Why any guy can be a 'manly man' as a dad

What if we're thinking of manliness all wrong? If you think the only way to be a real man is to fit into some stereotype of tattoos and beer and grunting, think again. Fatherhood? It's built in manliness. | instafather.com

What if we're thinking of manliness all wrong? If you think the only way to be a real man is to fit into some stereotype of tattoos and beer and grunting, think again. Fatherhood? It's built in manliness. | instafather.com

I have never, ever been a manly man.

To be very clear, I have always been quite aware of this. Growing up I didn’t do “guy stuff” well; I never rode ATV’s, didn’t hunt, didn’t watch pro wrestling, and I was a skinny, glasses-wearing nerd before being a nerd was cool.

As an adult, I never liked beer, never got into MMA, didn’t know much about cars, never got a man cave or wanted one, and generally always had more female friends than male friends because most of the time I’d have a difficult time bonding with guys.

My brother would be a much better example of “manly man.” When something breaks in my house, he’s the first person I call. Without ever receiving formal training, I’ve seen him completely take apart our dryer that had stopped tumbling, fix it, and put it back together. I know how to use the dryer. These are not equal skills.

He can fix most anything, drive a stick shift, change his car oil, and have lengthy conversations about tractors and agriculture. He has big, strong hands and a permanent tan from working outside all the time. 

I’m on the other end of the spectrum to the point you might be surprised we’re related. I spent college doing musicals. I enjoy clothes shopping. I will openly watch “Grey’s Anatomy” (and play a fun game with my wife of “Is this a sex-pisode?” by listening to what kind of music they use). I can do some basic car repairs — learning how to replace air filters has saved me a ton of money — and am not a complete idiot with tools, but no one will call me a “handyman.” I love watching and talking about sports, but more about the behind-the-scenes transactions and the stats. I have a beard, which took me 49 years to grow. I have dainty writer’s fingers and being in the sun too long makes me burst into flames like a pasty supernova.

My brother is absolutely a manly man. He also happens to be a pretty great dad and person.

What's the definition of manliness?

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What I’ve learned since becoming a dad is that I can be a manly man, too, and still be very aware of Meredith’s latest drama while wearing a bow tie and reading Jezebel. Being a manly man, hell, even just being a man in 2017, doesn’t have to mean what we all grew up thinking it meant. It’s not “Mad Men.” 

You can be a manly man and have tattoos and drink whiskey and love Rambo. You can be a manly man and do none of those things. Because as it turns out, it's not a series of activities and body types and hobbies that defines your manliness.

It's how you act that makes you a man.

Have you been trying to figure out what manliness is when you're up to your ears in diapers and bottles? Being a dad can add to the confusion. You’ve been told for years everywhere you look that manly men-types shouldn’t be expected to do much as dads, you know, because they gotta bring home the bacon or something.

They should get praise for doing basic things like changing diapers and watching the kids (“Oh, is dad is “babysitting” tonight?). That being an involved parent is, on some level, not what a “manly man” does because that means choosing your kid over going out to a sports bar, or sometimes choosing your family over your career progress, or spending weekends taking your kid to birthday parties rather than spending time in your man cave. As if it’s an either/or proposition.

I’m only representing one dad. But for whatever it’s worth, I can tell you that I never feel as manly as I do when I’ve got my toddlers crawling all over me, or when I’ve got all three in our “walking train” holding hands as we go through a parking lot, or when I have them run toward me to give me a hug.

I could work on an oil rig. I could play for the Steelers. I could shave with a hunting knife while fighting Chuck Norris with a boa constrictor I caught with my bare hands. And that would still not make me feel as manly.

You don’t have to be a dad to be manly. Any guy can treat others with respect, look out for those less fortunate, and leave the world better than when they entered it. A glance at the news shows you how badly we need men to behave better; women aren’t demanding perfection, they are asking for us to behave the same way they are expected to behave.  And by the way, you don't deserve praise for not being a d-bag around women, the same way you don't deserve it for watching your kids.

Being a dad, though? That’s built-in manliness if you’re willing to embrace it.

Taking your baby out on your own and knowing you’ll figure out how to make it work. Being in charge of bedtime or getting your kid ready in the morning. Talking about your kid with others with the same excitement and enthusiasm you 

Being a guy is confusing. Being a man shouldn’t be.