What is manliness? I was forced to evaluate manliness when I went shopping for a man-bag.
I like bags. I have a lot of bags in my life.
I have two backpacks: one for work and another for weekends. I have two nylon briefcases: one that I sometimes use for work and another for my sketchbooks. I have another bag that is a teardrop backpack, over-the-shoulder and holds the essentials.
The one kind of bag that I don’t have is an over-the-shoulder-satchel: a man bag. In the summer, it is a pain to figure out where to put your crap. You know: keys, wallet, phone, gum, notebook, pen and whatever else you have for your day. If you keep all of that in your pocket, you look like you are hiding hamburgers pockets.
Hamburger pockets work okay on the farm, but they are not for most men.
My hunt for a man-bag made gave me a lot to think about.
On the weekend, I decided I would take the plunge and get a man-bag. I had the kids with me for Mother’s Day shopping, so it was an ideal opportunity to do some shopping for me. I tried the bag on and they both loved it. It was grey leather with all the pockets inside that you need.
I wasn’t sure. It felt like a purse. It didn’t feel “manly.”
I decided to buy the thing and let my wife decide. This would be one of my Mother’s Day gifts to her.
When we arrived home, I excitedly showed her my new purchase. Then she gave me the look.
Here is what I saw: Smile fades, replaced by a frowny face, eyebrows tilted downwards and shadows across her normally sunny face.
Her: “If you wear that, I will never be seen in public with you.”
Me: Silence. I’m thinking.
Me: “What if I put a gun in it?” I don’t own a gun, but I could get one. The bag cost: $45. The cost for gun, licence and training probably about $1000.00. This is getting expensive.
Her: The look continues.
So I took the man-bag that appears more like a purse back to the store. Dejected, I looked around until I found something more “manly.”
Would it be more manly if it came with a hammer and a gun?
Our manly baggage
The entire experience makes me consider what does it mean to be manly? Bags have it, shoes have it, cars have it and guys have it too.
The confusing thing is that some guys could pull off the bag-that-looks-more-like a purse. He would make the bag look more manly just because of who he is.
So now we get to the heart of it. Manliness is not about straps and buckles, guns or hammers, balls or bags. Manliness is what we bring to whatever we do.
Websters Hip-Hop dances around the definition of “Manliness.” Manliness, they say, is about having a deep voice, being willing to fight, having courage and strength. Definitions are not worth much these days. This definition is weak because I know women with deeper voices than I have, who fight, who have courage, and a great deal of strength.
But they have boobs. I have my man-bag, so I am still one up.
In my view, manliness is something you bring with you wherever you are. Manliness is not a way of saying “These are the things that only men can do or be.” Manliness is fluid. Each guy brings it for himself.
No one has the complete package, and you don’t have to. Manliness can mean courage, and strength, and guts, and persistence, and utilitarian looking bags. But it can also mean art, and books, and Harleys, and nice shoes.
For me, manliness means sensitivity and love and caring and art and persistence and sweat and vulnerability and skull candy headphones and grilling steaks like a pro. Now it also means I have a man-bag.
Manliness is who you are, what you bring with you. It is the sum total of the life experience you have, your strengths and your passions. It is all mixed together and then life tries to kick the crap out of you. And you kick back.
That’s where manliness wakes up. Kicking life back.
Got to kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight. Bruce Cockburn
Being manly is being certain about who you are
Being manly is not violence, it is in having a kick-ass certainty in who you are. Manliness sure doesn’t mean you can’t question yourself. Having the courage and vulnerability to ask tough questions is pretty manly in my books.
Now I have one more bag for my collection. I also have a pretty good conversation starter.
I would love to hear your manly story. How do you define manliness? And heck, if you carry (a man bag), let me know.
Hope to see you in the comments.
Keep it Real