What are your N.U.T.s?


A lot of the blogs I read have written recently about the need for men to have a firm grasp on their non-negotiable, unalterable terms or as Wayne Levine (the man who coined the term) calls them, our N.U.T.s.

To quote Levine:

To be the man, father, husband or leader you want to be, you must develop and maintain a firm grasp of your N.U.T.s

N.U.T.s – non-negotiable, unalterable terms—are the things that define you as a man. They’re what a man is committed to. And when these N.U.T.s are compromised, men become angry, unhappy, frustrated, depressed. They would rather blame others than take responsibility for their own actions. They’ll play the victim as they take out their negative feelings on those they love. They’re also the guys who will try to drown their sorrows in alcohol, drugs, porn, and a slew of other equally destructive behaviors.

I’ve borrowed a list of a few examples of N.U.T.s from Levine’s website and have listed them below:

* I am faithful to my wife.
* Compassion for my family trumps my need to be right.
* I am a risk taker.
* I do what I believe is in the best interest of my children, even if they disagree.
* I do not ask for permission.
* I do not indulge my addictions.
* I take my problems to men, not to women.
* I do whatever it takes to keep my family in our home.
* I honor my daily spiritual practice.
* I do not sell out who I am to please others.

Although I suspect I have an unspoken list to N.U.T.s, I don’t think I’ve ever actually voiced them to myself or anyone else, nor have I ever written them down. In the coming weeks, I’m going to spend some time thinking about what my non-negotiable unalterable terms are and will be posting them here on my blog as a permanent reminder to myself of those things that I will hold to no matter what. Some of mine will be fairly similar to the ones above and some will be quite different. Either way, I’m looking forward to the process of considering, defining, and listing my own N.U.T.s.

What are your N.U.T.s?

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.

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.


Real Men and Daily Living

Yesterday was a fairly typical day for me. Woke up at 6:18 (after hitting the snooze five times). Cut my own hair (strongly recommend Wahl clippers). Drove to work (a stop at 7-11 on the way for .69 Big Gulp).

I met my wife at the auto repair place at lunch–one of our cars’ Check Engine light had come on. We picked up lunch and she dropped me back off at work. At the end of the work day, I got a ride home from a colleague who lives relatively close to me.

A bit later, my wife arrived home from work as well. We trekked to the grocery store, picked up what we needed, then came home to prepare dinner. She fixed some delicious chicken burgers, I chopped veggies for the salad, and we sat down to a healthy and tasty dinner. My wife washed the dishes, I dried and put away. I watched my favorite baseball team, the Texas Rangers, lose to the Tampa Bay Rays. My wife flipped through her latest edition of Better Homes and Gardens.

Again, a fairly typical day. That was, until…nothing. Nothing crazy, adventurous, wild, or dangerous happened. Some might even call it a ho-hum or hum-drum day.

But not me. It was a beautiful day, inordinately full of blessings (not the least of which was companionship with my wife).

Still, it would be disingenuous to suggest that the day involved any of the risk or adventure I described a man’s needing last weekNo, the day seemed to offer nothing in the way of affirming my manhood, of testing me, of reminding me that Yes, I Am A Man.

To accept that belief, however, is to accept a myopic view of manhood. See, while I think real men need adventure, risk, and even danger, I also know that real men have to T.C.B. Take Care of Business. Laundry needs to be folded. Diapers need to be changed. Toilets need to be cleaned. Sometimes mowing the lawn isn’t fun, even if you get to use your Poulan Pro PB22H54YT riding mower with 22-hp Briggs & Stratton Intek V-Twin engine, automatic transmission, 54-inch deck, and 16-inch turning radius. Not every chore provides manly glory and the use of Tim Taylor-approved power tools.

No, sometimes life tests manhood in a different way. Sometimes the routines, obligations, and necessities of being a husband, father, and all-around man test our mettle. Allow me a football analogy to illustrate. Occasionally (and, to be honest, not often enough), we can show off our manhood the way a wide receiver shows off in the NFL. We get to leap high in the endzone, snatch the pigskin out of the air, and get both feet in bounds for that game-winning touchdown. In that glorious moment, we prove to the those watching, and more importantly, to ourselves, that we have what it takes. As John Eldredge says, in such a moment, we prove that we can come through.

For much of life (and again, for many of us, too much of life), however, we are more like the offensive linemen in the game. We keep our heads down, firing off the line of scrimmage play after play, but never seeing ourselves on the highlight reels. We slog back and forth from the huddle to the line, a bit tired but still finding redemption in our own understanding that none of the wide receiver’s glory is possible without the dirty work we do every play. And that’s one of the fundamental facts of the job: such work really matters.

