I read a short essay by Michael Chabon in his book, Manhood for Amateurs where he writes about faking his skills at home repair. It spoke to me because recently my wife and I purchased a house and as my sister sees it, “I have much more enthusiasm about home repairs than I actually have skills to do them.”
The point Chabon makes is that as men we need to fake it until we make it when it comes to fixing the house, providing for our families and being men. Yet, he didn’t include things like knitting, child-rearing or emotions?
It seems to me that if we are testing our skills and trying to be “manly for our families,” we should apply ourselves to everything. Nothing should be off limits or too un-manly to at least attempt or “fake” in this case. Think about the time you figured out how to do laundry correctly for the first time after you moved out of your parents’ house. Think about the time you made dinner for the first time and didn’t burn it or have it explode in the microwave. While both examples tend to be roles that are traditionally seen as feminine, both are mandatory for being a functioning independent adult regardless of gender.
So, while we are taught as young men that we will “win” women by showing our muscles, I’ve learned that I’m more of a man for being present to the needs of my wife and community. This means more often than not that I’m cleaning dishes and doing the laundry and I’m pretty proud of that!
Brian Anderson serves as a Chaplain for Juniors, Seniors and Interfaith Programs at Loyola University Chicago. He received a Master’s in Student Development Administration from Seattle University where he began researching masculine identity and Men Against Violence programs. His current interests focus on how men approach their spirituality and how their faith traditions affect the formation of their masculine identity. Recently, Brian has given presentations on how Catholic Universities have addressed programming directed at men as well as received training through Men Can Stop Rape. He is a member of NASPA and their Men and Masculinities Knowledge Community.