On the Modern Man

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I submitted this short opinion piece to the 48hrmag.com project, and it wasn’t selected, as the other writers were all way better than me, and I’m looking forward to reading the magazine when it comes out, as should you. But I want to share my thoughts anyway. More to come, of course.

The Masculine Mystique: Why it’s time to stop watching ESPN, and time to start hustling

Gentlemen: we’ve got a problem. In many ways, this article is, in and of itself, a fallacy. There is no need, really, for an exposition on the plight of the our gender. To even presume such need will, as it must, be treated as an act of treachery against a very worthwhile institution. It’s not meant to be. The statistics remain deeply troubling, especially in my vocational community, which is that of start-ups, early stage equity investing, and technology. I am optimistic about a future where the state of employment in this country does in fact reflect our reality, wherein there are more girls than guys enrolling in schools, completing higher education degrees, and generally kicking ass. The true meritocracy is in the horizon’s rising sun, and we aren’t moving East towards it quickly enough. But this article isn’t about jobs. It’s about romance. And boy, we could really use a hand.

To properly describe our dilemma, we start from the beginning. As evolutionary biologists largely agree, the genders of homo sapiens served complimentary and distinct reproductive purposes. While mystical lore often starts the human story with Man, it in fact starts with Woman. She was tasked with carrying the baby, and as such was oriented towards selecting seed that would maximize her offspring’s chance of survival. Men, and humanity at large, are dependent on women for their wombs, so have to impress them with our breadwinning ability, to win their favor over our peers, with the ultimate goal of their selection. When breadwinning was largely a physical exercise, it was easy. We’re bigger, we’re faster, we’re stronger. These days, it’s not so simple. Thanks to technology, humans have become masters of our universe. Society is no longer driven with physical strength, but instead intellectual strength. We don’t have the edge any more (and if graduation stats are any measure, we are in fact inferior). So how, then, do we impress?

Or, another angle: in modern society, we look for narrative in romance. Our obsession with, and addiction to, popular culture, in fiction, cinema, and magazines, has us yearning, unconsciously or not, for stories like those of Ilsa Lund and Lizzy Bennett– of Daisy Buchanan and Brett Ashley– of Blair Waldorf and Carrie Bradshaw. In our men, whether they succeed or fail, in comedy and in tragedy, we want stoics, with inordinate wealth, imposing personas, physically and culturally, and deep flaws of the heart. In short, and in lockstep with our evolution: we have bred a frenzy for alphas. But in a post-feminist era, all notions of traditional alpha dominance are also passé. Real relationships are fluid, definitional roles and archetypes are outmoded. Women have begun to eclipse men, in terms of earning potential (though real wages coninue to lag). If the narrative requires one thing, and the reality suggests another, what to do?

It seems, in either interpretation, that men are cosmically trapped. The rules of engagement are a paradox, a contradiction; our evolutionary advantages have eroded without being replaced; and we’re grooming a generation of young men who are under performing next to their female peers. So, take heed. It’s time to dig deep, gentlemen; to learn what makes the modern man tick, to find our place. It’s time to hustle.

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