Top 10 Reasons Fall is the Manliest Season

10. It is the time of year when a man can wear that manliest of fabrics: flannel.

9. Fathers can continue the time-honored tradition of ordering their sons to rake leaves and put said leaves (in one of the most tedious and arduous tasks known to all of yardwork) in garbage bags before the wind kindly redistributes those carefully made piles back around the yard.

8. In a nod to cheapskate dads everywhere, you can turn off the air conditioner.

7. If there are manly colors, the colors of fall have to be it: Rust. Brown. Burnt Orange.

6. I’m gonna slip in a reason fall is not so manly: shorter days, longer nights. I can’t really find any logic there, but it just feels like the phrase uttered by dads and grandpas everywhere, “You’re burnin’ daylight!”, has to fit in this item somewhere.

5. While I’m not a griller, I understand that most men are reluctant outside food preparers during the frigid months, so fall is the last time to bust out the Webber or the propane/propane accessories.

4. Few things are manlier than self-improvement, i.e. education, and in the U.S. anyway, fall signals the annual trek back to school. (Manliness note here: The scene on every college campus is the same: so many young bucks walking around, chests puffed out, trying to measure up each other. Another thought: The all-male dorm–a combination of testosterone and one upsmanship along with an absence of inhibition only exceeded by military barracks and locker rooms.)

3. Back when we grew our own food instead of purchasing it from people wearing vests and nametags, fall meant the harvest. Few things are manlier than planting, cultivating, and harvesting your own sustenance. And I should know–I’ve read at least one Michael Pollan book, plus I watch the Food Channel regularly.

2. For me, fall really starts with Labor Day, a day to celebrate work. But I like that it’s called “Labor Day” rather than “Work Day”. Labor has these really manly connotations to me–the image in my head usually involves denim overalls, a sledgehammer, lots of sweat, and  a metal lunch pail.

1. Fall marks the beginning of football season, basketball season, hockey season, and the playing of the World Series. Tough to beat that combo. And no, I may not leave my couch for the next three months.


Definition of a Man’s Man…from an unlikely place

Just the other day, perusing a website I often visit, I came across this poignant and, to my belief, incredibly accurate defintion of a man’s man:

A man’s man is a man who meets his responsibilities, takes care of and provides for his family, no matter what. A man who makes sacrifices. A man who gets up every day, whether he wants to or not, and goes to work, whether he likes it or not, to take care of those whom he is obligated to care for. A man who isn’t afraid to love his wife and his children. A man who makes time for what’s important, and knows what that means.

By that definition, there are a whole bunch of “man’s men.” Or there aren’t nearly enough. I’m not sure which. Maybe both.

I couldn’t have said it better myself (obviously…or else I would have).

Here’s the crazy part. This quote is from a message board…for football fans of a particular university. This particular forum is, admittedly, an off-topic forum, but this definition is so profound and real that it stuck out among all the other not-so-serious stuff I tend to see on there. (I’m not linking to it only because I cannot officially endorse all the content on said message board.)

Anyway, I love writing on this blog because I get to explore, play around with, propogate, and just generally mull over lots of ideas about masculinity and manhood. But I figure if I can just live up to this succinct, clear definition of manhood, posted by internet poster “Brisketexan”, then I’ll be doing pretty well. Thank you, sir, err, I mean, Brisket, and thank you, random wisdom of this series of tubes.

Aging and a link you absolutely must visit

I turn 30 this year; consequently I’ve been thinking a lot about aging. I’m not saying 30 is old–I definitely don’t think that–but my body won’t let me forget that I’m not as young as I used to be.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about growing old because I’m watching my grandparents, both in their late 70’s, age; the changes are saddening, primarily because my grandparents have always been such pillars in my life. It’s been really hard to see my grandpa, who’s taught me a lot about being a man and whom I’ve nearly always thought was unstoppable, lose ground these last couple of years. I’m thankful he’s still got a clear mind, but his body has let him down. When I visited him last weekend, he could only manage to walk around outside for a few minutes before he was forced to return to the house.

I’m at the point in life when many of my friends and family-by-marriage are also going through the same thing. My wife’s grandparents are now gone, and of course Michael has touchingly and eloquently written about his grandparents many times at Finding Manhood.  Again, as a consequence, aging, and coping with the aging of loved ones, is on my mind a lot these days.

So when I clicked on the following link yesterday, I knew I had to share it here.

Phillip Toledano – Days with My Father

I don’t want to say a whole lot about the link because I don’t want to lessen its impact.

But you simply must visit the site. Again, you must.

Whoever Phillip Toledano is, he understands dignity and family and love, and dare I say, manhood.

The photos and accompanying text are so incredibly poignant, relevant, and real.

