What is a Man?

A happy family makes a happy man.

By Kelly Reed

Inevitably every man stumbles upon two questions: What is a man? And do I have what it takes to embody that? Well those questions have been sitting in the back of my mind for quite some time. It’s nearly taken over my existence. Over and over I play it out. When I looked across the dinner table at my wife. When playing with my son. When I walked my dog at night. While staring off into space at an intersection. What is a man? I swore I knew the answer only to find unsure. Certainly the masses would be able to validate my thoughts.

I’d mention this out loud in line at the post office. A woman, in her mid-30s would turn around and give me her unbiased opinion. “I’ll tell you what I like,” she said. “I like honesty, men today lie too much. Real men are honest.” With that she was off to her business. I found it an interesting enough thought.

Over a lunch meeting I again would ask this simple question to a young man, probably in his early 20s. Between French fry infused smacks, he gave it some thought – undoubtedly trying to recall a movie quote or something he saw on Twitter to be able to reply with some bumper sticker-esque wisdom. He finally came up with, “Man that’s tough. One word…Confident.” Not to leave me with such a cliffhanger, he followed up with, “when you’re confident, people follow you. They don’t question you. Then you know you are the man.” Well that helps, sort of.

Not exactly satisfied, I kept thinking it over. A couple of weeks later I was able to pose the question to a friend over a couple of beers. Now being a man of a higher moral fiber and amble life experience to pull from, he came up with “being responsible,” since it implies so much. “A man makes sacrifices for the betterment of others,” came out of his mouth as the bottle tapped the table. He would enumerate about how his dad always provided for the family and put up with a bunch of crazy shit that only kids can create. My definition of manhood was sufficient, for now at least.

The moments that I spend now looking at my son and thinking of the future full of advice, wisdom, stern-talkings to, perspectives, reassurances, attaboys, and what were you thinkings that we have ahead of us show me exactly what my manhood is all about.