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Be Manly but Not Too Manly? 311 Sexist Pieces of Advice for Men

If you're a man who wants to attract women, don't own a cat or play video games. This review challenges an author's rigid definitions of who's dateable.

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This narrow window of masculinity crops up most obviously with the advice about appearance. Men have to not look like they care too much what they look like -- but they can't look like they've let themselves go, either, or like they're entirely unconcerned with how they look. (And they obviously have to care enough about how they look to follow the advice in this book.) Signifiers that we typically think of as female are right out: no jewelry, gelled hair, dyed hair, “man-purses,” “girlie” sunglasses, (the phrase “girlie” crops up in this book with astonishing frequency), etc. In fact, injunctions against femininity are probably the most common in this book -- and they're easily among the most venomous. But signifiers that are too obviously masculine are also nixed: sports jerseys are out, camouflage jackets are out, excessive body hair has to be trimmed, shaved, or waxed. (Except eyebrows and chest. You can't wax your eyebrows or shave your chest. Just back, neck, nose, and ears.) Jeans can't be too slobby... but they can't be too tailored or embellished. And no colorful flash -- not even Hawaiian shirts. (Quote: “Instead, go with a polo shirt or a long-sleeved, lightweight cotton oxford shirt in white, pale blue, or a mild stripe.” In other words: Boring, boring, boring, boring, boring.)

But the sliver-thin window between “macho gorilla” and “girlie man” applies to behavior as well. Men can't be bad dancers... but they can't be too good of a dancer, either. They can't be heavy drinkers... but they can't be lightweights. (And they can't order “girlie drinks.”) They can't be aggressive drivers... or sissy drivers. They have to exercise... but not too much. And they can't diet. Dieting is girly. I am not fucking kidding you. Quote: “Men are supposed to lose weight by exercising, not by acting like a woman.” Who cares whether it works or not. Although the authors obviously do care whether it works. Being fat is high on their Don't list. Men can't be fat. They just can't manage it by diet. That's girly. And they have to be assertive and dominant -- it's news to me, but apparently women like men who “TAKE CHARGE” (all-caps theirs) and make all the plans for the date -- but not too dominant. And again, not so assertive that they ignore the advice in this book and make their own damn decisions about this stuff.

There are some fascinating exhortations about class in this book as well -- exhortations that make the link between class and masculinity vividly clear. In order to be dateable, men have to not give off signifiers that they're blue-collar or working class. No jacked-up cars; no clothing with skulls or tattoo art; no going to shooting ranges. But at the same time, they can't be too intellectual or urbane. And no nerdiness at all: no Star Trek conventions; no Dungeons & Dragons or World of Warcraft; no Renaissance Faires. (In other words -- nix to practically my entire circle of friends. Most of whom, I might point out, are in relationships. With other Trekkies/ D&D freaks/ Renfaire nerds.) Apparently, ideal manhood -- no, strike that, even just barely acceptable manhood -- means being comfortably middle-class... and staying firmly within that class. No mobility for you, pal. Upward or downward.

Plus the authors of this book are obsessed with money and maleness to an almost comical degree. Men have to pay. Period. They have to pay on the first date; they have to pay on every other date; they can't use half-off coupons on dinner dates; they have to pay for valet parking. It's like reading Emily Post from the 1950s. If I might offer my own “Don't” to the ladies who authored this book: Don't be freaking hypocrites. Women cannot demand equality and liberation, and then demand that men pay our way. At full price.

 
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