How does a real man handle nervous energy?

Jeff asks, “How about something on Real Men and nervous energy? The kind you have when something is about to happen and there is nothing you can do to speed it up or to change it.

This is a tough one for me as I’m not sure I’m very good at handling nervous energy, though I think I know what a real man does with it. In my mind, a real man does one of two things with nervous energy… but I’m also sure there are a lot of other possible ways to handle it.

A real man either channels his nervous energy into something productive or, realizing there’s nothing he can do to change what’s coming down the pipe, he simply practices the old school art of kickin’ it.

What do I mean by these two statements?

As for channeling his nervous energy into something productive, I’ve personally found no better fuel for getting things done and accomplishing small tasks than a good ole fashioned heaping dose of nervous energy. When I’m waiting on something to happen, whether it’s the birth of my daughter or the start of my Ph.D. program, I find that I’m uber productive in those tasks that require very little cognitive effort on my part. Deleting old emails, cleaning up around the house, organizing my garage, rearranging the layout of my desk at work, mowing my grass, etc. all come VERY EASILY when I’m experiencing a lot of nervous energy.

I’ve also found that when I’ve got a lot of nervous energy, it helps if I engage in some type of physical activity. For instance, yesterday morning (the morning of my first day of class), I got to work feeling a little bit of nervous energy about my upcoming foray back into the world of graduate studies after a 4-year hiatus. So… instead of walking up to my office, I just decided to take a walk around campus. Since my first job in higher education was in Housing and Residence Life, I found myself meandering down to the dorms. Not only was it was good to get out and move around, but it was also a very calming experience to reflect back on my days as a dorm supervisor and why I got into this business in the first place.

Which brings me to my next approach for dealing with nervous energy: the old school art of kickin’ it. Sometimes the best thing for a man to do when he’s got a lot of nervous energy is to simply escape to somewhere quiet and familiar. For me yesterday morning, that place was around the dorms of the university I both attended as a student and where I first fell in love with working in higher ed.

At the same time, the old school art of kickin’ it doesn’t necessarily have to involve escaping somewhere quiet. Sometimes, the best way to handle nervous energy is to simply be around friends and forget about it.

Though this next statement is a bit strange on the surface, I wholeheartedly believe it’s true. Sometimes the best way I know to handle nervous energy is to do something that typically energizes us. If that means being around people, a real man will put himself around people. If that means spending time in solitude and quiet reflection, a real man will put himself in a position to do that.

No matter how each of us deals with the nervous energy that we all inevitably deal with from time to time, I think what sets the real men apart from the boys in this area is that sense of self-awareness that tells him A) the root of his nervous energy and B) that he needs to do something about it.


Why do men wear undershirts?

Thank you Jennifer, whoever you are, for providing our first official “Ask a Man” question.

As a man and a prolific wearer of undershirts, I feel more than qualified to take a stab at your question.

For me, it’s all about hiding/absorbing my sweat. I don’t know about the rest of the masculine world, but M&M is a big time sweater. Some dudes sweat when they’re working hard, some sweat when they’re nervous, and some of us just sweat, period.

I fall into that third category. And so, I have two options: 1) forgo the undershirt and live in a constant state of pit stain grossness or 2) wear the undershirt and keep my pit stains confined to it and mostly off my outer garments. For me, it’s an easy decision.

If you ever have the chance to view a man’s collection of white undershirts you’ll notice that the underarms of almost all of them are a nasty, waxy, yellowish, brown color. What you’re seeing there is the visual representation of the age old battle of sweat v.s. deodorant. When the two mix, the end product is actually pretty gross looking and no one wants that junk displayed on their outer garments for all the world to see.

In addition to the vanity value of avoiding sweat marks on clothing, wearing undershirts also has a monetary motivation for some guys, this one included. When given a choice between having those yellow stains on our dress shirts or our undershirts, most men will choose the undershirt every time. It’s just so much more economical to replace a cheap white t-shirt that has yellow pit stains than it is to replace a nice dress shirt, polo, or favorite tee.

I scoured the web looking for information about the history of the undershirt, and the best historical description I could find is below:

The undershirt has been a staple of the male wardrobe since World War II when most men were conscripted into the military. The military adopted this practice because the fighting man could carry numerous sets of undergarments in the field and a limited amount of outer garments. Changing the undergarments refreshed the soldier and kept him from being the victim of chafing, irritations and such. The style was adopted when they came out of the war because the soiling and sweating could be confined to an easily washable garment instead of a formal or sport shirt which required pressing in those days. Now it is just an old custom that it still hanging on.

