It is is hard to describe the condition of masculinity in the US as anything other than grim. Women earn close to 60% of the college degrees awarded each year, and since a college degree is the price of admission to most salaried jobs, this places men at a disadvantage in launching a career. The knowledge economy ranks the specific value of men — as men — somewhere just north of “not much.” The wider culture seems ambivalent-to-hostile toward masculinity, with our entertainment portraying most men — superheroes excepted — as dolts or dastards.
And what of the institutions that used to count on the unique contributions, participation and leadership of men? Nearly all have concluded that they don’t need a man. Sadly , this includes large portions of the church. No churches place signs outside saying “No men allowed,” but rare is the church that actively values men and their created role, and that teaches forthrightly the respective and complimentary roles of men and women in the church, especially as it regards male spiritual headship in marriage.
Speaking of marriage, we must confront the sad fact that over 70% of divorces in the US are initiated by the wife. One would think that if men and women were equally cussed, there would be something close to an even split among those filing for divorce. Not so. Others have explained in greater detail that the family court system favors women in divorce actions, awarding them custody of the children, child support and alimony, even if the wife violates the marriage vows. So here in three paragraphs is a snapshot — admittedly incomplete — of the habitat of contemporary masculinity.
The temptation to fatalism is understandable, and doubtless some men are foregoing the benefits of education, the challenge of pursuing a career , the camaraderie of the church and the comforts, however fraught, of loving a woman. The question I would pose to my sons, my nephews and you is: Is this adaptive?
What Should A Man Do?
If you’re one of these men who is considering opting out or has already checked out, I’m glad to have this opportunity to address you. I agree it’s difficult, but what do you gain, and what does the world gain by your retreat? No man should believe of himself that he’s just here using oxygen — you were created for a purpose, and the first part of your mission is to discover it. Then you need to be about it “OK,” you say, “how?”
I advocate engaging the current culture but not on its terms. This means being creative and resourceful in becoming the best possible version of yourself. This starts with taking an inventory of your strengths and your weaknesses and building where you’re strongest and where you have the greatest opportunity for improvement. When you understand why you’re here and when your mind, your body, your spirit and your relationships are as good as they can be, your external circumstances will have less power over you.
College, and the debt required to pay for a degree, may not make economic sense. If that’s your case, it’s completely understandable, but that is not an excuse for being uneducated. In my county library cards are free, and there are classic works you can read online for free. How about starting with the theoretical and philosophical foundations of western civilization? Read Plato. Read Aristotle. Read the Odyssey. Read the Bible. Perhaps your circumstances will improve and you can matriculate. If so, you’ll be far ahead of your classmates who have not read these works, because you will have read them for the love of wisdom, rather than to get a grade. And if not, you’ll have learned from the great minds without incurring debt.
Several young men I know are living at home and completing their freshman and sophomore years at the local community college while working to pay their way through. The cost per credit hour is about 25% of the cost of the state U and the credits are transferable. These men also have the opportunity to take some trade courses if they want to pick up skills such as welding as a fallback. Ten years after you graduate college, the only people who care where you went are the fundraisers from your alma mater.
Most women say they aren’t into bodybuilders, but they do like muscles. If you don’t have a habit of exercise, get one.
Men focus on facial and bodily symmetry and the waist-hip ratio first. Women do like a man with a handsome face, but they like an interesting and confident man more. How can you improve your looks and your confidence? Determine what you need. Better posture? A public speaking course? A new haircut? Better grooming? New clothes that fit properly? (Your mom doesn’t buy your clothes, does she?) Good shoes? I’m not joking. Especially about the shoes.
Find a group of guys who share your values and your commitment to being a man. Encourage each other to achieve your goals and to do right, even if others seem to profit by doing wrong. Seek God together. Worship together. Serve the community together. Have fun together. Take the time to become friends. And if one of your guys falls, help him get back on his feet.
We’re still getting to know each other, so I’ll wrap this up for now. I do want to add that while it is true that the desire to attract a beautiful woman can be a powerful motivator for some men, you’re going to need to pursue excellence for its own sake even if — especially if — there isn’t necessarily a quality woman at the end of the process. I’ll bet there will be, but if you make her the focus, you won’t aim high enough and you’ll abandon your mission at the first indication of a woman’s attention. More on this later.