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Chad Love: Reading Your Way to Manhood

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April 27, 2009

Chad Love: Reading Your Way to Manhood

By Chad Love

A while back I wrote a blog that was fairly critical of Esquire magazine and its notions of manhood. Click here to read it.

While several readers pointed out (and rightly so) Esquire's long and distinguished record of truly first-rate literary journalism, my point was if you're taking your manhood cues from a magazine then you're probably already a lost cause.

And so when I saw that the May issue of Esquire was devoted almost entirely to the vexing (and presumably profitable) topic of "How to Be a Man", complete with lists of man things to own, man things to do, manly men to emulate and manly behaviors to cultivate, my initial reaction was to lampoon it with a few smart-ass quips and a list of my own.

But then I started thinking about it. And then I thought some more. And I eventually came to an uncomfortable yet honest conclusion: How could I criticize when I myself am the end product of the exact same process?

I was a latchkey kid. My parents divorced when I was 10. The process was bitter and in the end my mother went to work and my father went elsewhere. That left my brother and me to figure out on our own those things generally figured out with the help of a father figure. So I invented my own moral and philosophical compass, an imaginary personal life coach and mentor culled and patched together from the pages of Robert Ruark books and Field & Stream, Outdoor Life, and Sports Afield. Back then magazines let writers write stories, real stories with meaning. And as I clumsily stumbled through adolescence toward the person I would eventually grow into, I now realize that words on pages did as much as any real person to get me there.

And I am by no means unique. There are thousands of others who, just like me, trudged the road to manhood alone because that was the hand life dealt them.

So no smart-ass for you this time, Esquire, merely a suggestion for you and any other magazine that young, confused men might look to for guidance: Without a voice to put them in the context of real life the endless laundry lists of "essential" items, skills and how-to-do-this-and-how-to-be-that sidebars mean absolutely nothing. They're just words on a page to be glanced at and discarded. But wrap them in a real story told by a real person with a real voice and suddenly they have meaning, they have guidance. Because in the end, real manhood isn't something you can achieve by checking off a list. Either in person or in print, it must be taught by example.

Comments (10)

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from FloridaHunter1226 wrote 4 years 51 weeks ago

That is how it is now-a-days. A man learns how to become what he is from the influences around him. That how it was for me atleast. The greatest influences in our life usually mold our minds on certain subjects. For me, my most influential person in my life who taught me about manhood, was my father... to me, the manliest man I knew. One thing that he taught me was that any man worth his salt would be able to survive in the wild for atleast three whole days with just his hands and without any help from anybody except mother nature. Some may say crazy but that was how I grew up and the idea that I grew up around. Magazines that have articles like this appeal to those, who I guess, are self conscious about their manlyhood. The man protrayed in magazines like this is nothing more than the popular man figure of the time that many men would love to be. I agree with you, any man who reads this article for anything more than a laugh, is already a lost cause.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from jjas wrote 4 years 51 weeks ago

A man is the person who takes care of situations when they arise, he provides the best way he knows how, he puts his wife and kids needs before his own, he teaches, he disciplines, he guides and above all he loves.

My father died when I was 2 years old. It took me years on my own to learn the abovementioned lessons (and I'm still learning). But when I see my kids doing the right things without having to be told, I know the lessons are taking and they are on their way to becoming solid, happy citizens.

Jim

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from jcarlin wrote 4 years 51 weeks ago

I can't address the issue of character in this context. Character is a result of the sum of your existence. A friend of mine once said that he gravitated to people who've had difficult times becuase they're often the most worthwhile and interesting people. I can say that magazines kept my outdoors interest alive. Outside of fishing on vacation it wasn't a big part of my city life and there was little interest from my family. When I got a bit older all of that reading helped me learn some lessons from others, but more importantly kept me interested. It's certainly helped with my hunting and fishing success overall, but I think without some of the better publications out there my first backpacking trip might have gone a lot worse. I give my respects to the magazines that helped inform me and shaped that part of the person I am. Unfortunately there are a lot of other magazines out there and I don't think many of the "laddie" magazines teach you anything to be proud of.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 4 years 51 weeks ago

A lot of deep thought in there Chad. Any person is going to be a product of his genes and enviornment. I was lucky enough to grow up in the country and my love and respect for the outdoors carried over to other things in my life.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 4 years 51 weeks ago

Those who read Esquire magazine and other rags remind me of my first duty station fresh out of Basic Training and Tech School. My Chief said to us new arrivals “forget everything you learned in tech school, you’re in the real world now!”

