Manliness: The Art of Ruining Your Life for the Better

Joseph Wood

Whitman students love to ask the question, “What does it mean to be a man?” Most often, we regurgitate our cookie-cutter answer that society forces guys to conform to its vision of what it means to be a man. I don’t understand people’s problem with this. In fact, I want to show you the ways in which I have strived to fulfill the following attributes of manliness that society promotes, or at least the ones that dragontit62 posted on Yahoo Answers:

1) Be physically built with ponderosa pine trunk legs and the chest of a sweaty Finnish gymnast. I am still working on the physically built thing, but I can somersault like a gymnast, even down a hill. I always feel nauseous afterwards, though, so my primary resolution for this New Year is to be able to roll down a hill like a man without throwing up as I tumble down the hill, arms splayed out, covered in grass stains and not in my own puke.

2) Be a good dancer like Patrick Swayze in “Dirty Dancing.” I’ve improved my dance skills significantly in college by grinding by myself on a wall in TKE. The real breakthrough for me was giving up everything I enjoyed about dancing, like the sprinkler and the shopping cart dance moves and exchanging them for moving my hips side to side doing the same damn motion for an hour.

3) Be physically and mentally tough. I feel that I have sufficiently satisfied both aspects of this requirement. I have scars to show my physical toughness, one on my lip from where I accidentally walked into a pay phone and fell back cutting my lip and giving myself a concussion. My other scar is a good six inches and is from this year, when I drunkenly somnambulated off my bunk and almost castrated myself as I fell on my dresser, waking up just in time to hit the ground and see the cut in my leg, feel the pain in my groin and have the sudden urge to throw up the beer from earlier in the night. As for mentally tough, I ate a red vine that I found stuck to the floor at a house party, so I am all good in that department.

4) Be confident in yourself and not afraid to speak your opinion. I’m not confident in myself but am confident when I pretend to be other people and voice fake opinions. For example, I pretended to be a high school debater with a friend and wandered around Whitman during the high school debate conference talking to kids from schools like the Westminster School for Rhetoric and Douchebaggery and acted lost as we wandered through Prentiss looking for Sherwood Gym.

5) Be well-versed in botany. I can never remember the difference between a Multiflora Petunia and a Grandiflora Petunia. Small liberal arts colleges just don’t teach you the stuff that the big state schools like the University of Mississippi do.

6) Be passionate about interests but also pretend like you don’t give a rat’s ass. I’ve tried to find a middle ground in school in which I openly spit on and curse at my professors but also take pages of notes and write brilliant essays. This allows me to get moderately good grades and convinces my professors that I am a psychopath with a high rate of saliva production.

7) Be stunningly well-dressed but also hate fashion. I’ve found that a fedora really bridges the gap between classiness and slobbishness because you can wear it with a torn tank top, sweats and a neck beard and it looks like you stepped out of Calvin Klein catalogue.

I guess my takeaway from this piece is that although my friends call me alpha male and always bow their heads to me out of respect, I have only started becoming the man society wants me to be, a neurotic, self-confused asshole who both strives to succeed and fail in life. I’m sorry to those of you who hoped I was serious when I said I strived to be the man society and the media wants me to be. I just couldn’t run the risk of explicitly speaking out and then having ASWC drug and dump me in a gutter in Nepal like they did to that poor kid who spoke out against Birkenstocks. May he rest in peace, or a least comfortably as he struggles to pull himself out of that gutter of rotting garbage. On an honest note, though, perhaps I should strive to be human rather than a man. Maybe then I could avoid becoming that self-absorbed man who has a knack for somersaulting down hills without puking and dies a little inside every time he stifles his desire to do the lawn mower dance.


Joseph Wood is a pseudonym.