Saturday, August 27, 2005

What does it mean to be a Man?

I’m sure a lot of folks may disagree, but I’m not so sure the common descriptions of what a ‘Man’ is, are at all close to my definition.

You see to me, being a man isn’t at all about being ‘manly’ in the sense of being big, strong or a tough guy. It’s more about actions rather than appearances.

Some folks have commented that I’m a ‘good guy’, or ‘one of the good guys’ recently, mostly in response to my posts about my wife’s recovery from back surgery and my attempts to keep our home running as well as she does.

Well, I’m not really a ‘good guy’, in fact I’ve been described in the past as “the one your mother warned you about” (this was my mother, talking to my first wife when we’d announced we were getting married), and “your worst nightmare” (this from someone who had, admittedly, really ticked me off), but rarely as a ‘nice guy’ or a ‘good guy’, except by folks who’d become friends of mine.

To me, being a man, is in short, doing whatever you have to do to provide for your family, never making promises you can’t keep (including your marriage vows), regardless of how difficult, or unpleasant it might be at the moment.

Anyone can shine when the spotlight is on them. It’s those guys who get up every morning, head to a job they hate, work very hard at it all day, and then come home and give their love, time and remaining energy to their family, that are the ‘real men’ in my eyes.

It’s entirely possible, that my whole take on this is slanted. My Dad, was a ‘real man’ to me. No, he wasn’t always ‘there’ at ball games, class plays and so on, but the reason he wasn’t there, was because he was working, often 12 hour days, 6 and sometimes 7 days a week. Was he a “workaholic”? No, he was just trying to earn enough money to keep food on the table, clothes on our backs and a roof over our heads.

When he did have time off, he spent it at home, with his family. Not hanging out at a local pub with the “boys”, although from the stories he told me of his younger days, it used to be one of his favorite things to do.

So I grew up in a household where everyone pitched in (us kids usually grumbling about how unfair it was, after all we didn’t ‘ask’ to be born) to get things done. If Mom was not feeling well we’d all be given extra chores to ‘pick up the slack’ so she could rest and get well. It wasn’t an option, it was what we did, and it was how life worked. I really didn’t know that our home wasn’t like everyone else’s.

Maybe it was like all the other homes, then, at that time, but I doubt it. Today I see I was learning a code, a system, a way of life from the eyes of my parents. That family was everything, and everything was for the family.

I distinctly remember the first time I got drunk on a Friday night, and woke up on Saturday tired and a bit wrung out. I had full intentions of calling in sick to work, but my Dad, was not having that in his house. I got a fairly long explanation about being responsible. How the folks at the job were counting on me, that my overindulgence the night before should not become their problem, it was my problem, I’d created it, so get up, get dressed and deal with it.

I’ve lived my life this way, pretty much as long as I can remember. Yes, I’ve made promises I didn’t keep, but never as a result of my action, or inaction. It was always an outside influence over which I had no control. Like the time my car broke down on the way to pick a friend up at the airport. I eventually hitched a ride there, and we rented a car and got home, but I’d promised to meet them at the gate, and didn’t.

Sometimes, I make promises, and then my life situation changes before I’m called upon to deliver. Once I told a very good friend that if he ever needed a place to stay, if I had a ‘roof’ he’d have a place to stay. Well, there was never a need, until shortly after Maryan and I got married (like the next week), he and his wife had split up and he needed a place to stay. Of course I opened my (our) home to him.

It was a difficult few weeks as she and I were newlyweds, and not accustomed to having anyone around… it was a shaky start for us for sure.. But I kept trying to explain to her I’d made him a promise, just like the promises I’d made to her, and I wasn’t going to break it. I hope today, in retrospect she’s seen that my word is in fact, my bond. That, while that was a difficult time for us, it was a glimpse of what she could expect from me in the promise department.

I feel fortunate to have found a career in life that I enjoy. That I found a talent I had, that companies were willing to pay for (most of the time), and well enough that I don’t have to work 2, 3 or more jobs... because, if that’s what I had to do, that’s what I would do.

