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Should I Man Up?
November 11, 2009 10:39 PM   Subscribe

Should I Man Up?

I've been struggling for a long time about what it means to be a man.

I feel like there are two sides to my personality:

A) Very supportive, sensitive and emotional. I guess this is my feminine side -:-))
B) Rough, Determined, tenacious, calm and strong under difficult conditions.

Personality A is more the norm for me.
Personality B rarely comes out - only when difficult conditions arise.

I didn't really have good male role models growing up. Dad was never around, etc.

I kind of see some movie stars as the "ideal" but that's not really realistic for me I think. Think James Bond or Tom Cruise, etc.

Ideally, I don't want to change my maleness but with Personality A, I notice that people take advantage of you much more often. They feel like they can get away with things.

I'm a patient person. So I give people second chances.

However, I think people (women especially) see this is a weak character in men. Let's say someone you trusted doesn't pay back 50 bucks and you try to get the money back but your aren't really aggressive about it. I would normally talk to the person and if they didn't pay me back I wouldn't hang around them very much or at all. But that's typically seen as weak, at least to one person I know.

I like Personality A better but I'm starting to think more and more that its not good to show it except with your very closest people.

But even then, I've betrayed more than once by the closest people.

I think people (close or not close) respect Personality A more.

I feel so confused about what a man should be in this day and age.

This isn't about trying to pick up girls or anything. There is a lot of material out there focusing on that.

I'm just trying to figure out characteristics that a man should have in this day and age and how to get them.

Any role models today (or past) that are relevant?
posted by simpleton to Human Relations (55 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
(this question has been asked on AskMe a hundred times.)

I'm just trying to figure out characteristics that a man should have in this day and age and how to get them.

There are none, besides general human decency. If people screw you over too much, move on. If 'being a man' is all you're worried about, you're just fine. You might want to get new friends, though.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:43 PM on November 11, 2009 [6 favorites]


A man doesn't change who he is to please other people.

So man up, and don't change who you are to please other people.
posted by twirlypen at 10:47 PM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


An adult man doesn't change who s/he is to please other people.

So man up be an adult, and don't change who you are to please other people.


Fixed that for you.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:55 PM on November 11, 2009 [17 favorites]


You are large. You contain multitudes.
posted by scody at 10:56 PM on November 11, 2009 [8 favorites]


But human decency applies to both men and women.

I agree with the idea that men and woman are equal from many angles. But they are also different from other angles.

Its certainly possible for a woman to have Personality B - characteristics normally associated with men.

But its also possible that she wants to understand how to be more of Personality A: feminine style.

If you encounter a male who is very much Personality A, you might even wonder if he is gay, which is fine if he wants to be that way but maybe he doesn't.

Part of me is getting confused by all the music and movies that are filling my mind.

I'm trying to focus on both visual and non-visual characteristics of men.

For example, I think the lead singer has a really cool and manly presence:

Whitesnake - Slow and Easy (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gW4LQN1Bx1Q)

I feel like a dork trying to analyze what it is that he is doing to give him that presence.

But I really want to know how to develop myself in this way.
posted by simpleton at 11:02 PM on November 11, 2009


I think what works best is to learn to handle your own emotions and accept feeling them. When you get good at that, people can't take advantage of you and you become impervious.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:04 PM on November 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


And I just want to clarify that I'm not trying to change FOR other people.

Unless I'm confused.

This is really for myself to trying to find my masculine side.
posted by simpleton at 11:05 PM on November 11, 2009


You're thinking about who you want to be in terms of stereotypes--man, woman, movie star. That's a road that'll lead to sadness. Think instead in terms of what you think an adult should act like--what you should act like.

Real adults don't role play the person they want to be. They set their own standards and live up to them, or fail and try harder next time. If you feel like you're not getting on in the world as well as you could because of the things you're doing and the way you're acting, that's a basically healthy approach: You're saying to yourself "how am I responsible for my situation?" The answer isn't to be found in role models that seem to do well. It's in figuring out for yourself what you can do better.
posted by fatbird at 11:09 PM on November 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


This is really for myself to trying to find my masculine side.

Be aware that, as you try to find it, everything you see in movies and on TV and popular media is a shallow caricature of what masculinity is.
posted by fatbird at 11:11 PM on November 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


Why are you letting other people with their incredibly narrow definitions of 'men walk like this, women walk like this' decide who you are?

All there are, are stereotypical 'male' and 'female' characteristics. So how about one of my favourite lesbian friends... hardcore sports nut, plays hockey, the whole nine yards. Also spends more on hair care and clothing than most hardcore girly-girls I know. Or my boss' wife--loves her mani-pedis and shopping, runs a fine dining restaurant (and two retail locations, and a wholesale location) with ruthless efficiency, and can talk football and baseball with the boys not enough to get by, but in many cases far outstripping their knowledge and passion. Or my now-dead friend, a blacksmith by day, drag queen and fashion designer by night. Or me... I love musicals, love bubblebaths, and can gut and clean a whole fish with no problems.

