Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Is this Us?

Just what we need...another FHM look alike that makes us out to be beer guzzling, panty sniffing assholes.

As part of a project for my pal Piers over at PSFK, I agreed to spend a week or so concentrating on what it means to be a 'modern man'...or my take on my surroundings based on being a modern man.

At first I thought it would be a pretty tame subject, at least for me. I'm a regular guy...like sports & beer, I enjoy new music & art, I have style but don't consider myself "stylish", I live in a rather subdued Midwestern city, and I tend to work my ass off for minimal reward.

But the more I dug, the more I read, and the more I realized what has happened to the American man, the more disturbed I became.

Let's face it, white American men have become the world's punchline. From Dubya down to the "Real Men of Genius", we're pretty much the only group of people left on the planet that you're allowed to stereotype without some organized civil liberties kicking your ass.

And the only people we have to blame for our descent to the bottom of the barrel is ourselves. Just check out the mag rack the next time you're grabbing a Big Gulp and some jerky. Our options are slim...we have porn, seudo-porn, gamer rags, the usual sports titles...and then Esquire.

Being in luck, Esquire used their July issue to take measure of the American male...and according to them, it's a trainwreck. Editor David Granger (or is it Gregor...can't tell from my notes) says there is an "ambition & achievement deficit in young American males."

The magazine goes on to tell us we need Regan's Orange Bitters, The Lewis Ice Bag, WMF Loft Boston shakers and a Rosher bar spoon in our liquor cabinet. Oh, and they provide some not so subtle advice on how to wear your cuffs, collars and knots.

Excuse me, but fuck you! Those douche bags doing their best Rob Lowe in those Ray Ban ads aint me or my buddies...and they sure they hell aren't like anyone I know in New York city or any other city for that matter.

So based on our print meida options, we have some guide lines on how to be an asshole...and well, how to be an asshole.

Where does the real man of today emerge? The simple answer is in the middle somewhere...guys that spend Saturday's in "frat mode" and Saturday nights in "club mode." Guys that go from $250 Italian KCs to $10 Old Navy flops in a heartbeat.

It goes deeper than that. My friend Fritz who has spent his life in academia (lucky bastard) had this to say following a short email discussion:

"I don't know, being a "modern man", or an American one, at least, seems all about actively engaging whatever you do and having more than one identity at one time (professional by day, musician/wannabe cook/etc. by night, climber/hiker/biker/etc. on weekends) instead of linear identities like most of our parents' generation (be defined by work for 30+ years, then retire and figure out who you are)."

I found this really interesting in that our parents and our grandparents let their careers define them. As we have become disenchanted with a corporate environment lacking in any sort of commitment, we search for other things to define us...Multiple things. We have balked at institutions telling us what it is to be successful, or even what success is.

Excuse me Esquire, but some of the most influential and successful people I've ever met prefer flip flops and flower prints to Italian silk.

This "image of success" has been driven by Multiple factors, including the Internet, gaming, hip hop, the NBA and the X-Games. Teenagers with an idea can now be millionaires quicker than the square with an MBA.

Unfortunately, for every success, thousands fall behind...way behind. The dream of bypassing "the man" for green pastures is alluring, but dangerous. And young men who don't know when to pull the rip cord can fall far, fast.

So where is the target for young men? There isn't one. The good and the bad of it is that we are each asked to create are own target, and develop our own path. Society has a problem with this because everyone has shifted to the Right. Choices are bad. Rules are good. Stay in line and don't get hurt.

So far I've watched in amazement as men (and woman) have found and created success in thousands of different ways. An old friend from college, sick of the 9 to 5 started a limo company in Kansas City. My brother has spent seven years teaching ski lessons, going on the road for marketing tours, and just recently settled into an automobile marketing venture...all while living life to its fullest.

After thinking about it, the "state of the modern man" isn't a fair question. The question is "how many states of being does the modern man have?"


This post has been written as part of the Carnival of the Modern Man.

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