Friday, February 23, 2007

Kathleen asks: What Is a Man's Man?

Back in my childbearing day (my youngest is 27) a baby's gender was generally a birthday surprise. Yes, we had ultrasound, but it wasn't part of the prenatal routine. So you waited. Generally the "Waaah!" came first, signalling baby, followed by "It's a boy!" or "You have a little girl!" There was only one way anyone could tell. Otherwise, at that point boys and girls look and act the same. We identify them by the color of their clothes unless we're checking the content of their diapers. And that's when we quickly learn to beware the power of the male. They learn fast, too. Remember the first time he got you in the face and laughed? Check the baby book--you wrote it down.

Now, where was I going with this? Oh, yes, size. Does it matter? Helen's rolling her eyes. Fear not, this is as close as I get to an illustration. Hey, Boomer trivia: What TV show started with the symbols and voiceover "Man, woman, birth, death, infinity"?

Sorry, I digress. Babies are babies. Boys will be boys. The question I'm trying to get to is--and I'm sure we all have opinions on this--what is a "man's man"? Ladies' man is probably pretty obvious, but how about a woman's man?

For discussion purposes, consider Exhibit A: Titus Pullo, my favorite character from my current favorite TV show, ROME. This guy has issues. If you haven't seen the show, we're into the second season, which means that Season I is out on dvd, and it's worth your time. Pullo is a layered character in a multi-layered story. He's a soldier serving in an army out to conquer the world at a time when all combat was hand-to-hand. That makes him a bloody killer. Talk about your alpha dog! He fell in love during Season I, and his romance will tear your heart out and put it back a few times over. He's so deliciously vulnerable. And loyal. And sensitive! Take this week's installment, for example. Pullo is assigned to assassinate Cicero, and he does his job, but he's so sweet and considerate about it. It's a good scene, really. A man's man? If that means the kind who's got your back, first choice for foxhole mate, then Pullo certainly fits the bill. A woman's man? It always surprises me when this kind of guy makes my heart go pitty pat. It's takes more than coverboy looks. Hard edge is good. History. Sensitivity. Can't be too laconic. He has to reveal that silly, smiling, scared little boy somehow.

What's your idea of a woman's man? Let's get beyond looks. Let's talk character.


Helen Brenna said...

I think Pullo makes your heart go pitty pat, Kathy, because deep down inside women want men who can protect them. So, yes, size does matter. LOL! That's why the Schwarzeneggers, Willis's and Jason Strathams are so damned appealing in movies.

What turns a tough guy, man's man into a woman's man is that soft vulnerable side. Without it, how can he truly love his woman?

For me, a woman's man is tough and strong, but not afraid to be wrong.

Betina Krahn said...

"Ben Casey" (early 60'w era doctor show) started with the symbol review-- done in the stentorian voice of veteran actor Sam Jaffe!!

Do I win?

Man's man. . . easily enough described. One who's capable in the areas men value: strength, smarts, integrity, loyalty, and self-respect. A man who knows who and what he is and uses his strengths to affect/improve the world around him. A man capable of taking care of himself and his own. Also, a guy who excels in "guy" things like playing sports, handling machinery and tools ("gettin' things done"), risking injury to have fun or to prove a point, and of course, hunting, fishing, camping and generally testing himself against nature and the elements.

A woman's man is a man with several kinds of strength and the wisdom to use that strength in the service of higher purposes. (Not just for his own gain or vanity or pleasure.) Personally, I want a man who is not afraid to be tender and reveal the workings of his soul to me. . . just as I want him to pay attention and respect the trust I place in him when I reveal the workings of my soul. Just as importantly he's a man who perceives and responds to the needs of women. He listens, he cares, he's loyal, and he voluntarily tempers his strength out of consideration for a woman.

Rich, dark bittersweet chocolate exterior. . . soft, creamy caramel interior.


Debra Dixon said...

Kathleen-- Beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder on this one. To me, a woman's man has to love women. I don't mean lust after them. I mean he has to look at women and think we are genuinely great creatures, the whole spectrum--large, small, tall, attractive, focused, scattered. He has to like women as a "category" of being and enjoy our company.

And he has to think fast enough to keep up with me. And he has to amuse me.

I guess that's it. He has to genuinely love and view women as important, he has to have a brain, and he has to be able to keep me entertained.

Cooking is good too.

Christie Ridgway said...

Oh, wow. I should be good at this. I live with three men (husband and two sons) and think they're all some of both.

A man's man can talk in manspeak. My husband doesn't like to spend much time watching sports because, as he says, he likes to =do= sports, so he can't discuss the latest on the pro teams but he exudes an innate knowledge of athletics and knows about motorcycles and surfboards and the way a car works. If there was an emergency, he'd be the guy to get you out and help you out.

Hmm, maybe that's the woman's man part? Because a woman's man needs to be capable. My husband can fix things, most anything, but I know wonderful woman's men who aren't any better at it than I am but also have the capability to listen, to support, to not roll their eyes over those things we consider important. (Am working with the sons on that.)

My husband lost is father and grandfather at a young age is close to his mom and was very close to his grandmother (now deceased). I think that appreciation of women that he got out of that close relationship with them makes him a woman's man.

Diane in Syracuse said...

I definitely respond to competence - someone who steps in and fixes things when they need fixing, but doesn't shove others out of the way to do it. Taking responsibility - I didn't start finding Tom Selleck on "Magnum, P.I" attractive 'til he started acting like a real grown-up.

And willingness to engage with ideas and people: to listen and offer responses in a give-and-take sort of a way (not "I have the floor until I relinquish it", so that you have to take notes to answer later): sharing reflections, not nailing down debate points.

Betina Krahn said...

Kathy, I've come to the whole "Rome" thing late in the game. But one episode-- involving Pullo-- and I'm hooked! He and his straighter, more idealistic captain are both to die for.

And what great production values. Even with all the reading/research I've done on Roman civilization, I'm not catching anachronistic stuff. . . in fact, the senate building really looks like the Roman senate-- which is still standing in the ruins of the Forum today. I was there a couple of years ago and it blew me away!

I'm going out today to find the first season on DVD and watch one episode each night to catch up!

Great TV!

lois greiman said...

There is nothing more appealing to me than seeing a man respond to children on a gut level. Men and babies or men and little girls especially. There is something so powerful about seeing a strong man be tender. I guess there's a reason for all those Cowboy/Millionaire/Businessman and the Baby books.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Betina, I'm with you on the historical accuracy in ROME. Not that I'm an expert, but I love studying history, and ancient stuff has fascinated me since I was in grade school. Having some knowledge of the Caesars certainly helps me enjoy the series, but like any really good period piece, it has me looking stuff up after every episode. I'm finding the whole Mafia roots aspect of the story really fascinating.

Bringing me back to the "tough guy" question. Who doesn't love the Godfather Trilogy for its layered characters? But we don't get a truly sympathetic view of Don Corleone until GFII when we see him as the defender of an oppressed community, protector of family. But he's a criminal and a cold-blooded killer! The emergence of the anti-hero in the last, what? 30-40 years is part of it, but isn't it interesting that we accept the strong man capable of unspeakable violence as a hero as long as we think he's justified?

Pullo is that fearless-outside, tender-inside fellow who just needs a little love. And like any good alpha dog, he'll keep you from harm or die trying.

But is that also a "man's man"? Or is that tender core written for the female viewer?

Kathleen Eagle said...

Oh, yeah, Betina wins the Ben Casey blouse. Or would you prefer the "Liz Casey" version?