Here, then, is another fundamental fact of the job: both the wide receiver and the lineman are still part of the team. And, to polish off this somewhat hokey and contrived (but not too much so, I don’t think) analogy, both the risk-taking, danger-confronting male and the daily-living, routine-finishing male are men.

That realization made me feel, as yesterday ended, as much a man as the day I rafted a Class 5 rapid on the Arkansas River. There’s so much value in being able to stand up to the daily responsibilities of manhood. I hope all my emphasis on the risk, the exceptionality, of manhood doesn’t overshadow that truth.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some shelves to dust.

A Real Man and Work

I called my grandparents yesterday to see how they’re doing. They’re both in their mid-70s, and they live a quiet, calm life in the country. We chat about once a month or so, and I visit them two or three times a year besides holidays. That’s not enough on either count, but such is life.

My grandfather and I talk about all manner of things during our chats, from his time in the military to all the animals he’s owned to his childhood in small-town Arkansas. Yesterday we ended up talking about work. My brother and my only male cousin both work outdoors, and my grandpa said that’s the kind of work he’d always preferred too. But he also acknowledged that he always took what job he could get, outside work or not. He really grabbed my attention, though, when he mentioned that one of the indoor jobs he’d worked went from 7:00 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. After that shift, he went to his second job from 5:00 p.m. until 1:00 a.m.

For the first job, he earned $72.80/week. He recalled that off the top of his head. When I asked him what he made for his second job, it took him only a moment to remember that wage: $3.50/hour.

I asked if he was already married to my grandmother when he was working that schedule. Yes, he said, with his five kids plus his younger brother and sister, who are twins. He was providing a living for eight people with those jobs.

At that point in the conversation, as I sat silently, a bit stunned trying to fathom the work ethic of such a man, he volunteered that he just concentrated on what he could control and didn’t worry about things he couldn’t.

I suppose that’s the main way a man can motivate himself to be at work by seven in the morning when he’d left work only six hours earlier. That and knowing he had people depending on him.

**********

I know my grandfather’s story is pretty typical, and not just for men of his generation. And that’s exactly what strikes me about his tale : how matter-of-fact he was toward his experience. It’s just the way things were. He did what it took. There was no entitlement, no martyrdom, no resentment in his voice.

I’m happy to have come from such stock. My grandpa reminds me that I’m fortunate enough not to have to work sixteen hours a day but that I could muster it if I had to, and that, at my best, I could muster his dogged, solid approach to such work as well.

Real Men and Living Dangerously

What do heights, needles, and birds have in common? (Besides being involved in weird/crappy tattoos.)

I’m afraid of them.

These fears keep me from doing lots of things, mostly inconsequential but not always. For one, I’ve been to the Eiffel Tower twice, but never up the Eiffel Tower. Also, I can’t bring myself to give blood. And the aviary at the zoo is strictly off limits.

Occasionally I break out, though. I’ll get my nerve up and do something a bit out of my comfort zone, like ride the London Eye or take the shot rather than the pill at the doctor’s office. Wild stuff, I know.

Really, though, I think these fears are a reflection of an attempt to be safe. I’m trying to eliminate risk as much as possible, probably in part to reduce the chances of pain, as well as in part to reduce to the anxiety that comes with the unknown.

But I also feel, maybe naturally, maybe because I’ve been reading John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart, like trying to eliminate risk is both futile (see: Ben Stiller/Jennifer Aniston movie involving ferret) and, more germane to this blog, counter to being a man. I need some danger in my life, if only a little.

And I think the danger is definitely about more than getting an adrenaline rush, though that’s certainly a powerful pull. Facing our fears or just taking risks in whatever [legal] form is also about testing ourselves. It’s about, as Eldredge says, answering this question: Am I a man?

That question can’t be answered, at least not fully, in complete safety. Of course, I’m also the guy who’s afraid of chickens. (Being feathered with talons and beaks, they freak me out. Yes, I see the irony of being afraid of a chicken.) It still seems to me that taking risks–doing something dangerous–is essential to our masculine identity.

An important point here: Sometimes I might need to be talked into that danger. Two things I’ve done in roughly the past calendar year–ride this and paddle down this–both required some serious, ahem, “encouragement” from my homeboys. This is ok. One of my core beliefs about manhood is that men need other men.

