Tag Archives: Helpful

What kinds of things should boys do to be more manly?

Painting: "St. George and the Dragon", by Paolo Uccello (~1456)
Painting: “St. George and the Dragon”, by Paolo Uccello (~1456)

Super-wife Lindsay sent me this article by David French in National Review. I am skeptical of older men who try to get younger men of today to “man up” without realizing all of the challenges that men face. Many of them are fatherless because their mothers divorced their fathers. Many of them are in failing public schools where 90% of their teachers are women. Many of them are depressed by the $20 trillion debt that was run up to pay for the feminist welfare state. And on, and on, and on.

However, I decided to blog on this because the article was very balanced.

First, here’s David:

I look back to my own childhood. In 1985, I was 16 years old, and I was a nerd’s nerd. I toted graph paper and 20-sided dice to school to play Dungeons & Dragons at lunch. (I like to think I was the finest dungeon master Scott County, Ky., had ever seen.) When I wasn’t playing D&D, my nose was buried in Lord of the Rings, or the Shannara books by Terry Brooks, or the Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey. I played sports, sure, but let’s just say that my varsity tennis exploits didn’t make the cheerleaders’ hearts flutter.

But none of my nerdiness relieved me of the responsibility of learning how to be a man — a protector, builder, and fixer. So that meant spending my Saturdays hauling out the ramps to change the oil and oil filters on all our cars. That meant helping my dad build a new back porch or constantly wrestling with immense piles of firewood. (We heated our house with a wood stove.) I made extra money working in neighborhood yards. Being a guy meant doing manual labor. That was just part of growing up — no matter your social class.

In the age of instant oil change (why entrust your car’s health to your 16-year-old?), ubiquitous lawn services, and on-demand handymen, privileged kids simply don’t have the same, naturally occurring opportunities to learn to work with their hands and to develop physical strength. In the age of zero-tolerance school-disciplinary policies — where any kind of physical confrontation is treated like a human-rights violation — they have less opportunity to develop toughness. Today’s young males don’t have common touchstones for what it’s like to grow up to be a man.

I just had to quote this, because wow, David French (Harvard Law graduate, Major in the Army Reserves, Bronze Star recipient, and heroic defender of religious liberty) played good old D&D. So did I, although I preferred Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play. I have over 200 hand-painted miniatures in my parents’ basement.

Anyway, I digress.

French continues:

Raising a boy to be a young man used to be a natural act. Common experiences and rites-of-passage meant that my D&D friends could pop the hood of a car and get to work right alongside the future mechanics of my high-school class. We weren’t as good or as knowledgeable, but we held our own. And there were no social-justice warriors shrieking that there was no such thing as distinctively male or masculine pursuits.

Now, for parents of the privileged, raising a boy to be a young man has to be an intentional act. You have to ignore the voices who are telling you to indulge your child’s inclinations — no matter what they are — and train them to be not just morally courageous but also physically strong. They can have their Xbox or their PC (my son brags about his kill/death ratio on Battlefield, and we belong to the same World of Warcraft guild), but they can also hit the weight room. They can also not just learn to shoot but also how to assemble and disassemble their weapon. Even if you’re rich, you can make your kid do the hard work that keeps any household together.

Though this sounds simplistic, never ever underestimate the positive effect that raw physical strength can have on a young man’s development. I’ve seen the impact that weight training has had on my son, and I wish I’d been as diligent when I was his age. I’ve experienced the impact — even as an older adult — of the physical transformation of Army training.

Our culture strips its young men of their created purpose and then wonders why they struggle. It wonders why men — who are built to be distinctive from women — flail in modern schools and workplaces designed from the ground-up for the feminine experience. Men were meant to be strong. Yet we excuse and enable their weakness. It’s but one marker of cultural decay, to be sure, but it’s a telling marker indeed. There is no virtue in physical decline.

Yes. I have been thinking about this a lot lately. My parents never had any plan for me growing up, except that I get As in school and work during the summers. However, since I got free of them after graduate school, I have been lifting weights, eating lots of protein from whole foods and taking the appropriate supplements on and off. I think it is important for a man to be able to lift his future wife across the threshold of her new home, and so I had this idea that I should lift weights. I have lifted up one woman (who I was in love with) and that was very fun. So, yes to muscles. Cardio, meh.

And lately I have been picking out my first firearm and getting ready to do my concealed carry permit. (I’m trying to decide between the S&W Performance Center M&P Shield and the Walther PPS M2). And I have always wanted to learn more about auto repair, so I can save money on that. Although, I think that my generation of men didn’t learn as much about cars as we did about computer programming and building computers from parts. I’d like to make things out of wood – maybe toys and perches for parrots. And I want to learn gardening, so I can feed myself from what I grow.

There are so many interesting things to learn and do, and I do think that men should be expected and encouraged to develop useful skills so that they can help others. Part of being a man is learning useful things so that you can help others. I think if you explain to young men why they should be learning useful skills and working and saving (to help others, to learn self-sacrifice, to practice being generous with gifts) then they would be more interested in these things. A man will do anything in order to get respect, especially from women. Maybe the problem is there – that women want men to be weak man-shaped girlfriends who just agree with them, and never challenge them to grow. I see that a lot in young women today. They aren’t comfortable giving men respect, or letting men help them and lead them.