On being a man's man

Nick Offerman

Nick Offerman

I watched a biography on Ernest Hemingway last weekend. His was an interesting existence. Although I'm not a Hemingway fanatic, there are definitely aspects of his life of which I'm envious (his brevity, his time spent in pre-Castro Cuba, the entirety of Old Man and the Sea). There are other aspects of which I'm not. One in particular is Hemingway's whole "man's man" schtick. 

A real man's man doesn't spend his entire life trying to convince people that's what he is. Much like, for example, an intelligent man would never say "I have a good brain" or "I have the best words."  You, Mr. Best Words Good Brain, are an idiot. And you, Mr. Hemingway, are overcompensating.

A man's man defines himself based on his own standards, not the standards put in place by others. It's that simple. Whatever his individual standards may be, a man's man lives up to them with confidence and consistency. A woman's woman does exactly the same. And so on. Gender and orientation actually have nothing to do with the concept.

Which brings us to Nick Offerman. Like Hemingway, he's also frequently referred to as a man's man. This is in large part because he played one so perfectly on the television set as Ron Swanson on Parks & Rec. Ron was a character, of course. But there's a lot of overlap with real-life wood-working, whiskey-sipping, bad-assing Nick.

I came across this interview with him in Men's Health. The whole thing is a great read. But his comment below really stood out. Because this, to my standards anyway, is what a man's man sounds like.

You’re synonymous with being a man’s man. What was the last thing that made you cry?

"I went to theatre school. I took two semesters of ballet. I’m the sissy in my family. I cry with pretty great regularity. It’s not entirely accurate to equate me with manliness. I stand for my principals and I work hard and I have good manners but machismo is a double-sided coin. A lot of people think it requires behavior that can quickly veer into misogyny and things I consider indecent. We’ve been sold this weird John Wayne mentality that fistfights and violence are vital to being a man. I’d rather hug than punch. Crying at something that moves you to joy or sadness is just as manly as chopping down a tree or punching out a bad guy. To answer your question, I recently saw Alicia Keys perform live. I’d never seen her before and the sheer golden, heavenly talent issuing from her and her singing instrument had both my wife and me in tears. What a gorgeous gift she has. Her voice is so great. And I had no shame [about crying.] If you live your life openly with your emotions, that’s a more manly stance than burying them."