At this juncturet in the post, you might expect me to reveal a major resolution, a declaration of the dangerous activity I plan to participate in really soon. Alas, ’tis not the case. (There’s no way I’m going catfish noodling or skydiving anytime in the near future…or ever.) But by just acknowledging that I need some risk, some danger, to be a man, I’m preparing myself to take advantage of opportunities to live a little dangerously in the future. Heck, I might even create some of those opportunities.

Ways That I Am Conventionally Manly

I talked with a buddy of mine the other day who was pretty candid about our writing here at Finding Manhood. One of his main points of emphasis was that he didn’t like the posts in which Michael and I laid out ways in which we don’t fit the pattern of manliness as established by conventional wisdom

So in the interest of fairness, and because I like making lists, here are some (but not all) of the ways in which I am conventionally manly.

1.) I like to fish. I’d done so as a boy, but took a hiatus for about 15 years, until the spring of 2009. Since then, I’ve discovered the joys of wader-fishing for trout (see picture above), I’ve bass-fished in a farm pond, and I’ve fished for red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a really fun hobby, it’s peaceful and quiet out on the water, and I usually engage in it with other dudes. Plus it usually makes me smell pretty, um, “manly”.

2.) I orient myself by cardinal direction, and I give directions by the cardinals as well. This predilection didn’t begin until I started driving longer distances and moving to unfamiliar cities with regularity. At that point, I shifted from landmarks to directions and street names/highway numbers out of necessity and efficiency. Now I always want to know which direction is north, and I speak in a language of cardinals that many people who ask how to get somewhere aren’t ready for. Next step: use sun and/or stars to tell time of day and direction. That’ll be a useful skill next time I’m stranded in a desert.

3.) Like Michael, I use a shaving brush. Admittedly, I added this part to my shaving routine out of vanity. I was trying to avoid ingrown hairs and had heard that using a badger-hair brush actually makes the hair on a man’s face stick up (rather than lay flat) so that a razor can make a clean cut. I’m not sure if the brush has made a difference, but using it looks cool in the mirror.

4.) I own a drill (best wedding present ever, from my buddy Leo), a 100-something piece ratchet set, a circular saw, a stud-finder, and numerous other hand tools. And I’ve used a lot of them at least once, too! Seriously, they were mostly gifts, but at least I requested them (except for the circular saw…it’s currently at Michael’s, as he borrowed it and I told him to keep it for a while since he is much more likely to use it again than I will be to ever use it).

5.) I yell at the television during sporting events. Now, I have first-hand knowledge that women do this is as well, and with regularity, but I pretty much have conversations, either with players, coaches, or officials who will never ever hear me, or with the announcers that I typically disagree with. I also do fist pumps, jumps, sprints, cackles, and yelps in celebration.

6.) Sticking with sports: I have had a subscription to all of the following during my life at one time or another: Boys’ Life, Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News, Baseball Digest, ESPN The Magazine, ESPN Insider. I realize this tally could be topped by many readers of this fine blog, but the point is that I am typical in this way, that I actually do some conventionally manly things. Like flip through and look at the pictures first.

7.) Still with sports: I dreamed of being a professional baseball player. I had images of throwing out runners at second, smashing doubles off the wall, stealing home, hitting a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth to win Game 7 of the World Series. To this day, when people ask me if I could do anything for a career, irrespective of talent, my first answer is playing baseball.

8.) I am drawn to competition. As I get older, this urge fades, but it’s still in me to make things a contest. Michael and I have both discussed the pitfalls of this attitude, of keeping score and evaluating our life only relative to other men, but here I’m more referencing the desire to settle things, to make sure there’s a definite winner. Like when I go trout fishing, I still have to know how many fish everyone caught. And when I’m at the gym, part of my motivation is knowing that I can’t lift as much lbs. as most dudes my weight. And competition compels me even when I can’t be a part of it. For instance, my buddy Leo participated in a pull-up contest at the state fair (How country does that sound?) a couple of summers ago, and I talked more trash on his behalf than he did. And when some crazy person recently challenged my 6’4, 280 lb. brother to an arm wrestling match, I groaned that I wasn’t there to witness it. I just want to see a man matched up against another man, determining who is the best.

9.) I pretty much refuse to drink from a straw.

  • I know how Michael feels about this.
  • I do use straws at Sonic, America’s Drive-In.
  • It is impossible to look manly while drinking from a straw.
  • Not drinking through a straw gives you a mustache, and mustaches are manly.

10.) I still laugh at farts. They’re funny. What can I say?