How to Be a Man

Duff McKagan is the founding bassist of Guns N' Roses and the leader of Seattle's Loaded. His column runs every Thursday on Reverb.
I wish I had the answer.

There's never been an adequate manual for instruction on how to be a man. Images of put-together, suit-wearing studs drinking whiskey on TV commercials are just not real life. As much as we fellas want to be like Jason Statham, kicking ass at will--well, good luck with that.

I don't look as good as Statham does when I wear a tuxedo with my bow tie a bit loosened. My kung fu will never be as fluid as what I see in movies. My hair will never be cut to perfection, and top-shelf cologne can't make everything else in my life perfect and well-kept.

All that said, I have made some observations so that I may help the man-traveller of these current and confusing times:

To be a man also means to be a man of your word: In this day and age, being straight-up with others is almost a foreign tactic. A completely new and strange phenomenon has surfaced because of text conversations between men and women (I have been made to understand). In the song "Say My Name," the girl wants her man to say her name out loud in a phone conversation--because she suspects that her dude is with another woman.

Now that texting is the main mode of conversation, apparently, suspicious ladies are now asking for a picture from their beaus. As in: Show me that you aren't with some chick. Man up. Don't commit to a girl unless you are done being the carouser. If you feel solid in your relationship but your girl still asks for a picture, it may be time to move on.

Learn how to fight: Yep, go box or learn some style of martial art or mixed martial art. It'll actually have the opposite effect on us fellas. Instead of being threatened out there at a bar or whatever, having skill in some fighting discipline will calm that dumb machismo that all of us dudes are born with, and those previously thought threats from some dumbass will suddenly seem silly. Fighting skill and conditioning will give you confidence in many areas of your life.

Save it for your girl: The "it" I am speaking of actually acts as "glue" for a relationship. Monogamy is key. If you can't be honest with your lady, it serves that you aren't being honest at all, and that is a loser's game.

Get a cause: A good friend of mine with a wife, three kids, and a full-time job still finds time to volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House. Guys like these are a true inspiration for the rest of us fellas.

Don't road-rage: See #2. Keeping calm is an art form perfected only by the manliest of men.

See people in person: Or at the very least, call.The art of conversation is a dying thing. Man up and sit down for coffee with that person you usually text with. That's right . . . and look them in the eyes (this may seem totally weird for anyone under 30, I understand).

Be the man: Be a good example, even if you've got to fake it. Your kids observe everything you do. And even though it may not seem like it at the time, your kids want to be like you. They want to be proud of you and brag about their dad at school and to their friends. Be observant of your own actions around them kids.

Lead by example: Men are fixers. It gets frustrating for us fellas if we can't mend a situation, or if others don't adhere to what we think is righteous and forthright. All you can do is be the best you can be at that moment. Forge ahead in your own light, feet firmly planted, chest out, shoulders back. It will be noticed when you lead by example.

Listen to your girl: We men sometimes get frustrated when our ladies talk. We will try to actually converse when she is deep into a story about the boss being a dick, or some other friend of hers doing your girl wrong. Do not even try to fix this situation! Your sweety just wants you to listen. Hell, you don't even have to agree. Just listen. This is black-belt-level man stuff.

Do the dishes: Hell, take it one level further: Cook the dinner and do the dishes. Doing laundry is man's work too, as well as cleaning up after the dogs and cuddling your kids. Having a home life where you get the opportunity to be a family man and partake in all these things is a very good thing. It means that you have matriculated your man thing to the very top level. Keep it up.

Don't be a pussy: Don't shy away from a situation just because it's tough. If it is protecting the one you love, or things are tough at work . . . pin those ears back and remember who the fuck you are.

Get smart: Educate yourself on what is going on in culture and politics. Read some books about history. Don't be a pawn, be a scholar.

Evolve: Our dads and granddads grew up in a different time. Communication and tenderness were not neccesarily components of their age groups' makeup. You don't have to be exactly like them. Even though we saw good examples of man-stuff in them, the times they are a-changing.

So you see, there are no real tips for how to look like a male model with the perfectly hewn facial hair. There are no fitness guidelines on how to get that perfect six-pack ab look. I'll let you know about all that stuff once I figure out how to unwrap this P90X DVD and get my wax on.

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