Being a man used to be easy. Men were spiritually free. They were animals that were born free, without a care in the world. And they never had to worry about their phones dying.
There was one important job for men, though, and it could not be simpler.
God said gently as he cradled us out of the oven, “Be nice, play nice. Here are your testicles, now, make more little monsters like you.”
It was almost insultingly simple to be a man. Our roles were so basic then.
All we had to do was wake up, go to work, eat, come home, eat some more, take care of the wife, make babies with said wife (not other women), make sure babies don’t die, make sure babies grew up healthy and strong, send babies to school with long waiting lists so babies do not become rude and ignorant adults, and watch babies have more babies.
And then you die of a heart attack from eating too much fried chicken.
Manhood isn’t like that any more. Being a man is no longer easy.
Manhood has become this complicated, tedious social responsibility to function like the best version of you all the time. Yes, the desire to lie S-shaped on the couch, in front of the telly, nursing a cold drink, is very strong, but we can’t give in to these whims because, you know, Facebook exists, and people are
sharing judging (comparing, commenting, complaining) all the time. You are to grow a pair and man up.
I get grouchy as a result, because I cannot take naps whenever I want. I have to stand straight, smile, and smile while dealing with work. And repeat it five days a week, almost 50 weeks a year. That’s what makes a man.
Now I’m not saying that being a woman is any easier, but I understand myself better than I understand most women so all you feminists/crazy cat women/keyboard warriors, ease of the keyboard now. This is not about you.
And since being a modern man can be hard AND thankless, here are some personal maxims on how to function and age respectably.
1) A Man Must Know Himself
Have you met a man who is agreeable all the time? Isn’t there something about him that makes you uncomfortable? A man who knows his place in this world gives you counterpoints, flipsides and different perspectives. What he says may not agree with what you think, but he’s mature enough to respect the difference in opinions.
Be a promiscuous reader. Read on a variety of topics that interests you. Share what you know generously. Even if your friends don’t find you interesting as a result, your mother will.
2) A Man Knows What He Wants, 99% Of The Time
Someone who is flaky and indecisive is a turn-off. A guy like that isn’t sure of anything. He says fluffy things to put off deciding. It’s easier to teach a grizzly bear to roll over and play dead than to get him to commit to do something. It’s highly unmanly behaviour.
He says things like, “Maybe not today. I feel sick. I’ll let you know later?”
“Let me think about it. I’ll let you know soon?”
“Are we eating fries or anything oily? I’m trying to lose weight.”
“I may be tired if I join you. It’s Friday, so I need to eat with my parents.”
“Can I let you know later? I don’t know what I feel like doing yet.”
An indecisive man, we can logically conclude, cannot make weighty decisions. He is not going to get any respect from his peers or friends. The bartender will snigger behind his back, while the doorman thinks, “This loser ain’t gonna tip!”
Neither will such a man be cuddling up to fine females anytime soon, because attractive women will see him and be like, “This guy? He’s only good for holding my handbag while I shop.”
3) A Man Is Skilled At Something, So He Can Bring Home The Bacon
Whether you’re a white-collar surf or a hawker, you need to be good at something. You don’t have to be GREAT at it, but good enough for people to want to pay you for it.
That’s how society expects you to make a living… doing something worthwhile. And that’s how you become a provider – not just someone who spends his salary on your toy collection, maintaining a car, and video games. Only bottom feeders behave like that.
4) A Man Has To Provide For A Family (What Else Are You Supposed To Do?)
Unfortunately, that’s what society expects of us dudes. Some of us compromise and live with cats or dogs to avoid the disappointment of other human beings, but that’s not what a man does. A man deals with disappointment, and grows from it.
Manhood isn’t complete until you’ve made the ultimate commitment that is marriage, or the trauma and agony of raising kids who grow up to be completely embarrassed by you.
Rule of thumb: If your kids don’t take your for granted, you didn’t sacrifice enough for them.
Heard of the phrase, “It’s better to give than to receive?” Say it enough until you believe it. Remember those God-given testes?
5) A Man Has Cool And Respectable Principles
If a man can swim through his professional and personal life with some simple rules for himself, he will be able to avoid drama. Some basic rules are:
a) Keep your integrity – You shouldn’t do anything at the expense of someone else.
b) Say what you mean and mean what you say. Because people are generally confusing enough. Don’t gossip. Leave that to mongers.
c) Have a sense of humour. Life is short enough. Take it easy but never too easy.
d) Help those around you – There are many people who are stressed out trying to keep up, and could do with a little kindness.
e) Be a gentleman – to women and other guys. Keep it classy. Open doors, hold lift doors and wait for your turn. Help the old lady with her bags. Demonstrate patience.
f) Keep learning. When you are curious about things and you love learning, your humility grounds you. When you can be grateful for what you’ve learnt, you can also be a great teacher.
g) Travel, for goodness’ sakes. Travel with your eyes open, so you can develop empathy, manners and culture. Don’t always start with, “Can we eat that?”
6) A Man Cares For His Appearance – Too Much And You’re A Peacock, Too Careless And You’re Neanderthal
The operative word here is “cares”. Talking about your “killing” gym routines is masturbatory and alienating. Manhood is also certainly not about dull conversations about whey protein or whether it’s “leg” or “chest” day for you. Nobody. Cares.
No one is asking you to use half a bottle of hair wax, or wear a three-piece suit each time you step out of your flat in Bishan, but you SHOULD look neat, freshly showered, and ready to engage in intelligent conversation.
If you step out of the house with more accessories than a Chingay Parade, you should step back inside your house and reflect for a bit.
7) A Man Is Understated About Money
It’s bad form to go on about money. A man doesn’t discuss at length about money, or the absurd prices of things, or how much money he wants to make, all the time. These dry conversations are reserved for your financial planners. Obsessing about money in social circles is unsavoury, in bad taste, and gives you the personality of an ATM.
8) A Man Sacrifices His Time For Others
A man disciplines himself to achieve goals. They can be career goals, family goals, or weight goals. These take time and perseverance.
You can donate money, time and your expertise for the betterment of others, but you don’t have to shout about it. Humble brags are also douchey brags.
When you can give without expecting anything in return, you’ve reached a Dalai Lama-level of manhood. That’s a good thing.
9) A Man Protects His Family (And The Weak)
A man who looks after his own – family, friends, peers, but also thinks nothing of standing up for someone being bullied, is a man’s man.
10) A Man Is Not Afraid Of FOMO (The Fear Of Missing Out)
The decision: Big party on a Friday night with the same circuit of superficial wannabes at a club in town, or a quiet dinner with a loved one over drinks and meaningful conversation, while easing out of the work week?
When a man goes on a date, the girl in front of him should be more interesting than his Instagram feed. If she isn’t, he’s not that into her, either.
It’s 2015. If you’re dying to be seen, you’re also reeking of desperation. Quality relationships trumps social popularity any day.