Man Up

Ever since I had boys I’ve been asking myself the question, “What does it mean to be a man?” I never really cared or thought about the answer before. I am what I am. I don’t question it. I just live with it. But I see the look in their eyes. My boys, 1 and 2 years old, adore me. It’s almost comical sometimes. I leave, and Jack, my 2 year old, has gotten used to the routine, but Izzy hasn’t, and if he sees me go, he always starts crying. Both of them, when I come home, get excited. Jack comes over and starts mumbling something unintelligible, probably about how his day has been going. Izzy just bobs up and down, trying to jump for joy. I’m sure one day it’s going to be the other way around with them coming home to me. But they look to me. Or they will look to me. And they won’t even realize they are till one day, years from now, it dawns on them: “I have become my father.” So what does it mean to be a man? What does it mean to be a father? A husband? A brother? What does it mean to be the best man you can be? Which is to say, what does it mean to be what you were meant to be? I feel ill equipped largely because I’m not the stereotypical male. I never wanted to be a soldier. I don’t like guns. I like books. I get along way better with women than men and feel more comfortable around women – not in a sleazy way. I just grew up hanging out with my mom and sisters most of my life. I can admire somewhat the gusto and bravado of the “ideal masculine man”, but, more often than not, I sort of chuckle at it. It’s like watching apes pound their chests. “You can do 300 push-ups, shoot well with a firearm, and down a keg of beer without blinking? Awesome…. so is there anything you can do that would actually be useful in daily life?” But that’s putting a negative spin on it. What man’s heart does not beat faster at the king of England’s speech before the great battle of Agincourt at the end of Shakespeare’s Henry V: “…gentlemen in England now abed Shall think themselves accursed they were not here, And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s Day.” Shall hold their manhoods cheap. That begs the question: what does it mean to hold one’s manhood expensive? What does it mean for one’s manhood to be worth something? I don’t really know, but here’s my best shot (a work in progress, to be sure): all the bravado, all the gusto, all the manhood means something when it’s for something – or rather for someone. What it means to be a man is to take all that you are – all the testosterone, all the intellect, all the muscle – and bend it to the protection, nurturing, and provision of those you love. When all of that is there but bent for no one but myself, it looks immature, pathetic, sophomoric. But take all of that and give it away, and it is ennobled, exalted, glorified. I at least hope my boys learn that much. And maybe, along the way, they’ll teach me a few things as well. For the awesome speech, go here:

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