Putting A Ring On It Doesn’t Make Him A Man
So the other day I read this article in the Wall Street Journal, entitled “Where Have The Good Men Gone” (link is at the bottom for those who want to read it). The article (adapted from the book, “Manning Up: How The Rise Of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys” by Kay S. Hymowitz) basically says men such as myself — unmarried, without children, career oriented — are not entirely men. To the author’s credit, we are no longer boys either. We’re something in between, a laughable term she calls “pre-adults”.
Pre-adults. That’s the word she uses to describe those of us in our 20s who have yet to find Ms. Right and bore children with her. The term isn’t offensive, as a matter of fact, kudos to Kay for coming up with something so scientific so as to not demean my friends and I.
But what bothers me about the term is the implication that I am somehow less of a man because I have yet to get married. As the article states:
Single men have never been civilization’s most responsible actors; they continue to be more troubled and less successful than men who deliberately choose to become husbands and fathers…Relatively affluent, free of family responsibilities, and entertained by an array of media devoted to his every pleasure, the single young man can live in pig heaven—and often does. Women put up with him for a while, but then in fear and disgust either give up on any idea of a husband and kids or just go to a sperm bank and get the DNA without the troublesome man. But these rational choices on the part of women only serve to legitimize men’s attachment to the sand box. Why should they grow up? No one needs them anyway. There’s nothing they have to do.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is what you get when you let a woman define manhood.
If there is one thing for which I am grateful it is being raised by a man who for better or for worse cared very much about me becoming a man. My pop taught me everything under the very abstract term of manhood, which means even the most laxed of activities, I better do it like a man.
I’ll never forget the time it was just me and him at the house. As I recall, my mom was a chaperone on my sister’s high school camping trip, so the women were away for the weekend. On the day they were scheduled to come back, which I think was a Sunday, my Pop woke me up at an ungodly hour, something like 5:00. He said, “Time to get up, son. We got work to do.”
The work was cleaning the house from top to bottom. The kitchen, the bathroom, the living room, everything, inside the house. When I was hungry and ready to eat breakfast, my Pops hovered over me and showed me how to make my own breakfast. I had no idea what was going on. The work felt brutal, and more importantly, unusual. I was confused by what we were doing and why were doing so many things inside the house as opposed to outside.
Consider my Pop’s worked construction. When it was time work around the house, it was always men work outside, women work inside. This wasn’t some dogmatic scheme my pop’s believed in, that’s just how the teams broke down. If my mom and sister were home they were working in the kitchen and cleaning up rooms. My Pop and I would be outside, working in the yard, working on a car or doing something of the like. Having two females and two males made this an ideal arrangement.
But on this particular morning, I didn’t quite understand what kind of statement he was trying to make. I just thought I was being punished, but I was actually being taught a lesson. Like a drill sergeant looking over his soldier, my pop’s would yelled to me all morning, “DON’T EVER LET SOMEONE TELL YOU THAT IT’S A WOMAN’S JOB TO CLEAN THE KITCHEN, TO CLEAN THE BATHROOM, TO COOK YOUR FOOD! A REAL MAN DOES EVERYTHING AROUND THE HOUSE! DON’T WAIT FOR A WOMAN TO CLEAN UP YOUR MESS! YOU CLEAN UP YOUR MESS!”
You see, I was taught that manhood isn’t defined by my relationship status with another woman or how many kids I had. For me, the lessons of manhood were steeped in individual survival. All my pop’s ever cared about teaching me was how to survive on my own, how to do things on my own. Maybe it’s been to my detriment, seeing as I’m still unmarried and without children, but I can’t say my status is a result of my pop’s lessons. He never preached to me that women were unnecessary, he was simply saying, get comfortable with being my own man.
Now I’m my own man, and when I look back at the things my pop’s taught me, I can say I don’t agree with them all. I’ve never been one to think having a woman in my life would hinder me from making progress in my career. I don’t necessarily buy the idea that women are a distraction, but I also refuse to buy the idea that I’m not a man until I get married. Getting married doesn’t make me more of a man, it just makes me some woman’s man. On my own two, I’m still a man.
The pedestal some people want to put husbands and fathers on is somewhat ridiculous. All due respect to those men who have married, ditto for the men who are fathers. But ladies (and the men who agree with them), I’m sorry, their status does not make them more of a man than me. We’re both men, just two different types. They’re not a full adult to my pre-adult, and any man or woman who thinks so obviously has the inability to define things on their own. It’s not like I’m going around saying the lifestyle of a single man is more manly than the lifestyle of married ones. I’m simply saying, we’re both men, playing different roles within the gender.
Someone once told me, “Some guys think they’re a man when a woman has sex with them but a real man knows how turn a woman’s offer down.” I feel the same can be said for marriage. There are two types of men who get married: The ones who feel they have to in order to become a man, and the ones who wait until they’re comfortable with the man they are. I don’t need a woman to make a man out of me, and any woman who gets married to a man who needs her to do is a fool.
As I always tell people, some of us men who are single are doing the world a favor. We’re better off this way for now. A real adult, male or female, knows who they are. For some of us men who are single, we know exactly who we are and it is because we are so hyper-aware of ourselves, we’re biding our time. My appetite for more than one woman outweighs my appetite for being with one woman and thank God I know that now. I would hate to be the man who gets married and realizes he still wants to be with other women and therefore decides to be with other women.
My biological father put a ring on five different women at different points in his life and he ended up dying alone, which is an unfortunate by product of living a life defined by others. I honestly think he fell in love with women and thought he was supposed to marry them, only to end up breaking their hearts or letting them break his. He grew up in a time where “real men” got married, it’s just what they did. And he was never comfortable playing the role of swaggering casanova, even though that’s probably who he really was.
Let’s face it, some men are not made to get married, but those men are still men. Perhaps they’re even more of a man because they know that much about themselves. Everyone asks me if I want to get married, as though the title of this blog is “I Don’t Want To Get Married.” Some people don’t ask me at all, they just flat out say I don’t want to get married. Neither of them are correct. They confuse my ability to embrace my single status with the idea I relish in it.
The truth is, I do want to get married one day, I really do think it’s awesome and cool from the outside looking in. I mean, all my married male friends seem to be just as happy as I am single, and they have beautiful families to go with it. So I’m not over here looking at marriage saying, “Yeah I don’t want any of that.”
What I am doing is taking my time and trying to evolve into a man who is suited and ready for marriage, but until I get there, respect me, and men like me, as the men that we are. Just because we don’t have a woman to straighten our place up, doesn’t make us more messy than the man who has a woman in his life to do it for him. As I was always taught, a real man will clean his own mess up, with or without a woman.
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The Process: Ten minutes of jump rope, done. Thanks everyone!
Poppin’ Questions Podcast: Episode 26 is up now (from there you can also see the new Until I Get Married Podomatic page). Episode 27 is won’t be this week as I’m feeling under the weather, but hit me on my Formspring or email me at email@example.com for a question to be considered.
The Until I Get Married Twitter Conversation: It went down again last night and it was a blast. To read the tweets from last week’s discussion, click here.