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 4 years 51 weeks ago

While in South Korea, the Resident Surgeon briefed us on our first day of arrival that the two bold letters on our wool Military blanket that has US printed in large bold black letters didn’t stand for “US” as in you and some sweat thing!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from peter wrote 4 years 51 weeks ago

what the hell is Esquire magazine. im guessin its for rich fagy guys

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sb Wacker wrote 4 years 51 weeks ago

lists of instructions will never have the resonance of real actual stories, they will on the other hand create excellent product placement opportunities for advertisers.
Modern life is rubbish - the matrix is not real
SBW

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from chadlove wrote 4 years 51 weeks ago

SBW, you're a Blur fan, eh?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sb Wacker wrote 4 years 51 weeks ago

Chad
they stole it from a graffiti campaign of the late 80's - but in fairness yes blur have their moments, just I'm not a fan of Damon Albarn and his mockney jackbooted annexing of the uk's cultural sedition lands.

Yes I went to see 'Monkey - journey to the west' - can you tell?
SBW

+1 Good Comment? | | Report

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from FloridaHunter1226 wrote 4 years 51 weeks ago

That is how it is now-a-days. A man learns how to become what he is from the influences around him. That how it was for me atleast. The greatest influences in our life usually mold our minds on certain subjects. For me, my most influential person in my life who taught me about manhood, was my father... to me, the manliest man I knew. One thing that he taught me was that any man worth his salt would be able to survive in the wild for atleast three whole days with just his hands and without any help from anybody except mother nature. Some may say crazy but that was how I grew up and the idea that I grew up around. Magazines that have articles like this appeal to those, who I guess, are self conscious about their manlyhood. The man protrayed in magazines like this is nothing more than the popular man figure of the time that many men would love to be. I agree with you, any man who reads this article for anything more than a laugh, is already a lost cause.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from jjas wrote 4 years 51 weeks ago

A man is the person who takes care of situations when they arise, he provides the best way he knows how, he puts his wife and kids needs before his own, he teaches, he disciplines, he guides and above all he loves.

My father died when I was 2 years old. It took me years on my own to learn the abovementioned lessons (and I'm still learning). But when I see my kids doing the right things without having to be told, I know the lessons are taking and they are on their way to becoming solid, happy citizens.

Jim

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sb Wacker wrote 4 years 51 weeks ago

lists of instructions will never have the resonance of real actual stories, they will on the other hand create excellent product placement opportunities for advertisers.
Modern life is rubbish - the matrix is not real
SBW

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from jcarlin wrote 4 years 51 weeks ago

I can't address the issue of character in this context. Character is a result of the sum of your existence. A friend of mine once said that he gravitated to people who've had difficult times becuase they're often the most worthwhile and interesting people. I can say that magazines kept my outdoors interest alive. Outside of fishing on vacation it wasn't a big part of my city life and there was little interest from my family. When I got a bit older all of that reading helped me learn some lessons from others, but more importantly kept me interested. It's certainly helped with my hunting and fishing success overall, but I think without some of the better publications out there my first backpacking trip might have gone a lot worse. I give my respects to the magazines that helped inform me and shaped that part of the person I am. Unfortunately there are a lot of other magazines out there and I don't think many of the "laddie" magazines teach you anything to be proud of.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 4 years 51 weeks ago

A lot of deep thought in there Chad. Any person is going to be a product of his genes and enviornment. I was lucky enough to grow up in the country and my love and respect for the outdoors carried over to other things in my life.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 4 years 51 weeks ago

Those who read Esquire magazine and other rags remind me of my first duty station fresh out of Basic Training and Tech School. My Chief said to us new arrivals “forget everything you learned in tech school, you’re in the real world now!”

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 4 years 51 weeks ago

While in South Korea, the Resident Surgeon briefed us on our first day of arrival that the two bold letters on our wool Military blanket that has US printed in large bold black letters didn’t stand for “US” as in you and some sweat thing!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from chadlove wrote 4 years 51 weeks ago

SBW, you're a Blur fan, eh?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sb Wacker wrote 4 years 51 weeks ago

Chad
they stole it from a graffiti campaign of the late 80's - but in fairness yes blur have their moments, just I'm not a fan of Damon Albarn and his mockney jackbooted annexing of the uk's cultural sedition lands.

Yes I went to see 'Monkey - journey to the west' - can you tell?
SBW

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from peter wrote 4 years 51 weeks ago

what the hell is Esquire magazine. im guessin its for rich fagy guys

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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