Loyalty is another huge issue for me. If I’m not loyal to my friends, my family, my employer, what kind of man would I be?

I’d never, regardless of the cost, not help a friend who was in need of my help.

The same goes for my family. They can tick me off, have me so angry I’d like to knock them into the dirt, but, when push comes to shove, they’re my family and I’d be there for them in any way I could.

Employers, well, they’re a special category. Not exactly friends, or family, but a bond, a trust still exists between you. They’ve promised to pay you, and you’ve promised to do the job they’re paying you to do. That’s the deal. In the process you become privy to company ‘secrets’ or at the very least the company’s competitive advantage, you can’t give, sell or otherwise transfer that information outside the company.

You, simply go to work, do your job and keep the company’s best interests in the center of your focus. If you can’t do that, or the situation becomes intolerable, for what ever reason, leave, find another job. Don’t “tell tales” after you’ve left, or make excuses about “what they did” to you, accept that you chose to leave, and move on.

No one ever moved forward, successfully, while looking backward.

Same deal if they “let you go” (the PC way of saying they fired you), in my experience, anytime an employer has decided they no longer required my services, in the long run, I’ve been far better off. I’ve never complained, whined or told anyone (as in prospective employers) anything about the circumstances surrounding my departure from any job. That was then, this is now, what’s important is what I, and that potential employer, bring to the table now.

It probably goes without saying at this point, but all of this is most true in the relationship with your wife. She has to be able to count on you completely, each and every time, to be true to the promises you’ve made. I’m certainly no ‘chick magnet’, but, even so I’ve had my share of opportunities for a little extra-marital ‘fun’. Haven’t done it, won’t do it, can’t do it. See, to do so, would break the promise I made at the front end, during the vows, how could she ever trust my word again?

I promised her, before her first surgery a few years ago that I would do what ever she needed me to, during her recovery. I meant it then, and there was no need to “re-make” that promise, it’s just part of the deal as far as I’m concerned.

To wrap up this ramble, to me, being a man is all about your word. It’s the one thing in life no one can take from you, but yourself. If you give it, be true to it, that’s, what being a man is all about.

As always I welcome your comments, thoughts and ideas. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read, and comment on, this.


Beth said...

Bill, I have one of the good guys and from your definition, a true man as well. This guy hasn't missed a day since he started working years ago. Family means more to him than anything else and working hard for it is how he shows it.

Mistress S said...

Bill, I don't know what to say. You have just described my M. He is simply the best person I have ever met. Well said my friend.

Trevor Record said...

I think you're one of the good guys Bill. But I don't know if I'm very manly, I might be too selfish! Maybe by the time I'm old enough to have kids that'll change...

Bill said...

GK - I'm happy for you, and for him as he's got a great woman! I was hoping to get comments exactly like yours!

Mistrees S - Thanks, glad you stopped by... I'm also happy for you, and M!

Trevor - Thanks... I may be... I'm just not in a position to fairly judge myself... conflict of interest and all.

You can be selfish, as long as you do the other things... I'm a little selfish myself. I like my toys, my tools... but they come second... you're single, these are the days where you pamper yourself first. You'll have plenty of time to do the wife and family stuff, and I have no doubt you'll be great at it!

Thanks, y'all...

Nina said...

I am married to man like that . . . thanks for reminding me that I need to thank him for all that he is, and all that he does for me. Thanks Bill, nice post!

Bill said...

Nanina - You're welcome... I think it's important to tell the folks we care about how wonderful we think they are, even, if we think they already know!

Comfort Addict said...

Nice post, Bill. You are one of the good guys. Here again, you and I are on the same page. I believe in behaving ethically, keeping your word.

It used to frustrate me to see apparently smart and attractive women fall for guys I knew would let them down and ignore me. In the end, though, I learned that there were plenty of women who were looking for a guy who is the man of your description. To all of you young men out there, take note. Be loyal and true. It will pay off in many ways.

Bill said...

CA - It's nice to be on the same page! We do seem to hold some very common ground. I'd second your notice to the young guys...

