When Did You Know You Became a Man?

It was like running into a brick wall.

That question was in a book that’s part of a parenting class I’m taking. A class about raising sons into men, which — in today’s society — too often seems to be an ignored responsibility.

My age tells me that I’m a man. I can’t do as much yard work as I used to without feeling like I’m about to croke, so I must be kinda old. A man. An old man. I’m almost 45, but the Matt in my head and heart is still about 25. Maybe 30.

Is that a man?

Did I become a man when I got married? No. The immaturity that plagued my early married years is proof that I was still a child then.

Did I become a man when my first child was born? Yes. Maybe. Hard to say. That’s definitely when the earth changed shape for me. Nothing like realizing that you’re fully responsibly for another person’s life to make you a man. Nothing like seeing a blood relative for the first time in your life. (I’m adopted.)

Will I become (more of) a man when my dad dies? I don’t know. Not something I like to think about.

I’ve been running into this brick wall of a question for weeks now and I still don’t know the answer.

How do you know when you became a man?

Methinks we need to start doing a better job of teaching our sons about manhood so that they can give a definitive answer to that question.

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Matt McGee

Matt McGee

Matt loves juicy cheeseburgers and ice cream. With M&Ms. (The ice cream, that is. Not the cheeseburgers.) He's also a sucker for beautiful sunsets. Matt is the editor-in-chief of two marketing-related news sites and is one of those weirdos that enjoys public speaking. His claims to fame are having a letter to the editor published in Sports Illustrated and being an extra in Thelma & Louise. (The early scene in the bar. When the camera is on Geena Davis as she's sitting down. I walk behind her. You can only see me from the stomach down to my hips/thighs. Blue jeans and a plaid-style shirt, as I recall. But it's me. Serious.)

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  • Guest

    Is there really a threshold or is it a spectrum? I watched my grandfather die and my father fill his shoes and I watched the wholesale disappearance of self concern. The birth of my daughter further illustrated the satisfaction of selflessness. As the watched becomes the watch-man the responsibility of the Shepard really becomes apparent; we discover the understanding of our absolute ineptitude to assume the role. Perhaps many in our generation face this chasm and quit. Its incredibly difficult to face the impossibility of success in reaching absolute selflessness perhaps because selflessness is death. Not giving into death, but eliminating the need for self preservation of any resource. When our lives become a function of true service, the death is to the slavery of our own selfish nature. So, I guess, if this is what it is to no longer be a boy, the journey is one that can never be fulfilled. That’s probably for the best.

  • Matt McGee

    I certainly agree that we should always be growing as people. And, more specifically, as men. But I would disagree with you on a couple points, too.

    Even though growth should always be happening, that doesn’t mean there’s no threshold, to use your term. Athletes should always be improving, but they pass numerous thresholds — amateur to pro, high school to college to pro, whatever it might be. In our own professions, we should always be growing, but one day we can call ourselves “doctor” or “lawyer” or “nurse” or whatever it is we do. I certainly believe there is — or should be — a threshold where we tell our sons, “You’re a man now. Start/Keep acting like one.”

    I also disagree that manhood = selflessness. Putting others first is certainly part of being a man, but that doesn’t mean having zero sense of self. It means taking care of yourself, too, so that you can serve God, your wife, children, family, co-workers, etc., in the best way possible. (That may not be what you’re implying by “selflessness,” however. But if so, I would disagree.)

  • Joseph Villa

    Matt, this is a great question that many men today are asking themselves. What book are you using in your parenting class?

  • Matt McGee

    Thx Joseph. The book is called “Raising a Modern-Day Knight.” Author is Robert Lewis.