What’s your definition of “manly”?

Lewis Hine Power house mechanic working on ste...
Lewis Hine Power house mechanic working on steam pump. (1920) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s an interesting post by one of my favorite bloggers, a fellow Torontonian named Josh Bowman, about his struggle to define “manly”:

There is something to be said for ‘Masculinity’ (with a capital ‘M’). It’s dirty, sweaty, tough, honest. As we enter another Hollywood blockbuster season, where tough leading men will formulaic-ly beat the crap out of aliens, monsters, and other assorted baddies, I can’t help but be reflective and a bit jealous. You see, I’m a young, white collar, politically liberal, pro-feminist, university educated man. I have sensitive skin, and work in theatre. I have lots of emotions, I joke around, and I suck at confrontation. I haven’t been in a physical fight since elementary school, really (I’ve been close from time to time, but I’ve cleverly and diplomatically avoided fighting for most of my life).

The thing is, I rightly or wrongly associate hyper-masculine men with all kinds of values and beliefs that I find politically and socially abhorrent: misogyny, homophobia, conservative politics (or no political beliefs at all), being mean jocks, and liking Nickleback. I’m also kind of afraid to get into a fight. I have no interest in being stabbed, shot, or beaten to a pulp over somebody stepping on my shoes or being rude on a streetcar. At its worst, I see hyper-masculinity leading to near psychopathic behaviour. Then again…

I’m often deeply jealous of those guys who seem so at ease with their identities as men…

I find his dichotomy interesting, if false.

Having done a lot of dating — I married for the first time at 37, then was single again for another four years after my divorce — I’ve closely observed the behavior of a fairly wide swath of men. The super macho guys in black leather with tats and callused hands were never my set. I go more for a guy with really good shoes, who wears (small, elegant) cufflinks and who can choose an excellent bottle of wine.

But, having said that, I did once, briefly, date a Serb who wore black leather trousers. Why, yes I did. “I vill be unfaithful,” he warned me. I laughed. He was right.

Then there was a veddy proper British television executive.  The boy with a handlebar mustache who spoke Russian. The 6’4″ would-be Olympic rower who sent me a bouquet of roses so enormous that when I opened my front door I couldn’t see the person holding them. The blue-eyed engineer working in Khartoum who whisked me off to Wales.

I’ve even met a real, working cowboy — a fantastic man named Bill, who in his 70s, strapped on his worn leather chaps and rode off across the Texas dirt each day. He taught his wife how to shoot a handgun, which saved her life the day she was alone and (seriously) a rabid bobcat leaped for her throat. That’s manly in my book! (I tell her amazing story in my first book, about women and guns.)

I bet every man I’ve met considers himself pretty manly. It’s not as though there’s some standard, objective measure…

So what is manly?

Is it a guy ready to bust his knuckles against someone’s cheek for me? Not necessarily, although a sense of protectiveness is, to me, extremely alluring. I’ve traveled the world alone and now appreciate any help I can get. I like a guy who knows what he wants and will fight hard to get and keep it — especially if it’s for a good cause, not just his latest car.

The qualities I find most appealing in a man are often the same I like best in women:

kindness, intelligence, curiosity, a great sense of humor, an insane work ethic, optimism, someone with clearly thought-through principles who sticks to them, loyal, discreet. Someone who’s just great company.

The quality I probably most admire in a man is integrity. I don’t care if he’s rich or powerful or handsome — if he can’t make and keep his promises, he’s a loser in my book.

How about you?

Ladies, what’s “manly” to you?

Gentlemen, do you face any of the confusion Josh does?