Three 20-something women trying to figure out what it means to be lay, Catholic, and modern all at once.

April 7, 2010

Manning Up

I love men.

And I love Philadelphia (my hometown).

And I'm loving this article in today's Philadelphia Inquirer entitled "Manning Up," an expose on the return of the "retrosexual."

I wish I could give each of you the print version, because it has a fabulous picture of a "Man Men"-type cartoon drawing of a man with little diagrams of everything from dating to grooming to chivalry. I'll leave you with a taste of a few of the characteristics of today's retrosexual man in this booming "menaissance," as the author calls it:

Diet: Eats beef, a lot. (Sushi is for wusses) At family gatherings, he always carves the family roast.

Grooming: Although he favors old-school straight razors (stubble is still welcome) and clean-cut hairstyles, the retrosexual rejects girlishly obsessing over his locks. And he would never step into a unisex salon, let along get his back waxed. Beneath his three-piece suit and Hanes undershirt is a full chest of hair. And like all real men, he smells of Old Spice.

Chivalry: No self-respecting grandfather would ever let a woman pay for dinner, and neither will this guy. Same goes for opening doors; these arms know it's the right thing to do. Turns out, manners are a turn-on.

Dress: Mad Man, yes. Skinny jeans? Can you get any less masculine? When he's not wearing his spectators, looking debonair like Cary Grant, he's looking rugged like Steve McQueen. You might even see him with a tool belt (for fixing things), a gun (for hunting), and a car jack (for rotating tires).

Kind of tongue-in-cheek, but kind of not.

I love it.


Shannon said...

loving this!

Grace in my Heart said...

Great article! Since this was published in Philly, I think the writer is giving the hint all the men up there to stop wearing sparkling white sneakers. G and I always make fun of that style when we visit! :)

VinoFino said...

Sounds like my kind of MAN...although I actually DO want him to like sushi because it's TASTY!!! Yum yum!

La Italiana said...

GIMH, I know exactly what you and G are referring to! Yikes!

Jennie said...

Haha, this is great and reassuring too. Glad to know picking up the check and opening doors for women is making a comeback. It's about time.

Gardenia said...

they are a dying breed. and I do love the smell of old spice. :)

Paul said...

Pardon me for interjecting a man's point of view on this...

Which is it--tongue-in-cheek, or not? Is the strawman depicted laudable or laughable?

Are we really taking our cues on what is masculine from the National Cattleman's Beef Association and Old Spice advertisements? I think skinny jeans are a dumb fad too but I would reject the idea that alternative is to reach for naive cliches.

As a man, I'm certain that masculinity is about more than this kind of nonsense. I open doors for my fiancee, I've got plenty of hair on my chest, but I don't eat beef since I'm a vegetarian. I also don't care for all the synthetic chemicals or artificial smell of Old Spice.

I would suggest two serious points of caution to any women who would listen:
1. Don't allow yourself to fixate on a picture of a man who fits tightly into pre-conceived boxes like those described in the article. It might cause you to miss out on a real man of character. Men of character are always more complex than any of the stereotypes (even the best-intentioned).
2. These kinds of stereotypical narratives go along way to obscure the true nature of masculinity. We don't like it when femininity is abused by bad stereotypes and marketing campaigns, etc. Why do we tolerate it for men?

No, this is not a rediscovery of masculinity, but an avoiding of the question by substituting nostalgia for all the crap that has been pushed by pop-culture in recent years.

Julian said...


Thanks so much for your comment. First of all, a Magdalene Sister never wants to offend her readers, so I'm truly sorry if this post upset you.

You raise really good points about not putting men into any stereotypes just as women want to avoid a fixed notion of what femininity is. You're right on the money there, and I thank you for responding to that. Masculinity and femininity are only manifest in particular people, not in ideas or theoretical generalities. We are all shapes and sizes with different interests, talents, diets, etc. In no way would I want to convey that if a man did not fit the Inquirer's bill that he is any less of a real man.

What I appreciated about the article in full is not the idea that everyone become a Mad Man, but instead the article being published in a city known for it's gruff men and a new influx of young "metrosexuals." Are there exceptions in Philly and in the world? Yes of course -- I was raised by one and am a sister to another.

As a single woman in the dating world, though, my perspective is that men like you are harder to come by in general these days (even in Catholic circles), and that things like picking up the check (even if I offer), opening my door, or simply showing up on time and coming to my door are all things that should come back into style. They are not oppressing my liberation or anything of the sort. I want to be treated by a man in this way not because I have an idea of dating a younger Cary Grant, but because these things make me feel appreciated and very feminine. Surely a man can do this sans three-piece suit.

Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I really value your insights.

Paul said...


Thank you for you comments. I understand the value of opening doors for women, but I also think it's somewhat subjective... I didn't always do it, as it wasn't part of my training/background. At some point I discovered about myself that I wanted to do it, which coincided happily with meeting the woman I'm to marry next month, as she also values it. But I think the key here is that a person's character is not based in these externals, though it might perhaps be manifested though them. I've known a number of men who learned the habit of opening doors for women, and it helped that key women in their lives encouraged them.

So I wouldn't want to suggest that paying for dinner, opening doors, etc., don't matter, because for you and a lot of women they do. But in today's world, there have been so many mixed signals on these things that there are a number of good men who won't necessarily have these habits. I think sometimes, a woman needs to look past these things with patience and understand that reality is messy and even with the right guy, he won't automatically do them--but he may happily learn them.

So it's a balance between having high expectations up front, or carefully selective expectations, about what's important, and between being willing to let some 'ideals' slide a bit. It's a question of prudence--practical applied wisdom--so it's not clear cut or easy.

I know there were a few things in the story of my fiancee and me that might surprise some people. I do a lot of those old-school gentleman things that have caused a number of women to remark to her how lucky she is. But one of my favorite departures from the old-school conventional manners was when she first called me. Before we first dated, I had not yet worked up the nerve to call her and ask her out, though I was thinking about it. She called me out of the blue and we chatted for a bit, and by the end of the call I asked her out on what would become our first date. I know plenty of women that wouldn't dream of calling the guy--he's supposed to call her, isn't he? Well, sometimes that doesn't happen, and maybe people are missing out. When she called me though, I was impressed and thought, now here's a woman who's bold, not afraid to seek what is good, and not hung up on old conventions to the point where it's stifling. That meant a lot to me, and when I arrived at her house for the first time, to take her out on a date, I brought flowers. It just made sense.

This is probably a bit rambling by now... I just want to say that it's so important to put persons ahead of manners/cultural conventions. Manners, etc., are for persons, not the other way around. And if we're talking about romance, the best ones are not a case of two perfect lovers finding each other, but of two imperfect people, learning to be perfect lovers together. Before I met my fiancee, I never danced. But she's inspired me to learn, and now it's something we're learning

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