Who's masculine? Who's feminine? Why are these distinctions so important to you? If you find yourself being taken advantage of, that is your choice; people can't 'get away with things' unless you let them. Out of curiosity, how old are you? I'm guessing late teens/very early twenties? You will find, with more time, that when other people are judging you for not being a 'man', they have shown you precisely what their opinion is worth: less than nothing.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:18 PM on November 11, 2009 [13 favorites]


(this question has been asked on AskMe a hundred times.)

Hey, do you happen to have links? I'm interested in reading the other answers.
posted by serazin at 11:18 PM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is really for myself to trying to find my masculine side

Pop psychology really is responsible for no end of trouble, isn't it?

It all boils down to what fatbird and dnab said, plus this: whichever way you split human beings into categories, you will find wider differences within each category than you will find across the categories, except on the specific attribute you used to form the categories in the first place.
posted by flabdablet at 11:27 PM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Guy A and Guy B are both great. The trick is to do them both! Be YOU. You are already both guys. Be the best you can to everyone and once in awhile you have to make a noise or something signaling that maybe you don't HAVE to be so nice, so Guy B sometimes has to take the stage.
Let Guy A be your default position, and be Guy B when you need to.
posted by bebrave! at 11:35 PM on November 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


You seem to have a very binary kind of outlook here. Surely you can be sensitive, and nice, AND relentlessly pursue debts.

I think modelling yourself on fictional characters is a really bad idea. And your choice of role models is worrying.

Rough, violent, threatening men, in reality, tend end up in jail or in hospital, or both, as they meet the consequences of regular violence. And someone who isn't by nature aggressive, trying to be threatening, is likely to come to an even stickier end. Hollywood male behaviour is fantasy and wish-fulfillment for men who would like to feel like alpha males for a bit. It is not a guide for a happy life.

If you want to project confidence and solidity, being happy with your personality as it is is foundational. If you are essentially gentle, good for you. The world needs more of that.

Here is something that may interest you. I have been having a great time reading the books of Robert Sapolsky. Sapolsky is a primatologist, and a lot of his work is studying dominance in baboons, and how this impacts their stress levels and ultimately their health and longevity.

In one of his books he made an observation that has really stayed with me.

Dominant male baboons are stressed a lot of time: on the way up, as they fight, at the top, as they protect their position, and on the way down, where the other baboons kick the shit out of them. They get laid a lot when they're at the top, but only then, and the female baboons don't like them, and won't have sex with them unless forced.

Submissive baboons are stressed too, because aspiring dominant baboons kick the shit out of them all the time. They get sneaky sex occasionally, but the female baboons aren't keen on them, because they're losers.

But there is a third male baboon strategy. These baboons don't pick fights (although they defend themselves when picked on), stay out of trouble and keep the peace, and are nice to female baboons. Inasmuch as baboons can be said to have friends, they are friends with female baboons as well as males. And it turns out that these guys, what you might call the mellow baboons, live a long time, get laid a lot, and as measured by hormone levels, appear to be unstressed and happy.

Hollywood males are dominant baboons. You seem kind of worried that you are a submissive baboon. I think that if you want to change your life, being a mellow baboon is the way to go. It's certainly what I aspire to these days.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:38 PM on November 11, 2009 [25 favorites]


I understand that a person can have a mixture of characteristics, whether they are a man or woman.

And I agree that categorization is difficult.

I think my issue that I no longer like certain traits in myself as much as I used to.

Anything that makes me appear or feel weak or vulnerable I want to minimize. Maybe I'm trying to protect myself from being used by anyone.

If I stop thinking in stereotypes of man versus woman and just focus on characteristics that I want to project, then here they are:

Confident
Strong
Intense
Intelligent
Mature
Calm
Honest
Respected
Assertive

Instead of:
Emotional
Apologetic
Too Giving


I feel like I'm trying to define myself not redefine myself for others.

I guess I just need to practice those characteristics that I admire.
posted by simpleton at 11:52 PM on November 11, 2009


To serazin, can you clarify what you mean regarding links?
posted by simpleton at 11:53 PM on November 11, 2009


Ok. It sounds as though you want to develop a skill called "assertiveness".

Assertiveness comes down to using techniques that you can practice and get better at. There are a lot of self-help books on assertiveness, or you can even take classes or engage a therapist if you live in a larger city. For example, a classic book in this genre is When I say no, I feel guilty. My late mother used to teach assertiveness courses as night classes for women who felt they were being pushed around, and it definitely worked for them.

I suggest you google the term and look for assistance in your area, and books in your local library.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:01 AM on November 12, 2009


Oh, just the very first comment in this thread was someone saying this question had been asked before. I'm wondering if that person was remembering specific previous questions, because I was curious to read those old responses.
posted by serazin at 12:02 AM on November 12, 2009


You don't need to "man" up. You just need to person up. Be who you are. There's no need to overthink this stuff. Everyone's different. Be who you are, and you'll eventually attract the right people. React to things in the way that makes natural sense. Let life happen to you, socially speaking.
posted by padraigin at 12:13 AM on November 12, 2009


I think my issue that I no longer like certain traits in myself as much as I used to.

