There's a phrase a lovely young friend from Kiwi land used the other night: "a man's man". She described an ex-lover, someone whom she'd run into again after a couple of years and spent the weekend with as "a man's man". I've been trying to puzzle out exactly what she means by the term.
I understand the basic facts here. She'd had a longish, on-again-off-again affair with him when she was an undergraduate. She wrote to say that he was 48 now, which would've made him perhaps 40 when they met--- she'd have been 19 or 20. Her description of him now is, well, disheartening for other males. Forty-eight, now, yes. Distinguished, of course. Handsome and well-tailored. A very successful businessman, someone who owns companies. Athletic--- a player of squash and cricket. Someone who owns a classic Aston-Martin and races it on weekends. A forceful and skilled lover, of course--- but wouldn't that go without saying?
My young friend gushed over his description. She sighed over the idea of being in bed with a "real man" and how she can never help herself around anyone who's a "man's man". Oh, I'm jealous, of course: take that as a given. Jealous and envious both, since I'd love to have his tailor, his bank account, and the Aston-Martin.
I do want to know, though--- what does it mean to be a "man's man"? Even above and beyond my own jealousy here, what are the criteria for being a "man's man"? Is it something you aspire to, or is it something inherent? Are there class markers for it? It could be a thing that requires blue-collar, physical skills--- the screen vision of the Cowboy or the Firefighter ---but it could also involve achievements that require money. Yes--- there's a Thos. Crowne ambience here.
"A man's man"... Are there dangers in using the term? Here in the age of the gender wars, does "man's man" sound like something that could be used to imply an underlying homosexuality? In an age where "homosocial" and "homoerotic" are regarded as blending into one another, are there gender-studies types who'd instantly take "man's man" to mean...."closet case"?
Now--- I'll never be a "man's man". That's part of the jealousy and envy here. But I'm never comfortable with being referred to as "a man" in any case. "Guy" seems acceptable and acceptably bland, but "man" is unsettling. I've seen rants by gender warriors where using "female" as a descriptor is taken as misogynistic, since it supposedly reduces women to mere biology. Yet I'm far more comfortable with "male" than "man". I'm biologically male; no issues there. But "man" comes with too much cultural baggage, too many unmet social expectations. Whatever "man's man" means, I don't meet the criteria and never will.
I will have to ask my lovely friend down in the Kiwi south what she means by "man's man" and "real man". What markers does she look for? What about a "man's man" makes her wet and breathless? Does she think that someone is born a "man's man" or chooses to become one? Can someone decide to be a "man's man"?
I don't want to ask just my Kiwi friend. I'll throw the floor open to any lovely girls out over the aether who may happen to read this. What criteria would someone male have to meet to be a "man's man" or a "real man"? And what about those criteria--- alone or in combination ---would make you wet-and-breathless?