Men are certainly under attack from all sides at the moment -- whether it's the endless list of celebrity bad boys or the sociologists who have come to fame by pointing out the statistical impotence of men at large. Apparently males these days watch porn 50 times a week, on average, play endless video games, fail out of school and are increasingly antisocial.
Those of us with testosterone and a well-meaning heart don't have much room to maneuver. For a good number of guys in my cohort (40s, white, from supposedly forward-looking backgrounds), the double bind of manhood predates the most recent attacks. Our feminist moms told us to be just like them to be loved. For our dads, the idea of macho got lost in some encounter group somewhere (except for Burt Reynolds in "Semi-Tough," when he is supposed to piss himself during a EST conference but sneaks in a catheder flask taped to his leg as back-up, which, ironically, I have a clear memory of going to see with my dad). So we just gave up on being macho.
If there is a gender war, men have just decided to gather up their marbles and go home. Virtual sex is better than real sex with a complex woman. Hanging with the boys over a beer and watching a game is better than getting your manhood wrapped around your eardrums. "Pass me the remote," is the mantra in response to getting kicked in the nuts.
I am not debating the statistics about manhood. I realize that we are, in the majority, a group of Internet-obsessed masturbators with deep-seated emotional issues. I'm proud to be a member of that group.
No, my issue is that we collectively, male and female, are obsessed with the worst of the worst when it comes to men rather than the best of the best. An 18-year-old kid gets drunk and does something stupid and disgusting, but frankly no more stupid or disgusting than I did drunk when I was 18 -- and dare I say most guys and a lot of women, too? Yet because this kid has even the hint of celebrity (he was one of 75 hopefuls on the U.S. Ski development team), it leads the national news and blows up into an international story.
"A real man doesn't lie or cheat or beat his chest, but stares down things that seem impossible -- like flying at the speed of sound or walking on the moon -- and doing them anyways," I recently wrote in a piece about astronauts, but I might as well have been referring to all men.
"The New Macho" is a guy who has an aggressive moral compass that prioritizes the things that he finds important: family, being honest, making a difference in the world. He goes all out to figure that out, yet he is also more apt to take risks "and stare down things that seem impossible."