Recently, I’ve been spending a lot of time considering my direction and thinking about what my next project will be. When I wrote Daddy Dates, I wanted to speak to men about how to work on being a better father, while I worked on this myself. Naturally, constantly thinking about how to be a better father led me to another nagging question-how can I be a better man?
I was watching the new “Man Up” series on ABC a couple of nights ago, and I was intrigued by how the show provides four different depictions of a “man”. There’s Kenny, the testosterone-laden man-child who won’t grow up; Craig, the ultra-sensitive romantic; Grant, the strong, intelligent, spitting image of what women want us to be like, perfectly in touch with his emotions but never wimpy; and Will, the dad who most of us can identify with. Like Will, we’re all just trying to figure out a way to support our families, keep our ladies happy, do well at work, and not screw everything up.
This show got me thinking about what it means to be a man today. I know I’m not the only one thinking about this. Us men have found ourselves in a crazy place in today’s world, where we’re constantly challenged to meet the expectations of others while struggling to meet the expectations we’ve set for ourselves. We’re trying to live up to the ultra-masculine image of the generation that came before us. Our fathers and grandfathers fought in wars, walked uphill both ways with one boot in the snow to work everyday and could survive in the wild with nothing but a 6-pack and a Swiss Army Knife. We’re trying to figure out how to keep up with the super-women in our lives, who seem to have access to a top-secret manual on how to run a family that we’ve somehow missed out on. Sometimes, we feel like we have absolutely no idea what we’re doing. We’re constantly pretty freaked out by the whole notion of being grown-ups and having real, live human beings rely on us constantly, but to keep our man card, we can’t show it. We can’t freak out, we can’t lose our tempers, and we definitely, definitely can’t cry. Meanwhile, our ladies can unleash an emotional hurricane on us at any given moment without any warning whatsoever, and we’re just expected to sit there and “take it like man.”
Guys, I’m here to say that it’s okay to sweat over how to be a man, but we also need to accept the fact we’re human beings. We used to look to our fathers as guides for how to handle manhood, but times and gender roles are rapidly changing. Now, we’re trying to figure how to be a new, improved 21st -Century man. I certainly can’t give you the answers for how we’re supposed to do this, but I do know one thing: We need a place where they can talk about the new problems we face today. We need to be told that it’s okay to feel like we have no idea what we’re doing. It’s okay to freak out. It’s okay to look over our shoulders and panic as we see these super-women closing in on our jobs and our place in our homes and families. It’s okay to admit that we have no clue what it means to be a man today, and that we don’t know where to look to figure this out. After all, we can’t figure out how to be great men if we don’t understand what’s holding us back from growing. Am I right, guys?
So, this leads me to me new project. I want to reach out to other men and start a conversation about how we can work through these issues. I’m suspended in the notion that I want to rebuild men in our country that have been disassembled by society, relationships, and themselves. I want to bring life back to men who are walking through the world like zombies, lifeless with no place to go. I want to encourage men who are discouraged, empower men who are feeling powerless and spark a fire in men who have nothing to burn for anymore. I want to let men know, “Hey, you’re safe in my tribe.”So, guys, I want to hear from you. What do you think it means to be a man today? More importantly, what kind of man do you WANT to be?