Not so easy to say what makes a man a man

I think some men are very, very confused about what a “man” is or is supposed to be.

Last week, Tucker Carlson of Fox News, a person I have never watch in my life, made the news for a documentary on men, or the end of men and manhood. Or something like that, it was hard to follow while I was laughing.

Why laughing? Well as anyone who read the news about this last week knows, Carlson offered up some strange things that men should do, including to very private areas.

Yes, it was quite funny.

But that is not what really got my attention. What got my attention is much of the nonsense talked about in this “documentary.” It seems filled with dudes wrestling and flipping tires and generally bro-ing out in a way that many men, such as myself, find laughable and obnoxious.

Now, I don’t know this Carlson guy at all. He certainly doesn’t look like the prototypical manly man, but that doesn’t matter. Men come in all shapes and sizes. We are certainly not all alike.

Carlson seems bent on pushing this image of men as rough and tough cowboys who don’t cry, like to break things and never really hug their children. This is the image some people want to hold up as masculine and manly.

I am here to tell you that is hogwash. For the record yes, I used the word hogwash.

When I hear someone saying, “man up” or “be a man,” all I can do is roll my eyes. In my nearly six decades on this planet, I have met a lot of different kinds of men. Quiet, loud, short, tall, mean, friendly – you name it.

One thing I have learned is that being tough or loud or aggressive or strong does not make you a man. Far from it.

My father taught me how to be a man. He was a professional baseball player, has advanced college degrees and was married to my mother from college until she died of cancer. He is smart and thoughtful and kind.

My dad taught me to treat people with respect and kindness. Lead with a smile if you can. He taught me that his wife, my mother, was his partner, his equal. They both took the lead, depending on the situation.

My dad told me he loved me, and hugged me often – daily, actually. He always made sure that I knew I mattered and that he was there for me.

My dad was not a fighter or a yeller. He enjoyed sports and drinking beer on the weekends, and we went fishing and to games and tossed the ball around often.

But he also encouraged me to be my own person. When I started gravitating toward music he was only encouraging. He taught me the first chords on the guitar that I ever learned. It has become a life-long passion.

I tried to pass the same lessons on to my own son, who is a thoughtful, caring and educated man himself. I was far from a perfect parent, but I do believe my son learned important lessons: Treat people well, no matter their color or sexual orientation. Love people, respect people, help people when you can, and they need it.

Be there for your friends, and don’t judge. The world is full to the brim with judgmental jerks. My son knows what toxic masculinity is and he avoids it in the people he surrounds himself. I do as well.

A man should not be defined by how he looks or how many big toys he has. He should be judged by his heart and his deeds. My dad taught me that.