In my wanderings over the net in the last few weeks, I stumbled across a list that someone had made and was currently ticking off: How to Be a Man. I can’t remember the original list, and I can’t find it again, but at the time I recall reading it and thinking, “You’re kidding?! You need a list to work this out?!” And some of the things on the list were laughable. I won’t go into them here, but let’s just say it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine that this list had been cobbled together by a twelve year old. Or someone who has spent all his time living a life of ease and comfort in the heart of a large city.
But, for some reason, it piqued my curiosity, and I found myself Googling other sites and lists on Manliness. It’s been an education… and I found myself mentally ticking some items off, ‘Yep, done that,’ ‘Did that yesterday,’ ‘Haven’t done that, and don’t particularly want to,’ etc.
The folk who wrote the BCF commercials are up to speed with the same lists I think, and they are using them to cow men into ‘getting outside and living’. Of course their idea of living is tramping through the wilderness, bouncing over the waves, killing large fish, ski-ing behind powerful boats, etc.
Do these activities make you more of a man? Does killing an animal make you manly? Of course not. Anyone can do these things, once properly trained. Someone at Popular Mechanics put together the following short list:
1. Patch a radiator hose
2. Protect your computer
3. Rescue a boater who has capsized
4. Frame a wall
5. Retouch digital photos
6. Back up a trailer
7. Build a campfire
8. Fix a dead outlet
9. Navigate with a map and compass
10. Use a torque wrench
11. Sharpen a knife
12. Perform CPR
13. Fillet a fish
14. Maneuver a car out of a skid
15. Get a car unstuck
16. Back up data
17. Paint a room
18. Mix concrete
19. Clean a bolt-action rifle
20. Change oil and filter
21. Hook up an HDTV
22. Bleed brakes
23. Paddle a canoe
24. Fix a bike flat
25. Extend your wireless network
I scored 22. I’ve never had to rescue a boater who has capsized, unless you want to count the time I tipped my brother out of his blow up boat years ago, and I simply refuse to bleed brakes. Brakes are something I leave to experts. We shouldn’t play with brakes folks. I’ve seen enough people try to save money by repairing their own brakes, and what they are doing is gambling with their own, and their families, safety.
Fixing a dead outlet is one I have done in the past (under sufferance), but I’m pretty sure is very illegal. This is also a job for an expert. Those experts are called electricians. Other experts you may get to meet doing this sort of job are Firemen, Ambulance Officers, Electrical Inspectors, Insurance Agents, Forensic Scientists, Policemen, and Judges. Not smart.
And extending my wireless network is not all that high on my list of Things to Do either. But is it a comprehensive list? Nope. Far from it. Other lists included such gems as:
Tie a bow tie (yeah right!)
Shake hands (if dogs can do it properly so can you)
Handle a blow out (screaming like a little girl while you do this is going to lose you a lot of points fellas. Try and remain calm, if only for the sake of your family, or the bus load of passengers you are transporting.)
Get a car unstuck (hopefully it will be someone else’s fault that the car is stuck in the first place.)
Light a fire (but not in Victoria!)
Build a shelter (a cardboard fort doesn’t count… then again…)
Kill, clean and eat an animal (another seagull anyone? There’s plenty here…)
Treat snakebite (how about ‘Avoid a snakebite’?)
Fell a tree (without hitting your house, car, or your mate who is standing nearby drinking your beer and laughing at you)
Tie two knots (does not include shoelaces, or double granny knots)
Learn a poem off by heart (The sun kisses the morning sky, the wind kisses the butterfly, the dew kisses the morning grass, and you my friend can kiss my … is not a poem. Seriously, learn another one.)
Of course there were others who added their voices to the lists:
Ride a motorbike (sensibly)
Be man enough to play dollies with your little girl (but be smart enough not to let anyone photograph you doing it)
Not panic in an emergency (even if you are to blame)
Hang a door (and fix a door knob)
Learn to use a variety of power tools (still have all ten fingers afterwards)
Hunt (for what? Animals, wanted crims, lost car keys, socks, edible stuff in the back of the pantry?)
Handle puncture wounds (on others and yourself… see ‘power tools’)
Mix drinks for a large group (more beer anyone?)
Cook for a large group (more snags anyone?)
Parallel park (without swearing, or acting all smug)
Another gave sage advice from the Karma Sutra: “Give orders – take orders, prepare food, arrange flowers, design and build a home, sew clothing.” And I was thinking that the Karma Sutra was all about ‘flexible exercises between consenting adults’.
And then there was this from sci-fi writer Robert Heinlen: “A Human Being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, co-operate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, and die gallantly.” (Yes, then after breakfast…)
Wait a minute, ‘Plan an invasion’?! Where does this bloke live, and what do his neighbours think of his list? And he shouldn’t he have added, ‘Wash your hands after pitching manure, prior to cooking a tasty meal’?
My wife, on the other hand, said that there were other important skills that all men should know that were missing from the lists. They should be able to:
Give good back rubs (for a long time, without an ulterior motive, and without complaining)
Put the toilet seat down
Not ignore dripping taps
Change the toilet roll
Be civil to in-laws and old school friends.
Say ‘Thankyou’ when handed dinner. Do not grunt.
Offer to help with the dishes
Break wind outside the house
Admit when you are wrong, and learn to apologise
Realise that you are always wrong. Don’t argue.
The list went on and on, and there was some stuff in there about listening and paying attention… I think.
Of course I think that Real Men would scan such lists on How to Be A Man and laugh derisively before gazing toward the horizon in pensive way, as their thumb tests the sharpness of their knife’s and their right hand guides the tiller of the ship they’re sailing to New Zealand, as part of the invasion force they put together, to show the world that “You, my Son, are a Man.”