On Being One of the Few Grown Men

Over at the Patheos blogging network is a blog called “A Few Grown Men.” The blog consists of four writers, all men (bet you didn’t see that coming), blogging on topics like lessons men can learn from Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln to advice on building your daughter’s self-esteem. I haven’t read any of these articles, so I cannot speak to their quality, but they make complete sense on a blog featuring men discussing issues faced by men.

One of the blog’s authors is a man by the name of David Murrow. He was communications director for Alaska Governors Sarah Palin and Sean Parnell. He also started an organization called Church for Men that “helps local congregations reach more men and boys.” I was unaware the Church had issues reaching men, but then, I’m a man who has never been a church attender. I suppose I illustrate the point.

Anyway, Murrow has two recent posts on the blog discussing why men don’t share feelings. They are titled: Why Men Don’t Share Feelings (Part 1) and Why Men Don’t Share Feelings (Part 2). Now, I want to lay a couple things on the table, first. Besides his bio on A Few Grown Men and the two posts on men not sharing feelings, I have read nothing by David Murrow. I did not know he existed until I encountered his blog. Neither was I aware of his organization until today. Beyond the minimal amount of exposure mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph, I have absolutely no insight into the life and thoughts of David Murrow. I lay that on the table because, despite all of that, I am convinced that David Murrow is not one of the “few grown men.” With that, let’s find out why men don’t share feelings.

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On Books Men Must Read – Part 1

In line with all the great achievements of the greatest of men, here is part one of my reading project – years late and accomplishing a fraction of what I promised.

A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter

I’m glad I read this book in my 30s. However, the “moral of the story”, to my mind, is one best learned in one’s 20s. This is the paradox of the novel. The extra decade of living needed to understand that the story is about the narrator and not Dean is a decade you don’t want to lose.

Lesson for Men: Though sex may be acceptable as either a sport or a pastime, women are neither.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver

In high school, I worked at a pizza place. One night, I closed the restaurant with two of my co-workers, both female peers I found attractive. After work, they decided to drive out to the sand pits and get high.

Though a veritable teetotaler in high school, I was excited to join them. I had a bit of a crush on one girl; the second girl had a bit of a crush on me. Both were cool kids, generally.

We got in the van, drove out to the sand pits, and hung out. They got high; we listened to loud music and joked around. After an hour or so, they drove me home.

My experience of What We Talk About When We Talk About Love was like that evening. It was a good experience, in general, but I was left feeling like more should have happened and wondering if I missed out on something.

Lesson for Men: “Booze takes a lot of time and effort if you’re going to do a good job with it.” Raymond Carver said this before the rise of microbreweries and homebrewing. These days, enjoy with moderation.

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Other Random Thoughts:

  • Salter’s prose is amazing. He just crafts amazing sentences.

This is what allows him to write rather explicit depictions of sex without ever crossing the line into pulp. I’m not even sure it can be considered erotica. His writing can get hot, but it remained literary without becoming titillating.

  • Truth be told, I suspect part of what I found lacking from Carver is more a reaction to reading Carver after Salter.

Carver’s style is sparse, minimalist. It is different than Salter’s sing-songiness (I’m not sure if ‘lyrical’ properly captures my experience of Salter). Had I read Carver first, or allowed more time between reading the two, I suspect I would have enjoyed him more.

  • Carver writes with a strong, male voice.

I both love and loath authors that can write in a strong male voice. It is easy to want to identify one’s masculinity with that of the character given a strong, male voice (in fact, I think a large number of the books suggested by Esquire are suggested because their authors can write with a strong, male voice).

The problem arises when the masculinity on display in the novel is misogynistic. Charles Bukowski, to my mind, is a good example of this. Read Women (on Esquire’s list). Bukowski is great with the everyman man’s man. But, my goodness, is he misogynistic.

Now, let me be clear, I’m not suggesting that misogynistic characters shouldn’t be written. I just worry, when they’re written well, do they seem more appealing than they should? I hope not, but I worry.

On Those Poor, Unsatisfied Women Having All That Casual Sex

While religious society sees men as untamed, lecherous monsters that need the soft touch of a woman, I see men as capable of having healthy relationships.