They will resonate with anybody who has grandparents, aunts, uncles, and especially parents whom you are watching or have watched age.

Gentle or Firm

I work in a business–education–which regularly requires me to intuit exactly what a person needs. Often that need is either one of two distinct responses from me:

  1. Sometimes people need me to cut them some slack. Their emotional state or life circumstances have made them vulnerable enough that anything but empathy and understanding could cripple them, only further adding to their problems. These people are in desperate need of second chances (or even third, fourth, fifth, ad infinitum chances). Compassion will relieve the stress they feel thus enabling them to overcome the adversity they face. I call this the “gentle” response.
  2. Other times people need me to confront them with their errors. In these cases, they’ve usually been taking advantage of others’ (often mine) kindness, and a second chance (or third, fourth, etc) only reinforces their ability to manipulate situations (and alleviate their stress) while giving less than their best. People in these situations need frank, honest appraisals of their behavior and attitude, even if–and particularly when–it’s going to surprise, upset, or even anger them. I call this the “firm” response.

Again, in my line of work, I usually have to determine exactly which response is necessary in a very brief amount of time and with only a limited amount of information. When I get it right, both I and the other party walk away from our conversation feeling better than when they entered it.

But wow, when I get it wrong, when I give them the opposite response they needed? Again, wow. In case one, if I’m firm when you need gentle, I may cause irreparable harm to our relationship, or even worse, diminish your capacity to confront adversity. In case two, if I’m gentle when you need firm, I’m only strengthening the lies you’re telling  yourself, or even worse, giving you false messages about how the world works.

I’ve learned a lot about how to correctly intuit the decision to be gentle or firm as I’ve gotten older. And the most important lesson I’ve learned about the decision is that there is no substitute for experience. Still, I’m going to make mistakes, and I can only depend on others’ forgiveness and God’s grace when that happens. But when I get it right, when I’m gentle when I need to be and firm when I need to be, I feel so good to be a small part of encouraging or equipping someone in their journey.

Another thing I’ve learned about this decision is that I’m irresistibly drawn to men who have the ability to make it correctly themselves 100% of the time. In fact, I’m usually in awe of such men: I love to watch them interact with people, delivering compassion or correction as the situation depends. Michael and I have come to agree that this ability is a common denominator among Real Men.

What’s really interesting is that, in my and Michael’s experience, these men seem to be in abundance in the coaching profession. Anyone who’s watched a football practice or basketball game can see why this abundance makes sense. A successful coach seems to have the secret knowledge of when to put his arm around a player and gently offer advice or when to get in an athlete’s grill and challenge him to quit being so lazy.

As valuable as this skill is in coaching and education, I really see its value in parenting. Last night I talked with a buddy of mine with two young boys, and as I found myself pontificating to him about how hard it is to decide when to be gentle or firm, I realized this father knows a whole lot more about this difficulty than I do. He has decide on gentle or firm literally thousands of times every day. At stake? The character of his boys.

It is for this reason–my own potential as a father–as well  as the possibilities for giving others exactly the help they need that I desperately want to achieve Real Man status in this ability. I want to observe someone, interact with him, consider who he is and where his head is at, and deliver the message he needs in the way he needs it delivered. And not for my good, but because I’ve been blessed by Real Men who could tell when I needed encouraging and when I needed scolding, and I want to do the same for others.

Manly Activities: At the Rodeo

This is the beginning of a series in which Michael and I will provide some ideas for manly activities. Some of these manly activities we’ll have done ourselves, some we’ll only wish we had done, but at any rate, they’re for Real Men.

Rodeo is such a manly sport. First, it finds its origins in actual, productive work. Second, save for one event, team roping, it’s one man against one beast, mano y animal.

Also, it’s highly dangerous.

An activity need not be dangerous to qualify as manly, of course. But it certainly helps.

However, the activity I’m discussing is not actually participating in a rodeo, only attending one. A rodeo is so manly, though, that merely watching one can prompt a little masculinity to rub off on you.

The most well-known rodeo circuit is the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA). According to the PRCA’s website, “over 600 [rodeos] are held throughout the country year-round, from small town venues to arenas in Las Vegas.” You can check this same website to find the event nearest you.

The PRCA holds its annual National Finals Rodeo (NFR) in Las Vegas every December. This is where the Best of the Best, the legends of rodeo, make their names: Jim Shoulders, Larry Mahan, Ty Murray. My dad has been to the NFR several times, and he always has a great time.

Several other rodeos allow opportunity to spectate as men test themselves against 1,000+ lb. hoofed and horned beasts. The International Professional Rodeo Association (IPRA) offers events throughout the country, and the organization holds its yearly International Finals Rodeo (IFR) in my very own Oklahoma City. My own childhood rodeo memories center around the Mesquite Championship Rodeo, held every Friday and Saturday night beginning the 1st weekend of June and ending the last weekend of August in the Dallas suburb of, well, Mesquite.

