Men, The “Line”, and other Ramblings

bobby posting:

The Kinks – A Well Respected Man (Juno soundtrack)

There’s a blog that I like to check in with pretty regularly called 22 Words.  It’s a pretty straightforward concept:  every post is simply twenty two words long.  Genius, right?  The writer, Abraham Piper (son of pastor/writer John Piper…which is an intriguing enough reason to read the blog in it’s own right), claims the blog is an “experiment in getting to the point.” I can get behind that.  I may tend to err on the other side of the amount-of-words-used-in-blog-post spectrum.  Chalk me up for 22 hundred words and I’m good to go.  But I can understand the importance of straight-forwardness.  In fact, I could spend this post waxing on and on about that balance, about the tension between brevity and longevity.  But I’m saving the sort of carpal tunnel that that amount of typing will give me for another day.  Instead, I want us to look at a recent post by Mr. Piper on his blog.

In his post entitled, “Alright guys, man up & admit how girly you are”, Piper wrote:

I’ll go first:

  • I like yarn shops and pink bathroom decor.
  • I occasionally use a straightener.
  • I’ll enjoy the church craft fair.

First of all, count the words.  22.  Brilliant.  Okay, now that we’re over that, though, we need to assess what in the world we just read.  “Yarn shops and pink bathroom decor”.  Hmm.  I may not be able to get there.  But I’m also trying to understand.  “I’ll enjoy the church craft fair”.  Well.  You’ve pushed me even further away.  But hey, maybe you like to paint.  Maybe you’re an artist.  But then there’s that one scrunched right there in the middle.  My guess is it was put there on purpose.  Piper was trying to hide it.  I used to do that when “not telling the whole truth” to my parent’s back in the day.  It’s a great strategy for marriage conversations as well.  Trust me.  Okay.  Don’t.  But really, “I occasionally use a straightener”.  What?  No.  Let me try that again.  WHAT?!?!  Really?  A straightener?  Oh dear.

What’s interesting…okay…what’s even more interesting is the fact that Piper’s little “girly” confessions were not unique to him.  Of course some men commented that they liked chick flicks and cooking for their wives.  For that I say, “well done, men.  Good for you.”  Sometimes P.S. I Love You and a good, man-cooked meal hit the spot.  But other guys on the comment sections starting crossing that same line that Piper crossed.

“I use a straightener everyday for my faux hawk.” Wait, men still do faux hawks?  Who knew.  Listen, David Beckham has moved on.  It’s time for you to as well.  Here’s your newest inspiration.

“I straighten my hair. I even have some heat protection spray for it as well.  I was late for a meal out recently because I was straightening my hair.” Okay…that makes for three men on this one blog that have admitted to straightening their hair.  What’s going on here?

I’m obsessed with bags and shoes, and my wife, who hates to shop, does not allow me to go to the mall. I can almost get behind shoes.  I like some shoes.  And we use different types of shoes for different activties.  Weddings.  Exercising.  Working.  But bags?  Multiple bags?  Being “obsessed” with them?  Interesting.  Very, very interesting.

And finally, perhaps the kicker:

“I pick out all of my wife’s clothes and makeup.  Plus, God help me, I liked the movie “Yentl” as a kid… have no idea why… I’m still seeking therapy for that one.” Oh sakes alive!  Really?!  I don’t know which of those two admissions is worse.  They’re both making me cringe.  In fact,  I wasn’t the only one.

The next commenter on the blog wrote, “I guess I’m insecure, but this comment stream feels odd to me,” followed by someone else writing, “Not that this is any reflection on these comments or the men behind them, but I can’t read these without hearing them in a falsetto voice.”

