Week 0: The Problem

On September 29, 2012, I made the leap, took the plunge, tied the knot, made it official, and/or got hitched.  In short, I liked it so I put a ring on it.

We took our vows outdoors, overlooking the mountains of southern Virginia with our friends and family.  However, before the ceremony, I was falling apart with stress.  I had taken an hour getting ready and spent so much time worrying about my hair that I didn’t even realize I was about to be late to my own wedding.  Once I arrived at the site, I was concerned that the centerpieces and table settings were not in their right place, but I didn’t want to bother the staff.  Besides, more pressing issues required my attention.  I still hadn’t put on my custom-made attire, and my one and only was starting to get impatient while I scrambled.

Finally, I was ready to go, and despite my worry of an impending rainstorm, the clouds somehow held out.  I met my betrothed at our makeshift altar underneath a stunning Poplar tree, and after ten minutes that flew by like jet planes, we were married.  After some pictures with family (including one favorite where I got to vogue it out with the bridesmaids) and some with my new spouse, the reception began.  We went right into a choreographed dance that we somehow pulled off despite being nervous as all hell.  Looks like my years of experience dancing in musical theater paid off.  Later, we gorged on some delicious food and cake, made all the better since it marked the end of my pre-wedding diet.  We danced the night away, made our grand exit, and drove off into the night as man and wife.

Let’s say you don’t know me and you didn’t read the title of this webpage or see the picture to the right.  And, for the sake of the argument, let’s say you talk like Sam Elliot.  You’re probably then asking yourself:  “Who in the Sam Hill wrote this, pardner?  The bride or the dang ol’ groom?”  Well, my cowpoke friend, this came straight from yours truly.

My name is Peter Andre, and I’m not a man.  I take gummy vitamins.  I require Band-Aids for paper cuts.  I’ve been called petite in mixed company.

Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with this.  It hasn’t stopped me from enjoying my twenty-six years on Earth so far.  I married an absolutely wonderful woman and, to quote the 90s, she likes me for me.  I have great friends and a loving family.  I feel content.  But am I a man?  They may have pronounced us man and wife, but that doesn’t stop me from hesitating before I use that nomenclature for myself.  I feel more at ease with “young adult,” but that’s really only appropriate when followed with “novel-turned-movie franchise.”  You wouldn’t refer to me as a man’s man.  And certainly not a Man’s Man’s Man.  Ladies and gentlemen, the incomparable James Brown.

Does a man’s man even have a place in today’s society anymore? I’ve seen countless articles and books written about the death of men, social media makes it easier and easier to unleash our inner tween, and I’m finding it harder and harder not to use emoticons in text messages.  It’s just so much easier to embrace irony or passive-aggressiveness than to be sincere.  Why put myself out there and risk embarrassment or pain?  Our society allows for men-children like me to exist happily.  Hell, I can even buy the mouthwash without alcohol so it won’t hurt my teethies.

But I believe there still is a place in today’s world for the manly man.  Despite the popularity of the eternal adolescent in pop culture and society in general, the manly man won’t die.  There’s a reason that the most recent James Bond movie made a billion dollars.  There’s a reason hipsters idolize Ron Swanson.

ron swanson

I think it’s time to embrace the part of me that’s laid dormant for so much of my life – my Y chromosome. Do you think Teddy Roosevelt did a choreographed dance routine at his wedding? Do you think John Wayne vogued it out with the bridesmaids? Do you think Joe Namath spent an hour fussing with his hair? (That one’s at least possible.) It’s time to make a change.

It’s not that I want to endure every silly little cliché found in men’s magazines for your enjoyment.  It’s that I sincerely want to improve myself.  I want to be a better husband, a better friend, and a better me.

Some time ago, I was walking down 34th Street in Manhattan with my wife Q 1 after a particularly horrifying visit to Macy’s.  Despite what people say about Times Square, I find the Macy’s store to be a much more infuriating New York experience.  I imagine the circle of hell set aside for claustrophobics was modeled after it.

We navigated through the throng of people trudging down 34th Street, attempting to walk the 100 feet from the Macy’s exit to the subway entrance.  In trying to keep up with Q, I (allegedly) cut off this huge muscle man casually sipping on a Frappuccino, and the man, without a word, punched me hard in the arm.  I turned around, stunned, as he said in a deep baritone, “Say excuse me.”  Terrified, I blurted out “Sorry!  Sorry!” and ran to find Q.  All I could spit out was, “That guy just hit me.  That guy just punched me in the arm!” as Muscle Man slipped back into the stampede of people.

Look, confrontations like this one happen all the time in big urban sprawls; I’m not naïve about that.  I probably did cut him off and didn’t say, “Excuse me, good sir,” as perhaps I should have.  None of that bothers me.  Ok, it pisses me off a little, but that’s not what’s at issue here.  I’m upset about how I reacted.  A guy punches me and I say sorry.  Twice.  What does that say about me?  What does that say about the respect I have for myself?

I told Q sincerely in our vows that I would help her if she needed help, but am I really capable of everything that encompasses?  If somebody jumped out of a bush and attacked her, what would I do?  Would I shrivel up?  Or would I barely be able to spit out, “He’s attacking you!  That guy is attacking you!”

Don’t misunderstand me: I’m not saying women need manly men to protect them.  I know first hand that it’s quite to the contrary.  Q once ran down two teenage hooligans causing trouble at her pool while wearing her lifeguard bikini and a hard cast on her leg.  THAT’S a real man.  She’s extremely assertive; that’s what attracted me in the first place.  Now I want that for myself too.

I’m sick of being passive in the decisions I make and the risks I take.  I don’t want to spend my life worrying about what might happen.  I want to take action and let the chips fall where they may.  In a weird way, Muscle Man represents something I’m striving for in myself.  He was strong, assertive, and when he saw something that needed to be rectified, he actually did something about it.  He wouldn’t grumble to himself and do nothing when someone cuts in line at Cinnabon.  He wouldn’t stay silent when people pushed into the subway car before he exited.  He wouldn’t lay awake in his bed, staring at the ceiling, while the partiers outside in the alley next to his apartment played club music and screamed at the top of their lungs at 4:30 a.m. last night, thinking, “Oh, they’ll probably stop any minute now when they realize it’s a school night.”  All hypothetical situations, of course.

In this bizarre way, I have Muscle Man to thank for showing me the light.  I realized that I can’t live a life of inaction and retreat.  I’m going to do whatever it takes to become a full-fledged, red-blooded, capital-M Man.  So wherever you are, working on those biceps while simultaneously sipping a cool mocha beverage, thank you.  Thank you, you big stupid asswipe.

1 Not her real name.  Despite what I wished for on my eighth birthday, she is not James Bond’s gadget maker and can’t make me a jetpack that shoots out lasers.  Sorry, 8 year-old me.