Dear Men of America,
Maybe I shouldn’t be writing about how to learn to be a man, considering that I am a woman and all. But I’ve noticed that there is already something of a consensus among some of you about this subject, so I’m just going to try to reflect that back to you! That’s all.
If you want to know how to be a man, look at other American men, and copy them. Find out what is normal, then challenge yourself to be that “normal” to the best of your ability! Better yet, find out what is normal among American (and many non-American) 15-year-old boys, and do and say what they do.
Better yet, find a bunch of teenage boys who are athletes, who are rewarded for being the male stereotype of physically strong and competitive — even aggressive, if need be. Rule out the rest of the boys, who are hanging out in the band hall, and especially the thoughtful, nerdy kinds in the library. What they are talking and joking about isn’t worth your time.
Better yet, listen in as teenage, male athletes talk, joke, and act out, WITHOUT adult supervision. One of the best places to find these guys is in their locker rooms. Just don’t let them know you are there, because I am assuming you are a full-grown man, and teenagers may not “show their real colors” if they know an adult man is present. So sneak in and don’t bother letting them know you are there. Maybe hide a recording device in one of the lockers and come back later? Just a thought.
Anyway, notice what this narrow sample of teenage boys talk about. Notice their words. Notice the tone of their voices. Notice how they laugh. Notice what they say about the new cheerleader. Notice what they say they’re doing on Saturday night. Take careful notes. This will be important because you don’t want to forget any juicy details.
Then, listen to the recording, and find all the clips when the boys are talking about girls. ANYTHING they say about girls! Pull all these clips together into one compilation to review. Throw out the part where the boys discuss their strategy for tonight’s game. Throw out the part where they laugh at their teacher for sticking her foot in her mouth that day in class. Throw out the moment when one boy asks another how his dad is doing after his recent surgery. All that’s a waste of your time! Not relevant at all.
Now you’ve got your clips of teenage guys talking about girls, right? This, my adult male, friend, is where the gold’s at! It’s here, right in the middle of the locker room, that you’ve unlocked (pun totally intended!) the secret to “being a man.” How to talk, how to act, how to plan for the weekend — it’s all right here!
Okay, maybe I’m being a little extreme. Maybe it’s not quite fair to say this is how to be a man, in general. But here’s what I can say with confidence: this is how men should talk about women. This is normal, and thus, it’s appropriate!
Now, I hear you saying, “Wait, why should I — an adult man — take cues on how to be a man from teenagers, just 4 years into puberty?”
Good question. Usually it’s supposed to be there other way around, I know. But it’s America, okay? And in America we idealize youth, and older people are just…boring, old-fashioned, racist, sexist, and so-not-PC.
But I’m a woman…how should I know this is the best way for men to learn how to behave and talk? Ask a man you respect or look up to! A male leader in American society, perhaps. Our president, for example, who’s in his 70s.
That’s all. Thanks for listening to a woman’s perspective on this!
P.S. If it’s hard for you to imagine saying aloud the words you recorded in the locker room, not to worry! If they sound inappropriate or like you’re disrespecting women, not to worry! Here is a clip to get you started.