Anything that makes me appear or feel weak or vulnerable I want to minimize. Maybe I'm trying to protect myself from being used by anyone.


Which is more important? Not appearing weak/vulnerable, or not feeling weak/vulnerable?

If appearances matter more, I suggest you work on reducing the importance you attach to appearances in general, by reasoning along the lines suggested by fatbird and dnab. In fact we have very little control over the judgments that other people pass on us, and it's worth continually reminding yourself of that until what you imagine other people are saying about you ceases to trouble you. You know how you are, and you know whether you're the kind of person that you could respect, and that needs to be enough.

If feelings matter more, then training up your assertiveness will indeed help a great deal.

Also: vulnerability and weakness are different. Vulnerability is the absolute cornerstone of any good close relationship, and a willingness to be vulnerable in situations where that's appropriate, despite the terrible pain that this policy will occasionally cause you, is a sign of inner strength. Mind you don't throw out the vulnerability baby with the unassertiveness bathwater.
posted by flabdablet at 12:23 AM on November 12, 2009


Now why are you depending on movies and music to tell you who you should be? What you need is to strive to be a whole person. I have to wonder if you've given a fair chance to the parts of yourself you don't like. Have you had much of a social life? Have you spent a good amount of time with both men and women? Your ideas of what women want in "a man", do they come from actual women in your life who've meant something to you (partner, friend, mother, sister, etc.), or are these based on stereotypes? "One person [you] know" didn't appreciate your character, but how reliable a judge of character is this person anyway?

I think you need to be around more people, make better friends. It's the only way to feel more like the human being you are and less like "the man" you think "other people" need you to be. Those other people are nameless and faceless at this point, stereotypes just like the one you're building up of yourself. All of your weaknesses hide strengths. You can't cast them out and become someone else. And people worth having in your life won't want you to.
posted by Danila at 12:29 AM on November 12, 2009


First of all, it's perfectly normal to look to fictional characters to find role models or simply see traits you want to possess. It's obviously all an illusion and I'm sure you know that, but we've all done it at one time or another and I'm surprised at the grief you're getting about that. Again, it's normal.

You sound like you are dealing with a great amount of insecurity. You don't seem to feel comfortable in your own skin. Now, don't beat yourself up about that because a lot of people don't. Maybe even most. Maybe even a lot of people who have responded in this thread. I looked at a couple of your past questions and it's clear to me you have issues regarding your own identity and an anxious insecurity. I urge you to consider talking this through with a mental health professional - one who is trained in cognitive behavioral therapy and can help you process all these conflicting feelings and insecurities you have about yourself. It's nothing unusual, don't give that a moment worth of worry, (we all have our hangups), but it's worth straightening out to lessen your anxiety and allow for a more comfortable workaday existence. You'll find you're no different than anyone else navigating this thing we call life, we're all mariners seeking answers in a sea of questions.

Good luck to you!
posted by Gerard Sorme at 12:42 AM on November 12, 2009


Personally speaking (as a male), I think one of the best signs of being a man is looking out for other people.

As a man, you have an inbuilt advantage in terms of being able to defend someone (verbally at least) who's being harassed. This goes double for if you happen to be a white heterosexual male. (This doesn't mean wading into a fight or starting one for the hell of it. With great power comes great responsibility)

George Clooney is, I'm sure most men and women would agree, a reasonable role-model in the sense that he will defend the downtrodden, right down to defending film crew members from a stressed and shouting director. Although it probably didn't need to come to blows.

The truth, of course, is that you can be both A and B. You can be sensitive, calm and understanding to the needs of others, while still being resilient and calm under extreme situations. One does not negate the other.

As for people who are taking advantage of you - walk away from them. They're not worth it. If the money is worth it, go through a court of law. Punching them in the face won't get you your money back - money sharks, for one, use intimidation, not violence. And intimidation isn't going to get you anywhere unless you are actually good at it.
posted by almostwitty at 2:32 AM on November 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


Take for example your desire to be "calm". Buddhists, as a very big generalisation, seem to be pretty calm people, on the whole. Try looking into how they manage to be so calm, and then try to emulate them.

Also, consider working out what "calm" means to you. Does it mean "low levels of adrenaline"? Does it mean "not raving when provoked"? Does it have a more Buddhist, mindfulness aspect to it? Or maybe it means "stoned"? When you know the essence of what calm means to you, you can start looking for those things that will bring you that calm.

One other thing - don't try to project anything. If you have a specific aspect, that aspect will show itself anyway. There's no need to try to force it, and doing that could be a bad thing in the long term.

Self development can be a really fun and rewarding thing. But it's important not to see yourself as flawed until you get the traits that you want. You're not flawed right now, you're just different to what you want to be. Observe, but don't judge.
posted by Solomon at 3:28 AM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I don't think this is a gender thing, seriously:
Because your first list (bar the inclusion of intense) is pretty much what I aim for, and I'm a middle aged woman. I've slightly editted your second list, because I find that manly men, mature, confident and strong men are also emotional sometimes, apologise sometimes and generous.