In fact, my childhood experiences at the Mesquite Championship Rodeo are the beginning of my fascination with the mystique of the rodeo. Even as a kid, I could get charged up from watching men (I went to the bathroom during the barrel racing event) stare down danger for prize money and a shiny belt buckle or stiff new saddle. Rodeo cowboys are also typically pretty compact and wiry (save the steer wrestlers), and their small stature made their daring feats all the more impressive. Plus they wore really cool hats.

My most recent rodeo-like experience was with the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) tour, which had a stop last year in Guthrie, OK. I say “rodeo-like” because the atmosphere said rock-n-roll more than honky-tonk. The experience came replete with fiery explosions and synthetic fog-accompanied introductions. The photo below is from the opening ceremonies.

The PBR features, of course, only bull riding. This is generally the most exciting event for the casual fan of the rodeo, so the PBR is a great invention. It regularly appears on the Vs. network, and it has regular events around the country. I highly recommend the experience, as it’s family friendly, exciting, and a good value. And it’s quite manly, to boot.

Normally, merely being a spectator is decidedly unmanly. But going to the rodeo merits an exemption because there’s really no way for the average man to even approximate the experience of riding a bull (the mechanical ones don’t count). I say this having ridden a bull in an actual rodeo myself (I didn’t make 8 seconds).

So if you’re looking for a manly way to spend a Friday night with your bromigos or with the fam, and you don’t feel like seeing the latest musical or visiting the art gallery one more time, go check out the bulls and blood, the dust and mud, the thing they call rodeo (h/t G. Brooks).

Real Men and Nicknames

Stormin' Norman at His Stormiest

I consider myself a really good nickname-giver. Not every nickname I give to people sticks, but a lot do, and if they don’t, it’s not the fault of the nickname, you can be assured.

I’ve had some nicknames over the years. First was a childhood one I will not repeat so as to salvage my dignity. Second was pretty standard, “Dave” for David. I went by that for most of high school. Third was “Drobe”, my college nickname, pronounced Dee-Robe (I was not a streaker, if that’s what you’re thinking).

Thing is, I didn’t really like “Dave”, but I never said anything. Then in college I was given the moniker “Drobe” before anybody had a chance to throw out Dave. So it’s kind of strange that I give such awesome nicknames since I haven’t liked 2/3 of mine.

So on to my giving nicknames: The best ones are organic, of course. But in my opinion, it takes too long for a circumstance to emerge to give everyone a nickname when they need one. Someone like me has to step in to give a nickname. And Real Men need nicknames.

Real Men need nicknames because they have the following advantages:

  • Brevity. Why say two syllables when one could suffice? Joseph = Joe; Henry = Hank; Phillip = Phil; Bartholomew = Bart
  • Sound. One of the nickname wells I got to a lot is the initials. Some pairs of letters just sing along, like L.C., J.R., D.J. However, some combinations just don’t cut it: M.R., Q.Y., S.N. Plus, all first names which start with a letter ending in the “ee” sound (B, C, D, G, P, T, etc.) can preface the word “money” for an awesome nickname. Derrick turns to D-Money, Thomas turns to T-Money.
  • Personality/Ability. The best nicknames convey part of your identity, not just appearance or sound. Take George Herman Ruth: The Babe, Sultan of Swat, Great Bambino, King of Clout, Colossus of Crash.
  • Irony. It’s so awesome to call a heavy guy “Slim” and a tall guy “Shorty”. I’m also for obvious, non-ironic nicknames, too, like “Doc” for a doctor and “Einstein” for a smart guy.
  • Buddy-ness. I did just make up a word, but it’s a necessary combination of the concepts of male affection, unity, familiarity, comfort, and a host of other ideas I can’t manage to articulate at this particular moment. But I trust you will get the point. The idea connecting buddy-ness to nicknames is that a man is tight with his homies.

So I encourage all the dudes out there to give nicknames and to find one for yourself. If you need help, just let me know.

There is a cardinal rule for nicknames which says you can’t give one to yourself, but you can sure drop some hints. Also, don’t be afraid to refuse a nickname. I don’t like “Dave”, Michael doesn’t like “Mike”…but he’ll take Miguelito (at least from me he will).

Nicknames are fun and useful, and lots of good and great men before us (Stormin’ Norman Schwarczkopf, Orel “Bulldog” Hershiser) have had some good ones. With that criteria (fun, useful, traditional), nicknames seem to fit Real Men pretty well.

Do you have a nickname? Have you ever refused one? Tell us about your nicknames in the comments!