethereal. For a few years, my dad raised me all by himself, and I now wonder if he struggled with this on some subconscious level. I wonder how detached my grandfather was. I wonder how my Father’s generation prepared for Fatherhood, if at all?
I’m starting to feel that what I’ve been searching for in my adulthood/fatherhood experience is the point at which I can touch what it is I’ve been attempting to define here. Is that why I feel like my generation is so… lost? Because we fail in our attempt to reach that point of contact? I wonder if we know we’re even supposed to be searching for it. Rather than attempt live up to the ideal of a “real man” (however you may choose to define it), I feel like most of the time we just get through the day without much attention to our intentions and motivations, mostly just stumbling.
So what is a real man here, now, in 2010? I don’t know. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to pin that down. I’m still unsure of how to bethat living example of what it is I want my son to strive towards. At times I feel like I’ll never be half the man my father was, and other times I think that might be a good thing.
Or maybe the entire narrative of a “real man” is a false one; a narrative that exists only in fairy tales and Lifetime original movies. And if so, it might be a harmful one. Look at the false narrative that women have to live up to: the wafer-thin models that grace the covers of tabloid magazines put up like billboards advertising that this, yes this is what beauty is. Do we need this kind of stress in our lives? Do I need a constant reminder of how I’m failing to be a “real man”, especially since I can’t even seem to define what that is? We’ll never live up to the Bill Brasky-esque stories we hear around the proverbial water cooler. And we shouldn’t need to try.
 It might just be that what makes a “real man” isn’t any set-in-stone list of qualities. I don’t think it really can be. I do my best to avoid absolutes, and this certainly doesn’t seem like the moment to embrace one. I’m wondering if what makes a man a “real man” is simply in the honest effort that he puts into his work, his family, his self, his community. I’m realizing now that my manhood can be found in the moments when I strive to be the example I wish to set for my children and their generation, regardless if I ever get there.

Adam Johnson



Adam said...

Thanks for the opportunity to post here!

PS - that first paragraph wasn't part of the post... :)

Anonymous said...

Just saw that and fixed it LOL. I'm so absent sometimes HAHA

Anonymous said...

adam...great post!

James (SeattleDad) said...

Great post Adam! I completely agree with all you mentioned here. We seem to be in the midst of a new pardigm here and we are doing our best to define it.

I can tell you it is difficult to try to be all things (the good husband, father, and guys guy.)

However, I don't really worry too much about it either. Just do my best and let society think whatever the heck they will. I belive I'm doing a decent job and judge myself by my own standards.

Again, great post. And great series DaddyYo.

Also digging the new look.

pinoybuddhist said...

Good post Adam! You mentioned WWII. My father grew up in WWII when the Japanese occupied the Philippines. Later he grew up to be a very successful businessman and a prominent member of society, whose influence and advice was sought after by politicians.

So it's no surprise that growing up my image of a real man was that of a survivor, a hero, a strong one. One who had initiative and daring mixed with intelligence and caution; who could lead when the call for leadership came; who could inspire and influence; who could be tough and fearsome, and at the same time gentle, funny and mischievous.

I still have that image with me. I probably will always have that image of the "real man" with me. Perhaps the difference is I know it's an image; I know it's not real.

Who is the real man? I am, whether or not I resemble that image. I am real, the image is just an image. Still, it is useful to have an image to look at.

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