The other reason some men wear undershirts is to hide their chest follicles. As a hairy chested gent myself, I also fall into this category. And since shaving my chest is not an option, I wear undershirts. I don’t know how the rest of the world feels about chest hair, but I find it unsightly and so the undershirt helps me hide it away.

I don’t know if this answered your question or not, but I certainly feel like I have a bit more useless Jeopardy knowledge.

Thanks for asking.

What causes men to be passive?

According to our stats page, yesterday someone stumbled onto our site after typing, “what causes men to be passive?” into the magical Google machine.

I suspect the answer to that question is probably a bit more complex than I could ever hope to answer in a blog post and there are probably just as many different causes as there are kinds of men out there, but I have a few ideas.

For me personally, I suppose my occasional spells of passive behavior probably come from one of about five different motivatores:

1. If I’m unsure of myself or my abilities in a particular situation, that is, if I lack confidence, then I sometimes tend to take the passive route.

2. If I don’t care about the outcome of a particular scenario, that is, if I am ambivalent, then I sometimes tend to take the passive route.

3. In a difficult situation, if I don’t want to rock the boat or risk upsetting people, I may take the passive route. Being a people pleaser is definitely something I struggle with.

4. Sometimes passivity is the result of laziness on my part. For whatever lame reason, it just seems too difficult to take an active role or position in whatever scenario is calling for it.

5. If I don’t know what to next or if I don’t know how to fix a problem, then I sometimes default to the passive approach. Many times, the passive approach just feels easier than putting in the difficult emotional or mental investment required to figure out what action to take next.

So that’s me. What about other men? I don’t know, but I suspect passivity in men probably comes from a combination of the five motivators above plus a few others. I’m not entirely sure what causes other men to be passive, but if I had to guess, I’d probably put the following four reasons on the list, as well:

1. Fear. Sometimes, when a man is afraid, he leaps into action. And yet, other times… he freezes and becomes passive.

2. Genetics. For some men, I feel like passiveness is just wired into who they are. Not good, not bad, just different. This is by far the most difficult one to deal with if his passivity happens to affect you in some way.

3. Intimidation. I guess this one isn’t much different than my #1 above, but if a man is overwhelmed and intimidated by the complexity of a particular scenario, he may take the passive route.

4. Busyness. Some men who seem passive on the outside may not be all that passive at all. They might just be too busy to take action on a particular issue and so they come across looking passive.

That reasons above are by no means meant to be an exhaustive list, but that’s my brief take on why men are passive. I guess a lot of it probably also depends on the scenario and the man himself.

Faithful readers, all four of you, what do you think makes a man passive? Feel free to answer from either your own subjective point of view or what you perceive in others.

Ask a Man

Unbeknownst to either David or myself, the form on the Ask a Man section of Finding Manhood has been setup incorrectly ever since we first debuted that page. The problem (my user error) has now been fixed. I know that at least one question has already been submitted:

What kind of bear is best?

Fortunately, this question’s already been tackled in depth by our friends Jim Halpert, Dwight Schrute, and Michael Scott:

Dwight Schrute: That’s a ridiculous question.
Jim Halpert: False. Black bear.
Dwight Schrute: Well, that’s debatable. There are basically two schools of thought…
Jim Halpert: Bears eat beets. Bears, beets, Battlestar Galactica.
Dwight Schrute: Bears do not… what is going on? What are you doing?
Jim Halpert: [Talking head] Last week I was in a drugstore, and I saw these glasses for $4.00. And it only cost me $7.00 to recreate the rest of the ensemble. And that is a grand total of $11.00.
Dwight Schrute: [Back at their desks] You know what? Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so I thank you.
[Jim takes a bobblehead doll out of his suitcase and sets it on his desk]
Dwight Schrute: Identity theft is not a joke, Jim! Millions of families suffer every year!
Jim Halpert: MICHAEL!
Dwight Schrute: Oh, that’s funny. MICHAEL!

If any other questions have been asked, please accept our sincere apology for not answering. Your question is still probably floating around out there somewhere in cyber-space like a 22nd century message in a bottle that will never be found. Feel free to ask again.