This piece is part of a special series on the End of Gender. This series includes bloggers from Role/Reboot, Good Men Project, The Huffington Post, Salon, HyperVocal, Ms. Magazine, YourTango, Psycholog
Someday, I hope I have a son. Not because I don’t want a daughter. But because there are things unique to being a man I could only share with a son. Like teaching him the correct way to shave (never against the grain), how to talk to girls (it’s all about listening), and how to drink good whiskey (no ice, two drops of water). I want to share these experiences. I want to pass them on.
Being a man isn’t about playing catch or fear of a strange situation in which I teach my daughter how to use a tampon (because I’m still not entirely certain how that business works). In reality, this urge to teach my son about being a man is all about gender roles.
As the definition of what exactly a woman is has grown, society has struggled to re-define the role of man. We were not prepared by our fathers for the world we grew into and we carry the guilt of their sins on our shoulders. So if I could prepare my future son, I would give him the following advice.
The Potteigers come from Germany where they worked as farmers and drinkers. I grew up in rural New Hampshire. I have never been good at sports, don’t know how to drive a standard, and to this day I cannot play poker well.
First, own at least one really good suit when you are young (no, Men’s Warehouse does not sell the type of suit I mean). Not only will you stand out, you’ll feel good. The rule for buttons is: sometimes, always, never. Cheap footwear will ruin even the best suit, so invest in an equally good pair of shoes. I suggest Florsheims. Polish them yourself.
Don’t be afraid to start conversations with anyone, especially a woman. Fight your fear of rejection, although this will take a lifetime. There is no such thing as a good pickup line, remember that. Tell a girl one interesting thing, and that’s interesting. Tell her ten interesting things and you are interesting.
Don’t believe advertising; you are worth more than the state of your sixpack or the weight you can bench press.
If you enjoy ballet, listen to Lady Gaga (how vintage), or cross your legs knee over knee, people will probably call you “gay.” Do not let this upset you – there is nothing wrong with being gay. They are simply misinformed. If you are gay, straight, bisexual or transgendered, I love you.
Aggression and bravado will not serve you well. Mastery of your emotions and quiet confidence are the true signs of strength. Never run away from a fight, and if it comes down to it, don’t be afraid to hit back. Never hit first.
Be true to your word. Your word is your honor. Own up to the mistakes you have made and admit when you are wrong. But let the little mistakes fall away, no one is keeping track but you.
Stand up for what you believe in. Protect those in need – woman, friend, stranger.
Do the dishes and the laundry.
Carry cash (if it still exists in the future you live in). Stop traffic. Learn how to work with your hands.
Above all, understand that you determine what makes a man. It transcends gender, society and all the bullshit of your everyday life. Be a good person and love yourself.
There was never a golden age when men were men. Just as my generation has struggled, so will yours. Take the best, leave the worst, and teach your sons and daughters the same.
Your Dad, a Man.
Photo by mikebaird