The first rule of manliness is that it is unmanly to try to be manly. Manliness should be an afterthought, or not thought at all. That is where Barack Obama is failing. He is just trying too hard.
Oh, I’ll take an affected sort of manliness over griping about the price of arugula, wearing mom jeans and throwing "like a girl." But it’s pretty obvious to most men that when you try too hard to be manly, you end up doing some things that just aren’t.
Let’s start with that bear hug. Totally appropriate for family reunions and game-winning RBIs. But being hoist bodily into the air by another dude with your arms flailing about helplessly and a silly look on your face is definitely on the wrong side of the manly line, unless you’re trying to block a field goal in overtime--and especially if you are tall, as Obama is. (That rule holds even if the guy doing the lifting is a Republican.)
Lately, the President has taken to handing out beer, brewed in the White House itself. He thinks this is manly. It is otherwise. Microbrews are about as masculine as sarongs. Sam Adams is about the smallest brewery that makes the cut.
And when you’re buying a round of the macro stuff, don’t bring an entourage that crowds the place and ends up costing the owner $25,000 in lost business. (Yeah, Obama did that. In Iowa. Not manly.)
It’s manly to be good at sports. Obama played high school basketball, and he clearly has a decent three-point shot. Yet the most embarrassing detail to emerge from David Maraniss’s biography of the President is that he was the only member of his team who could not dunk. That might have been OK, except that Obama blamed racism for being made to ride the bench in high school--which was not only untrue, but really unmanly.
I’ll give Obama credit for picking a good NCAA bracket--consistently one of the best in the country. Manly. It’s when he ventures into other sports that he gets into trouble. He referred to old Comiskey Park as “Cominskey Field” and failed to name a single great White Sox player from his Chicago days. (Heck, I favor the Cubs and even I can name most Sox greats from the 1980s and 1990s, from Baines to Guillen to Fisk to Thomas.)
Blue collar is manly. White-collar shirtsleeves: unmanly. Our fathers and grandfathers wore jackets to the office--if they worked in an office--and kept a coat and tie handy. You might not have liked George W. Bush, but he understood that much.
And real men don’t quit smoking. They just smoke something better. Obama should have taken up cigars, like Kennedy (not Clinton). Instead, he’s been regressing back to the Choom Gang. Not manly.
Maybe Obama’s getting wise to some of his weaknesses. He’s not bowling anymore: rolling a 37 was bad, making a Special Olympics joke to cover for it was even worse. I haven’t seen him throw out a first pitch in a while, and he has the decency to practice what is by most accounts a poor golf game far from public view.
But he still slips up too often. Not using an iPhone: manly. Pretending to know how to use one, and failing: very unmanly.
Having a sidekick is also unmanly. A buddy, yes; a sidekick, no. And especially not one like Biden. Good lord. Somehow a guy previously known as “Amtrak Joe” is going to hang out with bikers?
Manly message to Joe: the lady wearing the leather chaps is supposed to be behind you, not the other way around, hair whipping in the wind. This way, you look like you’re hitching a ride. No wonder the other dudes weren’t impressed.
Of course, we all know what this is really about: winning votes from white-collar men. He’s struggled ever since Hillary knocked shots back with that hairy crew in Indiana. So he’s trying out her manly moves. Pretty soon we’ll see him clinging to a shotgun with that great outdoorsman, Sen. John Kerry.
And--hey, winning is very manly. I respect that. But when you try too hard, you lose. And not in a manly kind of way.