The post exploded.  72 comments.  Men, women, single and married, all responding vigorously to the topic at hand.  You can track it all yourself right here. It sort of left me shell-shocked.  You see, it felt like many of the men were crossing the line. That they were perhaps putting themselves out there a little too much.  I almost felt embarrassed for them, seeing as how they definitely were not embarrassed for themselves.  Then on the other side of things, it felt like many folks were coming down too hard on these men for opening up in the way that they did.  So what if you use a hair straightener?  What’s the big deal about pink?  Crafts are for girls…and boys, right?  Hmm…

It got me thinking a lot about the connection between Christian men and manliness.  Sure, as someone else pointed out on the site, non-Christian men engage in these kind of questions.  Have you ever really read GQ?  Better yet, have you looked at the ads in GQ?  Have you seen the demographic they’re trying to reach there?  Let that be your project next time the Missus wants to go read books at Barnes & Noble.  So it’s not just a Christian men thing.  It’s universal.

You see, men nowadays are okay with their feminine side.  Sometimes, it’s even flaunted.  “Metrosexual” was the buzz word of the early 2000s.  I even, sort of, embraced it there for a while before feeling just a bit put-off by it all.  I like a good haircut.  I know how to match my own clothes.  I know who Emma Thompson is.  But I also love sports, grilling, and camping and I hate shaving, Soaps Operas, and spending more than 60 bucks on a pair of jeans.  They’re jeans!  My guy friends buy jeans that cost twice as much as that.  Three times.  Nearly $200.  For denim!  Sorry.  That’s another post for another time.

Right about now I’m realizing the appeal of keeping your writing confined to just 22 words.  There’s so many things I want to say, so many ideas to address, so much masculinity that right now feels undressed.  My thoughts are as sprawled as the suburbs, as scattered as Waffle House hashbrowns.  But if I were to really suck it up, you know, man up, and narrow it down, here’s my two largest thoughts as I try to turn this ship back home a bit:

1 / Where does Wild at Heart and the sweeping Men’s Movement within Christianity fit into any of this?  How are we, as Christian men, supposed to respond to this?  How are we, as those same men, finding our way to and thru masculinity?

I just finished Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz.  I know.  I’m a loser.  I should’ve read it six years ago.  When it first became a National Bestseller.  But I don’t do National Bestseller’s.  I look down on people that do.  But I’m wrong.  This book would’ve been even better if I’d read it back then, while I was still in college, grappling with so much of what the book grapples with.  Same for the Harry Potter books.  Should’ve been reading them all along.  Again, I’m an idiot.  They’re all incredible.

Anyway, I’m now interested in reading what else Miller has to offer.  I’ve read a good chunk of another of his books, To Own a Dragon:  Reflections on Growing up Without a Father.  It’s incredible and I can’t wait to tackle it all (nice manly metaphor there) as soon as I get my hands on a copy.  I think it’ll answer some of my questions.  Especially all those that still linger after reading, and trying to live out, Wild at Heart. Here’s a taste for you:

For a long time I wandered around in a fog.  Manhood felt like something that had been handed to me accidentally.  I just knew somebody was going to explain I was actually a lesbian with a penis, and if I wanted I could continue to watch college football, but should probably tone down the interest in post-season baseball, as this territory was reserved for men who had killed sleeping bears.  Or for men who loved Jesus.

Hilarious.  Brilliant.  Dead-on.  Read it for yourself.  I’ll be excited to join you for that roller coaster.  Oh…and I think that’s the only time the phrase “lesbian with a penis” is used in the book.  At least, I hope.

So that’s the first issue.  Here’s the other.

2 / Did Abraham Piper even cross any sort of line?  Did those other men?  Am I just off on this one?  Is there a line?  If so, where is it?  If not, should there be?

This perhaps, is what this writing comes down to:  Is there any sort of big deal here or did I cross the line myself by perhaps trying to turn this into something it’s not?  No answers here.  Just questions.  No pretty bow to tie on the end of this one.  Make that, no pretty and pink bow to tie.  Speaking of Pretty in Pink, I’m thinking there’s some men that would like to take this opportunity to make a confession about certain movies that they might like more than they should…

I’m out.  Not “out”.  Not like that.  I mean, I’m done writing.  For today.  Hey, this paragraph?  22 words.  Brilliant.  Count ’em.


