Why The Good Men Are Fighting Back
Men have gotten a extremely bad rap in the last decade. I’m not here to defend most of them. Just some of us – with a vengeance.
From articles in the popular media like the Wall Street Journal recent feature “Where Have The Good Men Gone?” (the author notes “I’ve grown tired of dating guys who are more like the boys I used to baby-sit, than the men who used to drive me home.”), to the flow of books by popular selling authors to the Hollywood films like “Failure To Launch” that show men as dependent helpless boys in grown-up bodies, to the stream of hard data showing how boys have declined in school, grown more passive and are contributing less to society.
Okay, Okay. I get it.
And to a large extent, I agree there is a problem, and the issues are complex, and all that jazz…
I’d like to offer here my insights on this as the 2/3rds of my practice is directly addressing this issue and ensuring that at least my clients, are not adding to the statistics everyone else seems to be writing about.
Whenever I am asked to define “What is a man?”
My answer is: “ I don’t know how to define what a man is. I only know when I am in the presence of one.”
And in my life I have been in the presence of many such men.
Here is how I break it down:
These are males who are still children as they organize their life around children’s values. Having Fun is typically at the top of the list. Generally they are respectful to adults, generally good natured towards one another and mostly interested in just doing what feels good and provides a thrill in the moment. As they grow older they may experiment with drinking and drugs, but they never come to identify themselves by their consumption rates. They do have relationships with girls though often they don’t last long as they lack the maturity to know how to really make an experience special for a girl or to keep her interest over the long haul.
In their late teens and 20s these males are often the easiest to reach. Through offering them respectful, intelligent mentoring and the right opportunities, the often quickly grow into responsible men – though some certainly take longer than others. They tend to recognize at some level that there is more to life than skateboarding and video games, and want to grow into the kind of man who makes his life count for something.
These are the guys who tend to thrive socially in high school, then join the fraternities in college. They use as their benchmarks of manhood things like how many girls they get with sexually, how much beer they can drink, shots they consume and how their fantasy football league does. Their favorite activities include gambling, playing video games, working out in the gym and trying to hook-up with girls. They tend to call everyone “Dude”. Their intellectual interests rarely go beyond what’s on ESPN, or what they need to do to keep their grades up to keep their parents off their backs so that they can keep having their hedonistic, self-serving lifestyle subsidized. They have no hesitation cheating on exams, studying with stolen copies of tests and operating by a value set that begins just south of the baseline moral code. Commitment to them is to be exclusive with a girl until they get bored with her or until, in a drunken stupor, they cheat on her with someone else at the next party.
Dude’s can find a way to make a lot of money, and maintain their dude lifestyle well into their 40s. At some point though they just begin to look stupid dressing and acting like a frat boy and short of desperate women who just want a Sugar daddy, no one really takes them seriously beyond their early 30s. They often never marry, or wind up in multiple divorces, and date women much younger than them.
Guys – Most Boys and Dudes grow into guys, and rarely get beyond this. This is the problem. Guys are the archetype of the Grown-Up Adolescent.
They reach a point where they don’t party like they did in college, they hold down jobs and even build careers. Some get married early, others not until their 30s when they have “gotten it out of their system” (the “it” here being the need to sow their oats, have lots of experiences and be certain they are ready to make the big commitment.
Before they’ve gotten “it” out of their system, women find them frustrating to date. Many still have remnants of “dude-ism” in them and women are disappointed when they turn out to just be another one of them when it comes to being in an intimate relationship with them.
In dating, they often start strong but finish weak. This is because, as described with boys, they lack many of the essential internal ingredients that it takes to make a relationship last and thrive.
Unfortunately emotionally and often spiritually (and I will define what I mean by “spiritually” later), they tend to lack maturity, never really evolving into the kind of person who can truly be fully available for others.
Often guys “vote” (literally and figuratively) for what best serves themselves and their needs, and take little legitimate interest or responsibility for the world around them. They may provide well for their family, but they lack any real sense of value of taking care of those beyond their own. Guys don’t go to church or synagogue, or at least when they do, they do it symbolically but never really fully embrace the message and expectations offered there. People might refer to them as a “A great guy” but they don’t refer to him as “a great man.”
Guys often spend money like adolescents, without much regard for the long term. They tend to like their possessions and tend to identify to an extent by what material markers they show to the outside world. Dressing fashionably, driving a BMW, having an expensive watch are not just personal taste – they are adopted by conforming to the social norms that adolescents tend to conform to as they accept these culturally imposed norms typically without question.
Men have committed fully to letting go of the self-serving, hedonistic, short sighted values of childhood. They have let go of the additional self-image worries of adolescence. They have committed instead to developing substance beneath the surface that is far more important than what they show above the surface. They want to build accomplished careers but nota t the expense of missing out on watching their kids grow up. They grapple with the struggle it is to ensure they do this.
They want to stand up and protect others. They want to contribute to the meaningful debate and dialogues of the day. They give up their golf games to be at their kid’s baseball games. They read the front section of the Times, not just the sports section.
They think about money in terms of being able to provide for those in their care. They save for future expenses, worry about having a nest-egg for emergencies and place the needs of their families ahead of their own.
Men make and they do the work it takes to ensure they keep them.
They take responsibility for their actions. They drink responsibly when they drink at all. Whereas dudes and guys get drunk and think noting of it, men have a glass or two of wine at most.