To Be a Man (2007)

A rather long, but entirely sincere blog I wrote detailing my thoughts on “manhood”. In 2007, I had a completely different job, there was almost 160kg of me, and my outlook was very different. This piece is rough, the grammar’s imperfect, but it reminds me of how it felt to be me back then.

To Be a Man

I’ve been pondering this question in great depth of late – what does it take and what does it mean to be a man?

The whole concept of being a man is one that gets thrown around pretty loosely in general. Okes will often tune their mate “you’re the fiukken man!” when the guy scores with a drunk, underage girl and then tells them all about it, or wins a fight he picked with a stranger or what not. I’m talking about being able to hold your head up high and call yourself a man… It’s quite a thing, and a lot less straight-forward than you’d think.

The dictionary on my Mac defines “man” as “an adult male human” and “a person associated with the qualities of being male – spirit, toghness and bravery” among various other definitions. I’m trying to better understand what it means in terms of being an independant, self-sufficient male human who contributes positively to the world.

Many dudes consider toughness a criterion for manhood. I think that jock dudes who go out in numbers and fight for no reason are not men at all. They’re cowardly little pussies who have never managed to get past some kind of immasculation they suffered at the hands of their fathers, brothers or peers in childhood or whatever. I also think these fukken effeminate emo types who whine and bitch and complain about life all the time can get fucked as well. I have nothing against effeminate types, mind you. Gay dudes fukken rock, i think. There is one at our office who’s a fukken great guy, and, i think, definitely a man. It’s bitching and apathy and whining that fucks me off. Man-up, as the expression goes, and get over the fact that you weren’t cuddled as a baby. Or stop threatening us and actually kill yourself already, just do it and get it over with. Anyway, the emo debate is another story and a whole nother blog (see the archive if you’re interested).

Growing up, i always saw my dad as the quintessential ‘man’. He was big, loud, full of opinion, made a lot of money, bought a lot of things and was generally pretty scary. He could make people laugh, make people scared and was never short of shit to say about aything. He was never wrong, and anyone who thought he might be was a fukken idiot and was immediately threatened and shown a very impressive display of feather fanning and tree pissing which swiftly put them in their place. A man’s man. the opposite of gay. The opposite of unsure. The opposite of safe and stable.

Today, i see the oke very differently. I see an angry, bitter old man who’s never managed to face up to his rough start in life and his own deep-seated inscurities. A person that fights for the sake of the fight and not to actually resolve a dispute at all. It’s about being right with him. I find the aggressive, unforgiving, presumptuous way that he immediately assumes he’s right about everything and tries to force his opinion on other people shameful and often embarrassing. More and more i’m realising that he’s not a man at all, but a frightened little boy trying to shout his point at people who are already listening.

In my childhood, as i slowly withdrew into my own little world of metal, fantasy, delusion and my friends (thank Whatever the Fuck Created Us for them), i decided that James Hetfield from Metallica was the man. No greater man existed, This dude was fukken everything and more. He partied harder than anyone, never wore a suit a day in his life, moered people form time to time, drank like a sea bass and busted the meanest riffs in history to crowds of 60 000 on a nightly basis, singing words like “Die by my hand/ I creep across the land/ Killing first-born man” while making snarly faces that just fukken tickled me pink. I thought, “here is a fukken role-model for all men. This is what i wanna be.” It wasn’t too bad a choice, i don’t think. Metallica basically raised me. They made me believe that there was a bettrer life than mine out there and that ordinary dudes who didn’t dress like Gucci models, listen to fukken mindless pop music or go to work in ties could rule as well, and i always knew i wanted to rule. Phil Aselmo from Pantera was another such role model. He threw his finger up at anything he didn’t like. People, God, the government, society… fukken everything, and looked cool doing it. Loved that Phil. Love him still.

Years, nay, decades later, and i still think Hetfield is the shit. But, if you watch Metallica’s 2004 movie release “Some Kind of Monster”, you’ll see that he actually lived a very insecure, addicted life of constant misery in pursuit of the “man-image”. Alcoholism, narcisism, ego and misery followed him like a shadow until 2003 when he sobered up, got therapy (very unmanly) and started taking time out to express his inner shit. I respect the crap out of all that, and it inspired me to do a bit of demon hunting of my own. A lot of ‘fans’, however, have given up on the band ‘cos Het smiles at shows and even sings about feeling vulnerable. Fuck em. I think he rules, but he has ruled at a high cost to himself, his family and his happiness. Phil Anselmo lost his best friend and wasn’t allowed to go to the funeral because of his middle-finger-throwing ways, and battles a long-term heroine addiction. Not kief for him. Not kief at all.