You only get one chance to build a reputation, make it one you'll be happy to carry around. You'll also find, that the best women, are looking for, and will appreciate, a man they can trust, 24/7/365... with never a question in their mind!! My Mrs. is living proof of that!

Beth said...

Bill, yes, the recent scare with my husband's lungs (which turned out to be normal, unbelievably) really had me even more thankful than before. Spats are always going to be there, but I just feel like he does so much for us by working those long hours and I try to make his life a bit easier at home.

Firehawk said...


I heard someone say one that you "carry your own water" in life, and that's the way to be an admirable person. If you see things through, keep your promises, value your friends as high or higher than yourself, and never "break the chain", you're doing okay.

For myself, I don't know. I close the book on people if they let me down too often. They might never know it, but I don't make any special efforts for them anymore, and I don't go out of my way to see them. I had to close the door like that on my own mother, who is mentally ill. It became too difficult to be part of her world, and threatened to make me crazy, too. After you do that, it's always a little easier to turn away from the next person.

Maybe that makes me less of a man, but that's the way I work. Otherwise, I agree on all points. I won't break faith with someone who hasn't broken faith with me. To those people, I make no promises.

Bill said...

GK - 'Spats' are a part of any healthy relationship (in my opinion anyway)... Hell if we didn't disagree on some things life would be pretty boring!

Firehawk - You see, that's a promise I make to my friends, employers and family...

#1 - Do not lie to me
#2 - Don't make *me* promises you don't keep.

Either one of these yields the same result, I close that 'book' you mentioned. Illness is certainly one of those situations where things are often less than 'clear'.

I believe we all operate from that position of enlightened self-interest. I have no doubt, if you felt you could have contributed to your Mom's life, in a positive way, you'd still be there.

Sometimes, despite all that we could 'wish' could be, we still have to take the tough(er) road, for the good of ourselves, and those around us.

I know the choice you made was not easy, nor was it done without serious reflection. We do, as you said, after all have to carry our own water.

jenbeauty said...

Bill you always find the right words. You are a good man in my eyes.

Firehawk said...


One other thing I didn't metion: I've had "What Does It Take to be A Man?" from Boston's Third Stage record stuck in my head ever since I read your post.

Bill said...

Jen - Thanks for your kind words. I think one of life's greatest gifts is to be thought well of, by others.

Firehawk - I love that song.. and honestly, now that you've mentioned it, it'll be stuck in my head too!!

Lit. y said...

I like ur ideas and ur words.
ur entry really helps me ^_^ thank u~

Anonymous said...

Being a man means having male genitalia. Any other interpretation is subjective and the result of societal conditioning. It's pretty ridiculous when you think about it on a deeper level.

Ever hear someone say "be a woman"? No! That would be sexist and not politically correct.

Women have mananged to keep their archaic mentalities, but men were expected to drop theirs.

If you expect me to "be a man" then I expect you to be a woman.

Keep baaahing, sheeple. You don't even know why you say such weird statements. You just hear it and repeat it. Baaahhhh- I don't have a mind of my own-baaahhhh.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion to be a man is to be masculine, and that to me is to control your own life, make descions out of selfishness rather then do things for the approval of others, wether it be parents, family, friends, peers or idols, to be a man takes self control, strength, willpower, to an extent genetic make up, and the ability to be open minded but at the same time to not be influenced by the people around you and instead by personal experience. I think the title man refers to both male and females, and rather then being about genitalia its more about how in control of your life you are. Calling other people sheep is just a childish attempt at rebelling against conformity and it shows no originality which makes you no more of a non-conformist then anyone else.

khaled gh said...

ugh yeah that would be a "male" and not a "man".. like all male animals have dicks and act controlling of others(females and babies).. but in the end being strong ONLY to fend off any enforcement sick of this fucking ideology of discussing things and never really see anything touchable.. i mean i cant be sure of my idea , i have to listen to others but two different opinions will scramble up my thoughts.. i think in the end nothing is "right" or "wrong" just different things that others favor more or less than others