Confident
Strong
Intense
Intelligent
Mature
Calm
Honest
Respected
Assertive

Instead of:
overly Emotional
overly Apologetic
overly Giving

So how do you do it? Listen more, do a lot of people watching, practice patience, review your actions and think of better ways (if necessary) to behave. Rinse & repeat.

I actually keep a notebook on virtues (if you like) and behaviours that I admire, and advice from different sources (a book or a movie or a website) so that I can learn from it and grow.
posted by b33j at 4:09 AM on November 12, 2009


Look this is not a "Man" issue, this is just a "Nice GUY" issue....there's this wonderful book Called "No More Mr. Nice Guy" who really helped me a lot with this aspect. I also read "Holding on to your nuts: the guide to being a male in a relationship" both of them let you know that it is ok to be "NICE" but teach you the important of saying "NO" and also how to and WHEN assert yourself in a way that may not e considered as nice.
posted by The1andonly at 4:48 AM on November 12, 2009


Dude I was so you this time 3 years ago. And you're right, lots of people thought (still do, I think) I'm gay (horrors! (sarcasm)), but what irritated me more was not being taken seriously. We can all talk about what masculinity is or isn't or should be or can be, or whatever, but realistically you're absolutely right. In most places, in most professions, sensitive giving guys who are generally amiable to everything aren't treated in the same regard as tough guys.

So I still do the things that (ignorant) people look weirdly at me for...I coach a girls' soccer team, I work in social service, I'm the vocal sprinter on our adult team, I've always got a story to tell and I'm animated and jokey at work. Didn't change for anybody.

What I did do was realize that I told a lot of small white lies, and maybe some bigger gray ones. So I stopped that. I'm still the sensitive, introspective, tell you what you're thinking but you're afraid to say friend. What I don't do is mindlessly agree, what I don't do is sympathize with everyone about everything, and what I don't do is internalize what I think about what people say to me. I don't do it in friendship or professionalism. I am interminably polite at all times, especially in my work, but I've gotten over my aversion to confrontation and getting directly to the point.

So yesterday when I was letting my friend SSH into my home computer to grab some software and he was bitching relentlessly about how MS was stupid because he couldn't find the Remote Desktop Connection button, and when he was questioning his marriage (and when she was), they asked me for my opinion and they got it, without any sugar coating. I usually say things like "It's none of my business and I don't think you want to hear my opinion. Do you really want to hear it?" And if they say yes, and they always say yes, they get it. Politely, because I love them---but they get it minus the sugar.

So now I'm the honest friend. What's funny is that people ask me all kinds of questions they never did before because they know I won't lie. "Does this shirt show my boobs too much?" (Answer: well, because you're my friend, yes. IRL--no, because there's no such thing as too much boobs.) "Do I look fat in these pants?" "What should I do about Thanksgiving with her parents?", etc.

Dunno if that helps, but it's helped me. When people know that I have intelligent insight and am not afraid to say it, and when they know I'm going to directly ask them about failures, they buck up a little.
posted by TomMelee at 5:02 AM on November 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


People can be said to have layers. Build yourself from the inside core outward, not from the outside in.

That is, decide -- I do not say discover, or understand, or learn -- but decide what you want, the many things you want and which are most important. These will underlie your values. Your values will underlie a thousand small decisions, and a thousand more momentous decisions. Will you speak to a stranger? Will you learn kung fu? Will you write your own web application? Will you browse through all the AskMe questions about shopping for men's jeans before buying your own? How well do you have to know someone before loaning them money?

All those answers come from your values and from knowledge you acquire because of your values. Because of that, you'll have a solid, consistent personality, and even though little is certain in this world, and nobody really knows what it means to be "masculine" in other than a limited biological sense, you'll be secure in knowing that whatever you are, you mean to be that way.
posted by amtho at 5:16 AM on November 12, 2009


The qualities you desire are actually fairly universal, and not related to gender. Maybe I can offer a few suggestions on how to get those qualities. However, I don't think having them will make you "more of a man", nor do I think you are "less of a man" right now. They might make you happier and more comfortable with yourself, which sounds great.

Confident - I think how confident you appear to others has a lot to do with how confident you are with yourself. To become more confident, practice self-acceptance relentlessly. The attractive "I don't need your approval, I'm already OK" attitude comes from a deep sense of knowing that you are ALREADY OK.

Strong - I expect you mean mentall, not physically strong. Nevertheless, to feel strong in both ways, exercise. Do some endurance sport - swimming, biking, running, skiing - to give you a sense that you can push through your limits and keep going even when you feel like stopping. Lift weights to increase your strength and give you a feeling that you can handle whatever comes your way. Of course, it won't make you superman, but it really helps with the self-esteem.

Intense - Have interests! Don't be ashamed of them, whatever they are. Don't talk peoples' ears off about them, of course, but don't hide what you're passionate about. If you're not passionate about anything right now, actively search out things to be passionate about.

Intelligent - Think about the depth and complexity of the world you live in. If you ever have an opinion, question it - play "Devil's Advocate" with yourself. Try to see every side of every issue. Do not get "stuck in your ways". Read provocative books and talk to a wide variety of people.

