4 min read

Does It Matter What We Consider Masculine?

Being manly means doing hard things in pursuit of valuable goals. Who says they have to be physical challenges?
Gravestone bearing the word "MANLY". Don't read anything into the fact that this is a gravestone
Don’t read anything into the fact that this is a gravestone | Picture by Author

Greetings friends!

I reserve the right to determine for myself what’s manly. I say that’s itself a manly kind of thing to do. It’s also manly to strategically show your sensitive side … which helps one from inadvertently becoming a jerk.

Here’s some stuff I did in the last year or so that I’m going to call manly. Even though I have my own criteria, which I will explain, I’d be happy to hear what you think about it.

I'll note that nothing in this list or the concept of manliness says anything about gender or about what women do or don't do. A lot of things would apply to any person. Consider this rather an exercise in thinking about values.

At its heart, for me, manly stands for facing hard challenges head-on. This is partly just to see what one can do, but it’s even more impressive when the challenge is in service of helping others.

I rode a bunch of bikes

I took the two-day adventure off-road motorcycle course at the BMW Rider Academy in South Carolina.

Within 15 minutes of starting our rather large R1250 motorcycles, they had us riding in decreasing concentric circles like circus bears until every one of us fell over. And that was the easiest part of the course.

I’m pretty sure I broke a rib flying over the handlebars when I bogged down in the sand pit, but I say it was worth it. The manliest part was getting out of bed on day two and, knowing what lay ahead, hauling myself back to the class.

I also went on a three-day, not quite 300-kilometer bike ride with a friend, all human-powered.

While I previously wouldn’t have considered the Lycra-clad ectomorphs on their racing bikes to be the epitome of manliness, my views changed when placing my tender bottom on the seat at the start of day three.

I ran a bunch of miles

I’ve been running for years, but the last year held some manly highlights.

  • I became one of less than 10,000 people in the world to complete the six World Marathon Majors and got a world record with a bunch of instant friends in the process.
  • I became one of less than 30 people in the world to complete all 20 of the first 20 Zurich marathons. No world record, but it meant the world to me.
  • I took part in an ultra-race called, ominously, The Longest Day, running a bit under 70K and placing fifth overall.

I shot a bunch of stuff

I shot shotguns, rifles, and handguns. Some small animals were harmed during the process. This will be controversial, I know. My attitude about firearms changed as a result.

Whether it was clay pigeons, paper targets, or whatever quail, chuk chuk, or pheasant were rousted by our tromping through the brush, there is something atavistically satisfying about pulling a trigger. I’m not proud of this, but I am honest enough to admit it.

I live in a state where we can openly carry guns, and I regularly see people doing so. I was never one of those people. But I’ve recently participated in two all-day courses: Introduction to Handguns and Concealed Carry Permit.

Does knowing that many of the people I encounter going about their business are carrying a weapon make me a more considerate person? You bet your butt. I’m from New York, where the only thing bigger than our egos is our trash-talking mouths. Not me, not anymore.

Does knowing that everyone carrying concealed had to go through rigorous training, including gun safety, target practice, and a thorough review of relevant laws, make me feel safer about knowing fellow armed citizens are there? It does.

I worked on being a good dad, a good spouse, and a good friend

For pretty much all my working years, I viewed my primary obligation as providing for the financial security of my family. I worked hard, but it was for a higher purpose.

Because I worked so much, I made sacrifices that I realized only in hindsight I was not the only person paying the price for. I’m an idiot for not seeing it sooner, but of course, my wonderful wife, my children, and all my absent friends would be affected by me working 100-hour weeks.

I retired a while back, and it took me a bit of time to get used to it. Not least of the challenges was accepting that I hadn’t done everything perfectly and facing the consequences. The last year let me focus on friends and family in a way I haven’t done for far too long.

One last entry in the manliness procession

I can’t go back and undo anything I’ve done. And I won’t wallow in regrets. But I can share lessons learned for the benefit of other seekers of wisdom, both on how to work well and how to think about living well. That’s what Klugne is for.

Writing is the most tame of pursuits when I consider how little it exposes me to the types of physical thrills or dangers I elaborated upon above. But I think of my stories as among the manliest of my achievements.

Why? Because I am forcing myself to be honest and vulnerable in service of being helpful.

Be well.

If you want to read about me injuring myself in some ridiculous race or, short of that, at least injuring my pride, subscribe for the manly details, delivered weekly.