The college screechers disparage manliness, but the real world continues to value specific, ideal manly qualities because they are so useful in life and helpful to others. Young men, listen up.
Historically, the path from boy to man was hard-earned and marked by specific achievements. With the modern invention of adolescence and "extended adolescence", the lines are blurred. Like the song says, a "mannish boy" is not a man. Puberty does not make a man, nor does sexual activity.
Are the ideal "manly" qualities today very different from those of the past? I don't know. I can tell you what qualities my friends aspire to and work towards as a life-long project: providing for and protecting family and progeny, independence, courage and shame for weakness, the willingness to take risk, the willingness to be tough and forceful when needed, a seriousness about life while remaining cheerful, physical fitness and athletic development, mental fitness, spiritual development, skill development of all sorts, community involvement, responsibility and integrity, kindness and being a good friend, having constructive life goals, generosity of spirit, etc etc. We discuss these things in our men's Bible study group.
It's a tall order, and that is exactly the point. We all raise boys to aspire towards these qualities, knowing full well that it is a challenging and difficult path with many speed bumps and disappointments. (How different or difficult the path is for women is not something I feel qualified to discuss.)
When I went off to prep school at 13, on the first day the Headmaster said to us (paraphrased from memory): "Welcome, boys. You have said your goodbyes to your parents and have had a nice lunch. We are delighted to have you now officially join our school. I am sorry to tell you that we will make it very hard for you and you will suffer many disappointments but we expect that you boys will become adult young men who are a credit to this school when you graduate. One more warning. Disappoint us too deeply and you will be sent home to your Mom. Please do not do that. Since we picked each of you carefully and personally, we expect that each one of you will have victories too in whatever areas you choose. If you have troubles with something, let us know. We are on your side but we will be tough in expecting and demanding your success, so get ready for the adventure. Give everything your best. You have one hour to settle into your rooms, and then report to the Field House for your health and physical fitness and sports assessments. Good luck, boys, and I will see you tomorrow morning in Chapel."
Good little speech about male privilege. Although the intellectual challenges were intense, overall it seemed secondary to their focus on personal development, to expand oneself to become the best, most developed person you could be. School, or parents, same message.
At Qulllette, this: Becoming a Man
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