10/17/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Take the Manhood Quiz

Are you a real man?

Turns out that is a pretty silly question. We are all real men of our own making. The issue isn't whether we are real or not it's whether we are man enough to look in the mirror. For far too long men have been scared off having real conversations about just what kind of man they are, and hope to become. But that's all changing.

Photo: Stephen Sheffied

Photo by Stephen Sheffield

Whether you are serving in Iraq, doing time in Sing Sing, work at one of the few auto plants left in this country, cut deals on Wall Street, have finally gotten married as a gay man, a stay-at-home dad, even if you are the President of the United States, the question has never been more pressing, and difficult. What is really important to you as a father, a son, a husband, as a man? What does it possibly mean to be a "good" man in this world we live in with the pressures of a stalled economy, foreign wars dragging on for near a decade, and environmental concerns mounting.

The stress fractures are showing up for sure, with men of great public success failing in their private lives, with suicide rates in the military sky-rocketing, with the outpouring of anger over health care (no matter what side of the issue you are on). Black, white, rich, poor, gay, straight, urban, rural. We are all grasping at straws.

The answer, in my humble opinion, is to break the silence and actually talk about who we are as men. That doesn't mean using an Oprah framework for the conversation. That means telling your story in your own male voice. And listening to other men do the same thing. For me there is nothing as inspiring as hearing another guy, from a completely different walk of life, dig deep and talk about the nitty gritty of their life. By hearing his challenges, failures, and successes I come to realize that my plight is not so unique. We all aspire to be a real or good man in our own way. But the only way forward is together.

To start the conversation, even if its just with yourself for now, think about these ten questions:

1) Who taught you about manhood?

2) Has romantic love shaped you as a man?

3) What two words describe your dad?

4) How are you most unlike him?

5) What mistake did you learn the most from?

6) What word would the women in your life use to describe you? Is it accurate?

7) Who is the best dad you know and what does he do to make him so?

8) Have you been more successful in public or private?

9) When was the last time you cried?

10) What advice would you give teenage boys trying to figure what it means to be a good man?

For Bonus Points: What is the your most cherished ritual as a guy?

Men have always been fathers, sons, husbands and providers.
But this generation faces unspoken challenges to our manhood.
We are more alike than we know.
We all have a story to tell.
We all want to be good men.