No doubt about it, mine is the generation of the sensitive pony-tailed man. That phrase was coined by Cameron Crowe in his movie Singles to describe a particular type of man—you know who he is—the granola loving, sandal wearing fellow with wire rim glasses and a pony tail trailing the back of his neck. This is the guy that wrote poetry in college that really tugged the heart strings and went to Lilith Fair. I’m pretty sure you have a picture in your head and know at least a few of these guys. These aren’t metrosexuals we’re discussing, metro’s are far more concerned with cologne and freshly ironed creases but they both occupy the same area in a lot of ways. Why am I writing about these guys? What’s my point? What the hell, don’t I smell good and write some pretty damn fine poetry to boot? The answers to those last questions are definitely yes. My point is simple—I think we’ve reached a point where what it means to be a man isn’t what it meant a decade or so ago. In fact, I think many of us would be unrecognizable to the male of half a century ago.
I decided to spend some time on this subject because I’ve noticed a trend in entertainment lately, men, my age and slightly younger, trying to figure out what it means to be a man, how to be a “better” man, how to toughen up this generation’s men, etc. This seems like a new occurrence to me, I don’t think World War I vets where sitting around bitching about how soft their sons, who served in World War II were. Sure, those World War II dads might have been bitching about their draft dodging, hippie songs but for the most part men were still sure of what it meant to be and how to act like a man.
At this point I’m sure you misunderstand at least part of what I’m writing about. I am in no way bemoaning the fact this generation of men is considered the most genteel in history. I am in fact one of these men (though I don’t have a pony tail nor do I eat granola or wear sandals) and am sure I am far softer than any male of any previous generation before me. I do not hunt or fish, wouldn’t sleep outside ever, under any circumstances if it can be avoided, don’t even like sitting around bon fires, don’t play (or even watch) sports, fix cars or hammer nails. I am the very model of the model, modern male (the fact that I can even make reference to a line from a musical in a column I’m writing probably says a lot about me as well!) Don’t blame me, I’m an artist. The fact that famous artists like Jack Kerouac, Jackson Pollock, Hunter S Thompson and their lot where known for playing sports, drinking hard and fist fights means absolutely nothing in this day and age. Our heroes and artists are names like Stipe, Vedder, Coupland, Gibson, et al. These men might be hard drinkers but they’ll never be accused of living the lifestyle of those that came before them, they’re not going to die from their liver exploding or wrapping their car in a telephone pole while driving home drunk from a night out with their mistress. No, like the rest of us, they are examples of the evolved man.
It used to be simple—you grew up and played ball, plowed the land, harvested the crops, you drank and got in fights, you changed your own damn oil, fixed your own transmission, hunted for a buck once a year and worked in a factory. That was a man. But we now live in cities, know sports cause brain injuries, drinking is discouraged and have apps to do the rest. We don’t know how to act anymore or what it is at the core that makes us men. Don’t think about what we don’t do anymore, spend some time thinking about what most of us do do—change diapers, go shopping, wash clothes, cook—ask my grandfather if he did any of those things, he’ll punch you in the mouth just for the question. I know I’m not the only one that thinks about these things. There are sitcoms, books, movies and countless other products that address this very topic. It’s all about why we aren’t punching out street signs anymore or how we can get back to butchering our own meat or how we’ve allowed the women in our lives to emasculate us.
No doubt there are still guys that have some vestige of the pre-evolved man inside of them. I hate to draw distinctions but these men tend to be the types of guy Tim Allen loves, the auto mechanics of the world, the truck drivers, the stock brokers in the other direction, the former frat boys. All those guys who prefer to drink a beer and watch a game on a Sunday to playing with the kids or going to a museum. They might tell you it’s the way it’s meant to be but they’re a dying breed. As sure as I’m sitting here someday soon, and I hope it’s in my lifetime, Football Sunday will be a thing of the past. What will replace it? The hell if I know.
Now, before I go, here’s the dirty secret no one talks about. Making half hour sitcoms about the new man might make for a few good laughs but we actually like who we are. We prefer it this way. We don’t want to fix our cars and solder things, we loathe having to hang walls or being forced to pretend we enjoy bowl games. We’ve evolved for a reason and like it or not, are sons are even more removed from the previous generation’s definition of being a man than we are. It’s a brave new world, we won’t be hanging dry wall in it so make sure you get a home that won’t need remodeled!