Mature - My favorite definition of maturity: "being an adult is just showing up every single day". Which is to say, you don't have to be perfect or ultra-competent or any other unrealistic standard, you just have to take responsibility, even when it's hard. Just step up to the plate, and know you will be able to handle (possibly with help, which is totally fine) what comes your way.

Calm - Practice meditation. I've meditated 30 minutes a day for several years now, and I could practically write a book about all the ways its improved my life. If you don't know how to meditate, learn from a real teacher or an experienced friend. (Or a book, though I think it's really helpful to have somebody to ask questions of.) Also, choose being happy over being right.

Honest - I'm sure you already know how to tell the truth. Perhaps the next step when it comes to honesty is not hiding what you are afraid for people to know. As appropriate (of course), put yourself out there. Then, practice being honest in your own thoughts. When you think things like "I'm not much of a man" or "I'm really pretty lousy" - CHALLENGE them. Do not allow your mental commentary to lie to you.

Respected - Trying, in any way, to make other people respect you, is a recipe for disaster and often looks a lot (to others) like hubris or power-hungriness. Be humble, and in a tough situation, do the thing you would most respect in another.

Assertive - You have a right to be here. You have a right to all the things you need to be happy (note: nobody needs any particular object, or whatever, to be happy - this is not the same as entitlement). You have a right to be treated as the valuable human being that you are. Don't forget that. Also, assertiveness training is big these days and could certainly help.

Instead of:
Emotional - This is a wonderful quality! Many people feel isolated and trapped by emotions they feel, even though those emotions are totally universal. By showing emotions (plus appropriate maturity, of course), you let other people know they're not alone and connect ona deeper level to those around you. Also, bad things happen when people bottle up their emotions. There's a lot of research about that.

Apologetic - Honestly, I think it's rare that a bad thing comes from apologizing. If you're apologizing constantly, almost as a reflex (and I've know some people who do that), just treat it as if you were saying "like" too much, or something like that, and try to watch your speech - not as if you're a weakling with a big apology problem. If you still feel badly about this issue, perhaps you can learn to separate times when YOU actually feel apologetic from times when you empathize with others and feel badly about their situation - maybe then, you don't have to say "sorry"; you could say "that must be really hard", or something like that.

Too Giving - Unless you're making people uncomfortable, is there really such a thing? Maybe, if you're failing to give yourself the attention and time you need. Take care of your needs first, so you can take care of others without feeling stretched. Then, don't worry about it.

disclaimer: I'm an early-20s-female, so I have zero experience being a man, and not as much experience being any kind of human as many others here.
posted by Cygnet at 5:22 AM on November 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


We're all of us just making it up as we go along. Don't get fixated on emulating others. Strength is often shown by a willingness not to use it. There's no right answer. Be you: it's all you CAN do. And if that doesn't fit comfortably into the typical slots allotted for male behavior then congratulations! You're on your way to self-definition.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 5:52 AM on November 12, 2009


I agree with those that said assertiveness. Standing up for yourself can make you feel a bit more like personality B. Even if it doesn't, you'll no longer let people walk all over you.

This is a good book.
posted by jmmpangaea at 6:00 AM on November 12, 2009


But human decency applies to both men and women.

Exactly.

I agree with the idea that men and woman are equal from many angles. But they are also different from other angles.

Yes -- they have different anatomy. And they've also had different types of experiences that they've had to deal with (not as many men have been catcalled on the street, and not as many women have had to worry about being drafted); but those are experiences, not personality types. Beyond that....that's kind of it.

Its certainly possible for a woman to have Personality B - characteristics normally associated with men. But its also possible that she wants to understand how to be more of Personality A: feminine style. If you encounter a male who is very much Personality A, you might even wonder if he is gay, which is fine if he wants to be that way but maybe he doesn't.

Except -- it is only in some societies that they think that "Personality B" means male, and "Personality A" means female. In other societies, it's the other way around. Which means -- the only reason that YOU think "Personality B" means male is because you grew up in a society where, years and years ago, people decided "Personality B means this." And -- maybe those people years and years ago were wrong.

Moreover, maybe the whole idea that "Personality A" or "Personality B" have anything to do WITH gender in the first place is also wrong.

Part of me is getting confused by all the music and movies that are filling my mind.

That's your problem. You're looking at music and movies as being "true". They're not. They're made up ideas about what men and women are "supposed to be like".

I'm trying to focus on both visual and non-visual characteristics of men. For example, I think the lead singer has a really cool and manly presence:

Whitesnake - Slow and Easy (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gW4LQN1Bx1Q)


Well, I'm a woman and I don't think he looks "cool and manly" at all. Instead, I think that lead singer looks vain, as if he is trying desperately to hang on to his adolescence. He's worrying about how he LOOKS rather than who he IS. He's trying to preen and show off how "great" and "cool" he is, because he's too afraid to actually reflect on himself and think about who HE is. He's bought into some one else's idea of "what a man is" and is trying desperately to pretend to be that, rather than just asking himself, "well, wait a minute, I'm male but I have Personality A -- so therefore the people who said that Personality A was 'womanly' are probably wrong. Okay then."

