This is a topic not easily defined in any era to date, though that can, and is continually argued. For me personally it’s quite simple, and complex at the same time. Simply confusing at times,really. My mother was rarely single throughout my childhood, but I considered her a single parent all the same. The influences my step fathers had were warning signs at worst, and ignored at best; I was quite distracted as a kid, and still am to this day. So no fatherly lessons on the subject to speak of, though they weren’t terrible men or examples, just unfit for the role in my opinion. So how does a boy learn the lessons of manhood from a mother alone? He doesn’t. She can teach him anything, except that one all important thing. True she can teach him manners,respect and responsibility, but those are only aspects of the whole. She can’t teach all the lessons because she doesn’t see through the same eyes, think the same thoughts, or act accordingly. I love my mother dearly, hold no grudges against her, but it’s something she simply could not do. So what’s a boy to do?
My theory is that, when a void of information is created, we naturally fill it with a mix of random information, and specific- chosen information. Fictional men, advertisements, family, stranger’s etc. Sub-consciously we observe other men, real or fictional: Their actions, mannerisms, opinions, how they treat people, their hobbies, etc. Consciously, we study them. We integrate the agreeable qualities with our personalities, and dispose of the rest. Occasionally we might even find one man whom we will mimic entirely, shaping his personality to compliment our own. This is not fool proof, and sometimes it’s entirely an un-conscious transition. On the same note, sometimes the fusing degrades the person; Not all men are good, and not all boys decide wisely.
But what is the paragon definition of manhood? How does one find and incorporate those morals? And how, if found, can they be instilled universally, and naturally?
This is something I dwell on often. When I look at my friends, family, co-workers, acquaintances; I’m evaluating them, and ever evolving my own opinion. I don’t assume I’m an authority on the subject, but certain things feel true, and others false.
Some people gauge manhood in terms of physical prowess, and maybe there is something to that. Being physically up to a challenge is important, because life throws them constantly, and rarely when we expect them. Responsibility is another, but then again, that’s a virtue everyone should hold, not necessarily male exclusive.
Most things people could say are important qualities of manhood can easily be agreed upon in women as well.
So what is our specific directive as men?
In this day in age, both genders are equally needed. Men sometimes become stay at home fathers, and women are trying to get home hopefully to find supper ready, anxious to see their families! Gender stereotypes are blurring all over the place, but for some reason people hold true to old ideas. I’ll grant that I do prefer the more romantic notions, even though I’m absolutely, terribly awkward when it comes down to it.
It’s my opinion that manhood is just a self imposed idea. It’s a creed we all invent for ourselves. Codes of honor that we pass on for others to judge and potentially include. “All the world is a stage, and the people, actors. ”
That’s how a boy does it; he makes it up.