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A ‘Modern Man’ vs. a ‘Man’s Man’

Recently the New York Times featured an article on what makes a modern man. Predictably, there was a lot to make fun of in the article. National Review took one of the first cracks at addressing each point.

I disagree with some of the rebuttal, but I suppose the first sign of true manliness is that he doesn’t read articles on how to be a man.

NYT: When the modern man buys shoes for his spouse, he doesn’t have to ask her sister for the size. And he knows which brands run big or small.

NR: False. Under no circumstances does the modern man ever attempt to buy his wife or girlfriend shoes. Ever. The modern man would be better off lighting a hundred-dollar bill on fire and stamping it to ashes in the street. Never in recorded human history has a man successfully bought his lady a pair of shoes. It’s a proven scientific fact. Give her the money and back away slowly.

Are we on a network comedy? Is there a laugh track? Not only is there no need for a man to know a woman’s shoe size, there’s no need to “back away slowly” either.

In the latest episode of the Political Punks Podcast, I said that the common thread in both the New York Times and National Review explanations of what makes a “modern man” is both writers have strict, unwavering opinions about random things. So, when I saw that Mike Rowe also responded to the New York Times’ article, I spent half our show swooning over him. Rather than identifying as a “modern man,” Rowe identifies as a “man’s man.” That also makes him this woman’s ideal man.

Here’s his perfect response to whether a man should buy a woman shoes:

A Man’s Man would not buy shoes for his spouse, or be familiar with the vagaries of various female footwear brands. He might offer to pay for them, and he would definitely compliment her choice. And if he knows the size of her feet, it’s only because he rubs them from time to time.

Oh, Mike Rowe. You know just what to say to the girls.

Anyway, back to the New York-based men.

NYT: The modern man never lets other people know when his confidence has sunk. He acts as if everything is going swimmingly until it is.

NR: The modern man does not have confidence. He has only bourbon.

Judging by my Facebook and Twitter feeds, drinking bourbon is the most common way to demonstrate modern manhood. It’s peacocking, millennial-style. I’m starting to think that talking about bourbon is like talking about sex. If you’re always talking about it, you’re really not having as much as you want everyone to think you are having.

Rowe responds to confidence:

A Man’s Man feels no shame in admitting uncertainty, because he knows that doing so will make him more certain. He’s transparent about his flaws and shortcomings, and makes no attempt to be more secure or knowledgeable or competent than he actually is.

As my cohost pointed out, Rowe is echoing another man’s man, Clint Eastwood, who said, “A man has got to know his limitations.”

Next, cars.

NYT: The modern man won’t blow 10 minutes of his life looking for the best parking spot. He finds a reasonable one and puts his car between the lines.

NR: Thanks to Uber, the modern man hasn’t had to actually search for a parking spot in over a year.

Most men don’t use Uber on a regular basis. They have their own cars and (swoon…) trucks. I’ll give them a pass on being able to fix their vehicles, but if they can diagnose a problem they get bonus points and other perks. It’s a known fact that men look 35% hotter when the hood is up and he’s unscrewing some kind of cap with authority.

I know you’ve been waiting for these articles to address the central part of being a man – what kind of soda he drinks.

NYT: The modern man buys only regular colas, like Coke or Dr Pepper. If you walk into his house looking for a Mountain Dew, he’ll show you the door.

NR: The real modern man owns a soda stream, which he never uses because work.

Once again, I can’t imagine why having firm views on soda have anything to do with manhood. I suppose it’s easier to be a man when manliness can be measured by things you consume rather than things you do.

The new book, Heavy Lifting: Grow Up, Get a Job, Raise a Family, and Other Manly Advice by Cam Edwards and Jim Geraghty, asks what has happened to men in America. Their book focuses on actions, not outward appearances and consumption. I’m lucky to count both of them as friends, so I am elated that they have written this book and I’ll have a review of it up soon. (I should note that pairing it with Finding Mr. Righteous is the perfect His and Hers Christmas gift.)

Of course, the New York Times says there is one thing a “modern man” shouldn’t buy.

NYT: The modern man has no use for a gun. He doesn’t own one, and he never will.

Step aside, “modern man.” This is how man’s man Mike Rowe feels about gun ownership.

A Man’s Man owns at least one firearm. He knows how to use it, clean it, and store it properly. He understands its importance, and sees it for what it is – a tool that can protect him and his family.

Their opinions on firearms show the difference between the New York Times’ modern man and a man’s man (or, simply, a man). A modern man feels that he has to bend to societal pressures of fashionable, and usually feminine, behavior. A man like Mike Rowe knows that his value comes not from bending, but from being a source of strength for himself, his partner and his family.

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