“Wait,” you may be saying. “That’s a completely unfair representation of the views of the religious. You’re just poisoning the well, Jeff.”

And you’d be correct. Of course, I’m just taking the approach Rabbi Shmuley Boteach took in his recent article on the Huffington Post:

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With this as the lead in, Rabbi Boteach explains why we shouldn’t listen to secular society’s demanding that we be the rabid sex-fiends it clearly wants us to be: casual sex is less pleasurable for women.

Yup, Rabbi Boteach is just looking out for the ladies. Here’s the problem, Rabbi Boteach’s framing of the problem and solution are mostly blind to the research he cites (or, more accurately the New York Times article he cites). Instead, he builds up a boogieman so that he can justify his crappy cure.

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On What May Be the Most ‘No Shit’ Science Article Ever

Guess what science finally proved: the appeal of high heels is that they accentuate feminine attractiveness.

No shit.

In fairness to the actual study, the researchers acknowledge the high heels/attractiveness connection from the outset. Their study focuses on why high heels have endured over time. Their study found that heels do, in fact, give women a sexier walk. They concluded that this is a culturally influenced exploitation of our primal sexual urges.

Again, no shit.

Since women can be fired for being too attractive, I suppose women have a scientifically proven reason for ousting high heels as business attire.

On Being a Husky 12-Year-Old Boy

I’d seen it mentioned a few times today, but I finally got around to reading the now infamous Nation Review Online commentary by Charlotte Allen. If I’m being honest, I’m calling poe. I think someone posed as this Charlotte Allen and slipped by editorial what may be the most absurd response to the Newtown tragedy yet.

There were two, truly priceless lines: (1) “Think of what Sandy Hook might have been like if a couple of male teachers who had played high-school football, or even some of the huskier 12-year-old boys, had converged on Lanza.” and (2) “There didn’t even seem to be a male janitor to heave his bucket at Adam Lanza’s knees. “

Where’s the Beef(y Men)?

Ms. Allen’s lament is that there were not any men at the elementary school. As she puts it: “…a feminized setting is a setting in which helpless passivity is the norm.” (Pardon me a minute while I vomit in my mouth). See, had a man (or a husky 12-year-old boy or even a female janitor that didn’t heave her bucket like a girl) been on the premise while Adam Lanza was committing his horrific act, the man would have prevented the whole affair. I can only assume Ms. Allen comes to this conclusion because she thinks men are bulletproof. Don’t laugh, there are certain positions in the military that can only be held by men. This would be reasonable if men were bulletproof. Of course, what Ms. Allen seems to forget is that there was a man at the elementary school that day. He was the one with all the guns killing everybody. And, as he proved on himself, men aren’t bulletproof.

Preventing the Next School Shooting

As with all tragedies, the aftermath leaves us with questions about how we can prevent this from happening again. And, as with all tragedy-aftermaths, the experts are happy to inform us. In fact, they’ve given us a nice 10-point blueprint:

Preemptive Steps-

From Mike Huckabee: (1) We need to offer a formal invitation to God that he is allowed into our schools. Also, (2) we need to allow mangers on public property.

From James Dobson: (3) We need to get rid of abortion. Also, (4) we must only allow one man and one woman to marry.

From Charlotte Allen: (5) We need to station men who played football in high school and husky 12-year-old boys in every school.

From the National Rifle Association: (6) We need to make sure these men who played football in high school and husky 12-year-old boys do not watch violent TV or movies. (7) They can’t play violent video games, either. (8) But we do need to provide them with guns.

In the highly unlikely case that our preemptive measures don’t work-

From Charlotte Allen: (9) Run. And (10) always carry around a mop bucket to throw at the shooter’s knees in case you get cornered. [Important Note: It is a well known fact that women have no sense of direction, so they are more likely to run themselves into a corner. Here is a pretty pink mop bucket for you lovely ladies out there. You’re welcome.]

What Totally Definitely Will Not Solve the Problem of School Shootings

As Ms. Allen notes, feminized settings lead to passive people, and passive people don’t attack other people. So, why don’t we end school shootings completely by feminizing everyone until they’re passive? I’m not sure. Probably because it’s too gay.