I’d love to come up with an amusing introduction to this, but maybe it’s best just to state it bluntly– I don’t like a lot of men. I thought I understood the reason for this. I thought it was because I grew up as a male oddity, not interested in sports, somewhat distanced from my own father who didn’t know what to do with his strange kid, and generally unable to relate to the typical male mind. But I’ve realized, only recently, that there’s more to it than that.
Most men are fake men.
How’s that for a provocative statement? I’ll try to explain. Bear in mind that I am still figuring this out.
Culture (specifically American culture) has for the past decade or two loudly proclaimed that men are all lumbering dolts– mere cavemen in pants (if we’re lucky). Most men have absorbed this message, at least subconsciously. As a result, they have tried to invent a new version of manhood. The new manhood is sensitive, tolerant, non-judgmental, and even a little mistily poetic.
More than this, however, the new manhood is nervous. This is because the new man knows that his persona is a total facade, and he lives in fear that the facade will be discovered.
The New Man is sucking in the beer gut of his more traditional manhood, desperately trying to hide the socially uncouth aspects of his masculine nature. This requires a constant, concerted effort, and results in a sort of knee-jerk defensiveness whenever his facade is threatened.
I don’t like the New Man, and I don’t like the men who try to be him. It’s not that sensitivity, tolerance, non-judgmentalism, etc are bad. It’s just that, in this context, they are totally fake. They are a costume worn under the pretense of being the real thing, and I, for one, find it trite and obnoxious.
In the past, the Traditional Man was unafraid to admit and discuss uncomfortable truths. He called a spade a spade, with no apology, albeit (in the best of cases) diplomatically.
The New Man still knows a spade is a spade, but will never, under any circumstances, admit it, for fear of being labeled judgmental, intolerant, imperialistic, etc. The New Man clings (despite what he knows in his heart) to the preposterous notion that truth is a myth, no one can really know anything for certain, and therefore any statement of fundamental reality is horribly arrogant.
The Traditional Man knew that the struggle between right and wrong is real and active, with actual bad guys and good guys. He was adult enough to know that peace didn’t come without cost, because there really were people in the world who did not want peace, and needed to be forcibly stopped.
The New Man rejects the whole notion of right and wrong. He insists that in every struggle there are only sides— perspectives to be understood and balanced. The New Man pretends that all conflict can be avoided if we all just listen, understand, and have deep, meaningful discussions. He condemns any suggestion that one side might be evil– seeking to destroy simply for the sake of destroying– or good– simply trying to live at peace and not be destroyed. For the New Man, it is never a matter of good triumphing over evil, but always of two equal sides simply finding balance, compromising, understanding, and learning to get along. This mentality, of course, is due to the aforementioned aversion to calling a spade a spade. If one cannot call bad guys what they are, then he cannot condone any forcible action to stop them.
The Traditional Men knew women were different from him. He acknowledged those differences and enjoyed them. Unfortunately, he often took this understanding too far, treating women (“the weaker sex”) like property, or as if their physically smaller size equalled mental inferiority.
The New Man does not make this mistake. He makes the opposite mistake of insisting (against patent reality) that there is absolutely no difference between the genders. To prove this, he essentially transforms himself into a woman, negating or denying all of those socially unacceptable aspects of traditional masculinity.
The irony of all of this is that, deep down, I don’t think women respect the New Man. I think they are vaguely disgusted by him, although they try to deny it. They marry a lot of New Men, expecting them to maintain the neutered facade their whole lives, but unconsciously detesting it, poking at it, challenging it, until the husbands turn into spineless blobs and the wives resort to fantasizing about “bad boys” via romance novels and trashy movies.
Look at the popularity of shows like Mad Men, where the men are unabashedly sexist, dominant, and judgmental. When was the last time you heard someone condemning the men in that show for being so horrible, uncouth and backward-thinking? Ever? How often, on the other hand, have you heard people talking about how inexpressibly cool those guys are (women included)?
I suspect that nobody really likes the New Man, but nobody wants to admit it. In our hearts, I think we all long for the Traditional Man. I know I sure do. Sure, he may have been a bit of a lout. He may have needed some tough-minded women to keep him balanced. He may have been the source of a lot of social problems. But he was real. He could be reasoned with because his masculinity wasn’t a fragile facade, liable to be knocked aside by the slightest challenge. It was the bedrock of who he was, imminently challengeable because it was so utterly himself. Calling the Traditional Man judgmental and unbending is like calling a hill high. He doesn’t mind, and the best of his kind is willing to hear it, to learn from the critique, and to become a better man because of it.
The New Man cannot learn to be a better man because the foundation of his masculinity isn’t real to begin with. The best he can hope for is to connive an even better mask. The New Man isn’t a man at all. He’s a 24/7 poser. He’s been at it so long that even he barely knows that he’s a fake.
In that vein, I don’t strive to think about my manhood at all. My goal is just to let it be, regardless of the pressure from all the New Men around me to be more enlightened, to get in touch with my feminine side, to not be so chauvinistic and judgmental and black-and-white. Screw that. Screw it to hell. Fortunately I have one of those strong-minded women who helps me keep it all in check. It isn’t always easy, but it’s a damn sight better than the alternative.
So. For any of you guys that I know who sense that I am a little distant with you, who wonder why I like your wives but maybe not you (women simply do not suffer from the same kind of self-gender-hatred as men, although I am sure they have plenty of their own problems and you can be sure that I don’t really want to know about ’em), if you are one of those men who knows me and senses that I’d prefer not to spend an afternoon chasing a little white ball around the golf course with you, now you know why. It’s because I think you’re a New Man, and I know that I will never be able to have a meaningful, honest conversation with you. I can predict what you’ll say every time, and it bores the hell out of me.
The New Man is just too damn tame. He gives me politically-correct-compassion-fatigue. He wallows in too much unnecessary guilt and pretends not to know things that I know he damn well knows whether he likes it or not. He’s a poser and a fraud. I only don’t tell him that to his face because I pity him too much. He thinks he’s doing the Right Thing, and he’s probably long forgotten that he’s even doing it at all.
Fortunately, I believe that social culture is a pendulum. Societies swing back and forth between polarities. I think the New Man’s time is nearly up, and the Traditional Man is on the way back. I hope so, at least.
Until then, some broad pour me a beer, light my cigar, and sit here on my lap for awhile. Tell me how awful I am. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll actually listen.