Now, when i started iat my current place of work as a lowly intern, i met this dude who worked here who was instantly very cool to me. He kinda showed me the ropes, had lank advice and treated me with respect – something interns seldom receive. He was in his early-mid thirties, and he was (and still is) an amazing writer, a poet, a fukken hysterical dude, he ghoened many women, he drank and smoked probably as much or more than me (anyone who knew me during the five years or so that i smoked about 20-30 blunts a day will tell you that this is no small achievement) and still managed to work a solid job, dress casual and hang around rock n roll dudes like it was no big deal. Plus, he was in his thirties, and was still a cool, ‘real’ dude who i could relate to and respect. New role model! I learned lank from this oke, and based a lot of my views on being irie, forgiving, racial tolerance, keeping it real, staying young at heart and being a pacifist (where possible) on this dude.

Today, he still works with me (actually, he’s technically my boss) and he’s far, far less rock n’ roll than before… The dude doesn’t drink a drop, doesn’t smoke, doesn’t even eat fukken meat, for fuck’s sake. He almost never parties, and when he does, he bails early. He writes books, goes on picnics with his fiance and uses herbal deodorant so the aluminium doesn’t get in his fukken bloodstream, for shit’s sake. Only thing is, i respect the dude more than ever, and it’s badly fucking with my concept of ‘being a man’. Surely, in order to be a man, you have to fight sometimes, rock all the time and get completely fucked on a regular basis? I mean, what is a man if not a big, tough, hairy thing that refuses to conform, can physically overpower the next big hairy thing, and consume more liquid poison without falling over than any of the hairies around him. Oh, and dont’t forget, fuck as many of the non-hairies without having to actually date or love them as possible. Technically, according to the long-standing “Rules of Bieng Gord”, i have to despise this dude, but i don’t. I think he’s the shit, and the more time i spend with him, the more sense he makes. Applying the principles i see him live by is a more difficult thing though, but i’m trying. Don’t get me wrong, though… he’s not Jesus. He makes mistakes, like this one fukken idiot of a hell bitch that he hired and continues to tolerate even though she make sthe rest of our lives unbearable. And he’s no pussy either. He still finds people moering themselves when they bail off unicycles hilarious. He likes a good anal sex joke and thinks Danny K is a doos, as all men should. He’s just got nothing to prove and i respect that. I feel like i have a lot to prove and i’m slowly realising that i only actually ever truly need to prove anything to myself. Eveyone else can fuck off… unless they’re cool, unique, loving people, in which case i must love them because it’s the manly thing to do.

My brother Mike is another great example of manliness. I always thought he was a weedy fukken nerd. He studied hard, liked mainstream music, quoted whatever movies where funny at the time instead of making up his own shit, and disliked metal. Now he has a very chilled wife, is unbelievably successful, is nothing like arrogant and has all the time in the world for me and my many flaws (like my inabillity to understand tax) even though we didn’t see eye-to-eye growing up. I’d take a bullet for him in a second. I really would, and i mean it. He has beautiful new baby daughter as well, and i’m so happy for him. He’s a fukken man, and he likes Bon Jovi. Yep, it’s possible. Shit… he’s only ever been in one fight, and it was a draw, for fuck’s sake.

I guess i’m figuring it out as i go along. It’s just not easy trying to implement a concept you don’t fully understand. Like, if i knew the five points of manhood, i could tattoo them on my hand and try to achieve them. Thing is, it seems that trying to figure them out and implement them is the actual challenge. A journey without a destination, if you will. And let’s clarify one other thing quickly. A woman can ‘be a man’ too, er… if you know what i mean. A dude can also be a bitch. It’s so fukken confusing.

Anyways, i’ve decided to make becoming a man my quest. I dunno what it’s actually about, but i’m compiling a list of what it’s NOT about. I’ve decided that it’s not about fighting, drug/booze consumption, having loads of meaningless sex, the music that you listen to (although i still think rocking is a virtue, if not a criterion for manhood), how many friends you have, being funny, being aggressive or wearing golf shirts with popped collars that match your GTi’s paint job. Also, if you are actually holding your head up high and calling yourself a man (see opening paragraph), you probably aren’t one.

Hopefully, i’ll figuring it out one day…

Gord Laws, 2007