What Does It Mean to Be a Man?

26 Sep

I’ve been pondering this question today and I don’t necessarily have an answer.

Testosterone creates some pretty interesting effects in mammals. More muscle, more aggression, more sex drive, more need for action. We have been sold a bill of goods that “real” men are gentle, kind, social. These are the opposite of our biology. The big T makes us want to dominate and conquer. It drives us to master ourselves, others and our world.

Testosterone causes us to be dismissive to any distraction to our goals. It causes us to be confident and self- assured of our path. It gives us boldness. It causes us to act first and not even consider the mess until later.

So what does it mean to be a man? It likely means living a violent life. Embracing violent living through embracing risk, confrontation, conquest.  We become Princes because we take the Kingdom, not because we have it given to us.

But, as men and not a lower animal, we have also been given intellect. We can choose to work out our current desire for action by lifting heavy metal or running a marathon while we wait for our enemy, our obstacle, our opportunity to reach fruition. We can strategize our attack and apply the knife’s edge at exactly the right time in the softest flesh.

Even (and especially) sexual conquest comes from an application of both of these. Testosterone fuels the desire, but our desire is wrapped in strategy. We approach a woman, intending conquest, but first we talk, touch. We arouse her interest, then we withdraw. Do we want to withdraw? Of course not. We want to bed her, and the sooner the better.

Withdrawal assures her we must be superior to her. We can take her or leave her. She can’t abide not pursuing a man who is above her-even if he knows he is not. Her own biology dictates it as much as her hip to waist ratio grabbed our attention.

Testosterone plus intellect allows us to fake it until we make it.   Both in sex and in every other area of life, that might just be the key. Goals. Strategy. Drive.

Feel free to leave your own thoughts below and feel free to question mine.

The Ridiculous Plight of Average White Collar Men

22 Jul

So today a friend of mine (executive in his 50’s with a Fortune 100 company) private messages me and asks:

As you know I’m in the ‘productivity’ business. Definitely believe in the power of improvement, growth and productivity. I also have an axiom…which states, all increases in productivity will be absorbed by increased expectations. If we find a way to do 40 hours work in 20 nobody is going home midday Wednesday. They’ll be expected to double output.

How do we find a way to leverage productivity to raise not just our standard of living but the quality of our lives and time spent living them?

How do we do it? Let men become more appropriately selfish.

Take women and children out of the equation for a minute and consider:

If you were suddenly single, no dependent children, where would you live? What would you do with your time? How much salary would you be satisfied with?

Would you be willing to make, say, $60K/year and get off at noon Wednesday?

Our white-collar men’s societal expectation is that we will get a good job, make as much money as possible, advance and be as ambitious as possible, in order to buy a large home, nice cars, etc. for our wives and children. That’s what you do.

White collar men have accepted that their wives are not expected to be as emotionally nor financially responsible for their own care and the care of their children.

To some extent this has changed, but not much. Women do work now and are often expected to work, but they are not typically saddled with the career pressure men pretty constantly feel.

White collar men-especially those in evangelical Christianity-have had those ideas reinforced again and again. “Care for your wife as Christ cares for the church.” “She is ‘the weaker vessel.'”

I am not claiming every man should be single and never have children. I love my kids and am happy I invested my life and my money in them. But I think the emotional and financial load should be more equally shared.

For example: A woman can have an affair, she can file for divorce from a husband who does not want to divorce her despite the affair, and in most states she can get half his belongings along with spousal support.

That’s how our society views the role and responsibility of men and women. The expectation on men is huge.

Blue collar men have different societal pressures that aren’t as extreme. If you have a “regular” hourly job working with your hands, you are allowed to live in a modest house, drive a modest car, expect your children to work to pay for their dates and cars and clothes.

If you say to a construction crew: “We’ve got 5 days to dig and pour this foundation and you’ll be paid for that 5 days, but if you can get it done to spec by noon Wednesday, you’ll get paid the same but you can quit.” The crew will do their best to do it and go home.

So why then do the expectations grow? The guy who they work for, who looks good to the higher ups if he can complete a job faster, the next time says, “You did a great job last week, so this week you should be able to pour two foundations.”

It’s not the blue collar guys driving the higher expectation, it’s the guy trying to pay for the 3,000 sq ft house his wife or his view of societal expectation talked him into buying.

Almost every white collar guy I know hit a point between 45 and 55 where he realized he envied men who had simple lives, lived modestly and didn’t have to grind out $150K+ a year just to stay even.

Men: It doesn’t have to be this way. You have a life and a choice.

Your thoughts? Comments and criticisms are encouraged.