So to me, that lead singer doesn't look "cool and manly" -- he looks "desperately immature."

I feel like a dork trying to analyze what it is that he is doing to give him that presence.

Perhaps this is because your innermost self knows "I'm not really like that, I should just be myself."

THAT'S what being a man is like -- being yourself, and being confident that "I am me, and the fact that I am male makes these characteristics MANLY, and sod what anyone else says about it."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:10 AM on November 12, 2009


Quick book recommendations:

Robert B. Parker's Spenser novels, up through about 1988's Crimson Joy

Russell Brand's My Booky Wook

Plutarch's Life of Alcibiades
posted by nicwolff at 6:29 AM on November 12, 2009


UGH blah blah blah. Maybe you all wish you didn't live in a gendered society, but the poster does, and maybe you and your circle of society has chosen to exit from gender roles, but the poster hasn't, and maybe doesn't want to. Just like the hockey-playing lesbian is free to buy a $200 flat iron, the OP is free to design his own gender identity, and he has chosen one that other people happen to have chosen, too, and it happens to already have a convenient label.

Now for the links to previous questions--I'm sure there are more but these are two that I answered myself and so can find quickly:

Leadership in Film and TV

Positive Male Behavior
posted by thebazilist at 7:22 AM on November 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


How Do I Become More Manly?
posted by thebazilist at 7:25 AM on November 12, 2009




Don't apologize unless it's necessary because you really screwed up. Don't apologize unless you were wrong. Fix the problem if it can be fixed but don't apologize. If you inadvertently change the settings on the copy machine, say "I didn't notice. Let me fix that." instead of "Oh, sorry, I didn't notice. Do you want me to fix it?"

Don't use "sorry" to mean "I feel sorry for you". It's very feminine.

Don't use qualifiers. Take this sentence: "I think that we should go to the park, if you want" and change it to this sentence "Let's go to the park."

Don't lend people money if you aren't going to get it back. You have the reputation of being an easy mark if multiple people are asking for this. Say no. If you want to give it as a gift, do so. If you lend and you want to get it back, do so. This half-step where you fake like you don't care says "walk all over me and I'll pretend to like it"

Are you intimidated by women? Scared you'll break them? You won't. We can deal with tough shit and responsibilities. We can deal with men who say no.

Consideration, good. Refusing to set boundaries and assert yourself, bad.
posted by kathrineg at 9:14 AM on November 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


I will second the UGH blah blah blah. What is wrong with wanting to tap into your inner testosterone? What is wrong with trying to tap into your inner Gary Cooper? We are all products of emulation and I don't think it is anymore wrong to emulate James Dean than it is to emulate your father, your boss, or Barack Obama. Movies and music are no more true or false than the stuff we see in real life. The differences of opinion lie is who people view as a model for emulation.

Hearing "Just be yourself" is easy for people who have self-actualized. Benjamin Franklin or Gandhi wouldn't have become the men they had if they decided to just be themselves. Would you tell a narcissistic, alcoholic, womanizer to be himself?

If you want to man-up or woman-up, start wrapping your head around integrity and values. If you feel like you don't have them, start practicing. If you need to see how it is done, it is perfectly acceptable to watch Henry Fonda in 12 Angry Men.

A man does change who he is for other people. In my case those people were my wife and daughter.
posted by jasondigitized at 9:34 AM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I agree with others that a big part of what you're looking for is learning assertiveness. I think learning about setting and enforcing boundaries is the other important step you need to take to achieve what you've set forth here. There are a number of books, largely targeted toward co-dependents or adult children of alcoholics (though beneficial for anyone wanting to improve their boundary-related skills), that can help you with thinking about what's acceptable to you and how to negotiate interactions so that your boundaries are respected.

Example books include
An Adult Child's Guide to What's Normal
The Complete ACOA Sourcebook
Lifeskills for Adult Children

Learn to say no when people ask you to lend money (or writing off the loan as soon as it's made if you can afford to do so and are comfortable with that) or make other requests that you'd rather not accomodate. Learn to speak up about what you do want without being wishy-washy. Learn to honor your red and yellow flags that go off in your head in response to people or situations. Stand up for others, which will also make it easier to stand up for yourself.
posted by notashroom at 9:45 AM on November 12, 2009


I think you are way too focused on male vs. female, way too focused on your personality. Be the best person you can be, regardless of gender. If you are a male, then that's manly. All the rest of it is sexist claptrap. Trying to be manly seems un-manly. Trying to be a fantastic human being is really masculine when a man does it, really feminine when a woman does it.