9 responses to “Men, The “Line”, and other Ramblings

  • Abraham

    But, dude, my hair is huge. I need that straightener.

  • Bobby

    For the record, the man does have a full head of rock star hair going.

    Exhibit A:

    Perhaps this is another one of those moments from my childhood. You know, one of those “not telling the whole truth” moments. Busted…

    Or perhaps Piper should just channel his strong, rooted faith alongside his folk/rock star sensibilities and go for something like this…you know, let it all hang out:

    Exhibit B:

  • zdillon

    Well, I don’t like craft fairs or the color pink, have never painted or dyed any part of my body and have never used a hair straightener.
    I do, however, own a $100 pair of jeans (though I like my $40 pair better), have outlasted my mother and sister in shopping, love to cook, and have no problem watching a chick flick.

    The heart of the matter, however, is the idea that men need to be defined in a certain light: to like the same things, say the same phrases and act in the same way. I would love to shout Amen! to the concept of men not hiding parts of themselves. I also live in Chicago and see how far ‘not hiding’ can really go.

    I don’t think there is or should be a cookie cutter shape for what a Christian man should look like. I also believe that the new metrosexual fad is as much an influence of culture as the fad that men had to be rugged, outdoorsy, and emotionless. The best answer is if we can remove ourselves from the worldly, forget who we are ‘meant’ to be and just be.

    Perhaps that is the beauty of the Greek name Yahweh- “I am who I am”

  • Taido

    Great topic.
    When I read the Miller chapter quoted from above, he could have been describing every experience I’ve ever had with “men’s ministry.” At least, the feeling I have when involved. I find it very, very difficult to accept the “biblical” portrait of man as described in those settings, when I am painfully aware that culture as much (if not more) than the Bible has shaped that understanding. I think Miller, Piper, Harrison, Dillon, and myself are all saying essentially the same thing… sterotypes of what it means to be a man are just that – stereotypes. Not so sure about the “lesbian with a penis” bit.

    Now, time to come clean…
    1) I enjoy cooking (although as has been pointed out, this is and perhaps always has been very acceptable for a man)
    2) I have no interest in televised sports (nor for matter much interest in sports at all)
    3) I probably spend more time on my appearance than I should (still not too sure about the hair straightener thing though)
    4) I enjoy the occasional chick flick (but really, I think I simply enjoy any well-made movie – chick flick or otherwise)
    5) Sometimes, I cry.
    Ok, I think that’s enough sharing for one day. Despite all the decidedly effeminate traits above, I’m fairly secure in my manhood.

  • Charles

    I watched the entire Oprah interview with Sarah Palin last week, worse yet, I recorded it on my DVR to do so.

  • Adam

    You know what? I want to be the dad that kisses his son on the cheek. I want to be the dad who cries when his kid does something special. I think I’m on my way there:

    1) I like poetry. A lot.
    2) When people ask me about my favorite movie, I can’t help but immediately flash to “Love Actually”.
    3) I have two pairs of Diesel jeans. I want another. Disclaimer: I purchased my favorite pair for $50 at a 2nd hand shop.
    4) I hug people incessently. I like to cuddle.

    That being said, I will beat any of you in any sport. Anytime. Except Bobby in soccer and Dan in throwing a curveball and Zach…well, Zach, I’ll beat you in anything. just kidding.

  • Adam

    ps Bobby I really liked the Keith Green picture you linked for Abraham. Really nice.

  • Adam

    most annoying person of all time for posting three times…but, Zach, I was just thinking you could probably beat me in poker. No wait, I beat you in that, too. bye.

  • Charles

    I’m the second most annoying person of all time (next to Adam) for posting twice in two days, but this is becoming therapeutic:

    I bought the new John Mayer CD (note bought, not downloaded), and like his duet with Taylor Swift: Half of My Heart.

    I was raised Catholic, yet I no longer do confession by a priest, but thankfully there is Via Chicago.

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