Gender is complicated. Some people are born with clearly boy bits, but clearly believe that they are female, and vice-versa. Some people are born with mis-matched organs and genes, i.e., boybits and XX, others are born with ambiguous bits. Gender is sometimes a hammer, sometimes a feather.
posted by theora55 at 9:47 AM on November 12, 2009


This is a bit of a departure from the other responses, but my advice for someone who wants to feel more confident, strong, assertive, and manly (or womanly!) is to take up strength training. I think physical education is often highly underrated as an aspect of personal development that applies to many areas of life, especially among those of us who pride ourselves on being intellectuals. Mind you I'm not talking about bodybuilding, or lifting weights in order to look a certain way -- although you will look better. I'm talking about training for strength. When you develop the physical and mental toughness and determination required to move an object that weighs much more than you do, you will have done wonders for your confidence and assertiveness. Everyday situations are still difficult, but they're not usually more difficult than a 300-pound squat.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:58 AM on November 12, 2009


I'll add Meditations of Marcus Aurelius to the recommended reading list.

This seems apt:

"In my father I observed mildness of temper, and unchangeable resolution in the things which he had determined after due deliberation; and no vainglory in those things which men call honours; and a love of labour and perseverance; and a readiness to listen to those who had anything to propose for the common weal; and undeviating firmness in giving to every man according to his deserts; and a knowledge derived from experience of the occasions for vigorous action and for remission."
posted by bashos_frog at 10:14 AM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Male insecurity and weakness is the biggest kept secret in the world. Males in a state of uncertainty and self-doubt are constantly portrayed as weak fools in the media. So you get a culture of lies and denial.

Unfortunately, these stereotypes are reinforced in the culture of lies.

Take, for example a recent response to an AskMe about what women find attractive: "Confidence, lack of desperation. Desperation is really repellent." It seems like its okay to say things like this, but if you were talking about women, and replaced confidence with "tits and ass" and despiration with "less attractive tits and ass" a person, man or woman, would be slaughtered for saying such a thing.

So men are constantly told by the culture, by their fathers, by women, by just about everyone that they can never demonstrate, share or even feel less than 100% confident and strong. And this causes problems because men are just like everyone else. We do get afraid sometimes, we do feel weak sometimes, we are weak sometimes.

So you have to move beyond that to an adult way of looking at these issues that actually accepts and deals with the fact that you aren't going to feel like the false depictions of men on TV. You aren't going to forever be strong, sometimes you are going to be weak and in pain. Instead of deluding yourself, like 99% of the population, that those states never happen, you can learn to accept, learn and work with those feelings without reacting to them, you will learn to be a real man. Setting aside gender issues for a moment, the quality that you are looking for as a real man is the ability to deal with the internal feelings of doubt and fear, to accept and feel them while continuing to move forward with your goals.

Others may insist that you can and must stay 100% confident all of the time and never once have or show a shred of doubt in yourself. Hardly. People like that are just in denial. And denial has a way of always breaking down eventually, sooner or later.

What is surprising is that when you learn to accept these feelings, and continue to move forward despite them, people will mistake you for a person who has 100% confidence all of the time. They will flock to you because whatever life throws at you, you can deal with the emotional fallout. People watching you will get the wrong idea though. They will think that you are 100% confident all of the time. So the cycle continues, with 99% of the world faking it, and copying the 1% who are not and who are personally acknowledging their weaknesses to themselves and working with the negative feelings we have.

I'm going to suggest therapy to figure out, long-term, how to learn to deal with the negative emotions surrounding your self-definition. Once you do that, life will open up for you because no matter what happens, you are back on the path right away.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:46 AM on November 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


chrismear said it best, here, a little more than three years ago. That is what I will teach my sons as soon as they can talk.
posted by Cobalt at 2:08 PM on November 12, 2009


Embrace personality A but learn to be more assertive. Learn how to say what you mean in a firm, pleasant way. Deliver on your promises and expect the same in return.

I have the same personality type as you, and learning to be assertive help me through this without changing who I am or what I value.
posted by dantodd at 2:57 PM on November 12, 2009


I'm just trying to figure out characteristics that a man should have in this day and age and how to get them.

You should seek appropriate situations where person B comes out that you also enjoy. Take up backpacking, triathlons, get your EMT license, etc.. If you are anything like me you walk a little taller after a weekend of winter camping or really any significant challenge.

Confidence should not be self-delusion. Just as you earn the trust of others you really need to earn the confidence in yourself. Find something you love that is a little intense, get good at it, and it will carry over into the rest of your personality.
posted by nowoutside at 3:03 PM on November 12, 2009


"Confidence, lack of desperation. Desperation is really repellent." It seems like its okay to say things like this, but if you were talking about women, and replaced confidence with "tits and ass" and despiration with "less attractive tits and ass" a person, man or woman, would be slaughtered for saying such a thing.

Wuh? For good reason! But someone could say, speaking about what they like in potential female partners: "Confidence, lack of desperation. Desperation is really repellent" and not be slaughtered for that.

The T&A parallel would work if the original commenter had said "a big penis" or maybe "rippling pecs and a rock-hard six pack." Men are not oh-so-oppressed by some stereotype that they are never desperate (I can think of a lot of male movie characters whose desperation makes them sympathetic and powerful characters). They're certainly not objectified for their confidence. (I can see the construction workers now: "Hey Marj! Getta load of the Confidence & Certainty on that guy! Walking around on two strong legs like that?? Yeow! I gotta get me some.")

simpleton, what was interesting to me about your Whitesnake video was how angry the guy seemed to be....
posted by salvia at 1:39 AM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


pssst! "Alone time" is secret code word for "go off and have a good cry." At the end of the film the hero(ine) strides away purposefully while everybody's looking. As soon as the camera cuts away, they're bawling, releasing the pentup stress. Exorcising the buildup of pain they endured to get the job done.

You will be tested, as everyone is, and hopefully you'll learn when to step up and handle an emergency without losing your head. And then later you should have a good cry, alone or with a loved one.
posted by waraw at 5:40 AM on November 13, 2009


The T&A parallel would work if the original commenter had said "a big penis" or maybe "rippling pecs and a rock-hard six pack."

The fact that the set of stereotypes pushed on one sex refer to physical characteristics and the set of stereotypes pushed on another sex are personality-related does not make them different. Its a distinction without a difference. It has got to be as difficult for women to constantly hear that they must have body parts a certain way as it is for men like the poster who are trying to find the self-love and confidence not supplied by their parents that they are repulsive. Like it or not, people such as the poster are human beings too. Should society not address these issues as well?

Dear OP, I suggest you learn to deal with moments of doubt with acceptance and learn that they are not about your value as a person. Letting them pass will make who you "ought" to be seem obvious to you.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:54 PM on November 13, 2009


Its a distinction without a difference.

I don't think it is. In fact, unlike T&A, which is clearly gendered, I don't think "confidence is attractive and desperation is not" is a gender-based stereotype.

More important to the actual question here, I actually don't think there are a lack of male characters in the media that are portrayed positively despite not being confident or self-assured. I am terrible at remembering movie characters' names, but there's a distinct vein of "new father" or "awkward boyfriend" characters whose appeal is that they are struggling to be honest and to be the kind of responsible (yet not miserable) person they want to be.
posted by salvia at 6:40 PM on November 13, 2009


Don't phrase statements as questions. Avoid making your voice higher at the end of a statement. "So I was looking at these reports?"

It is seen as being submissive and not confident.
posted by kathrineg at 8:49 PM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thanks for all the interesting responses - a lot of different views!

I just want to answer some questions people had (if I missed anyone, please let me know):

Which is more important? Not appearing weak/vulnerable, or not feeling weak/vulnerable?
posted by flabdablet



From all the different responses, it seems everyone has to find a balance that fits them. For me, I would say roughly 40% appearance, 60% feeling.

Now why are you depending on movies and music to tell you who you should be? What you need is to strive to be a whole person. I have to wonder if you've given a fair chance to the parts of yourself you don't like. Have you had much of a social life? Have you spent a good amount of time with both men and women? Your ideas of what women want in "a man", do they come from actual women in your life who've meant something to you (partner, friend, mother, sister, etc.), or are these based on stereotypes? "One person [you] know" didn't appreciate your character, but how reliable a judge of character is this person anyway?

posted by Danila


I do like the characteristics of SOME movie stars and music artists. Not necessarily in a shallow way I think but just out of admiration.

But you are right that I don't have many real men or women "role models" in real life.

I'm actually ok at social things with both men and women but you are right that I don't have many friends and I internally feel like I have to watch my back no matter how close someone is. The result of infidelity in my previous relationship - the same person who didn't appreciate my character.
posted by simpleton at 6:43 AM on November 14, 2009


This is my brief summary regarding suggestions in this post.

I made two sections. Generic qualities for both men and woman that are admirable and masculine qualities.

Generic
Human Decency
Handle Your Emotions
We all contain multitudes
Don't change yourself to please other people.
Meet lots of real people to get a better sense of who I want to admire
Characteristics that are appealing to both men and women.
- Confident
- Strong
- Intense
- Intelligent
- Mature
- Calm
- Honest
- Respected
- Assertive (Read some assertiveness books)
- Emotionally Available/Vulnerable When Required
- Apologetic As Required
- Generous
Find the right balance of the above characteristics for yourself.
Stop telling white lies - be more truthful and direct. People will respect that more.
Set Boundaries.

Masculine
- Be a mellow baboon - from a biological perspective this is a win win situation from men and women.
- Focus on positive male role models, not just movie star and musicians.
posted by simpleton at 7:11 AM on November 14, 2009


>: It seems like its okay to say things like this, but if you were talking about women, and replaced confidence with "tits and ass" and despiration with "less attractive tits and ass" a person, man or woman, would be slaughtered for saying such a thing.

I think Ironmouth is making a false equivalency here between desperation, weakness, and "less attractive tits and ass".
Having weakness and doubt in yourself is one thing. Being overly pushy, needy, and well, desperate with other people is another. Having less-than-perfect "tits and ass" is, well, something COMPLETELY different. This analogy doesn't work.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:11 PM on November 14, 2009


For now, do your best to to state your needs clearly, without being apologetic or acting like a chucklehead. Eventually, you'll get older and have millions of other concerns and interests to pursue, and all this won't matter much any more.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:07 PM on November 16, 2009


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