Men, Guys, and Dudes
There are three major categories of the adult male species. Each one of these has their own characteristics, personalities, and their own levels of growth and maturity.
It’s only in recent history, and particularly in western culture, that the rite of passage from boy to man has disappeared. In many other cultures around the world these rites are still practiced. Though many of us in the west may find some of these rites odd, outdated, or even barbaric, they serve as an important cultural milestone marking the transition into manhood.
For example, in the Amazon young boys belonging to the indigenous Sateré-Mawé tribe mark their coming of age when they turn 13 in a Bullet and Ant Initiation. The boys search the jungle for bullet ants which are sedated by a leader who submerges them in an herbal solution. The ants are then weaved into gloves with the stingers pointed inwards. An hour or so later, the ants wake up angrier than ever, and the initiation begins. Enduring the pain demonstrates the boys’ readiness for manhood -- so few cry out as doing so would demonstrate weakness.
In Kenya and Tanzania, the Maasai have several rites of passage that carry boys into manhood. Boys between the ages of 10-20 come together to be initiated as the new “warrior class” of the tribe, placed in dozens of houses built for the occasion. The night before the ceremony the boys sleep outside in the forest, and at dawn they return for a day of singing and dancing. They drink a mixture of alcohol, cow’s blood, and milk, while also consuming large portions of meat. After these festivities they are ready to be circumcised, making the official transformation into a man, warrior, and protector.
Many of the Native American cultures in the US have rites of passage that are still practiced to this day.
For many of us generic American white boys, however, the rite of passage is just a myth, a story, a thing of a distant past.
Although I never had to experience the stinging ant gloves or drink a mix of cow’s blood and milk, I was fortunate that my father exposed me to rites of passage as a young boy. In some areas of the country a boy getting his first hunting rifle or cleaning his first kill can be a rite of passage. For others it can be learning the value of hard work through chores, learning the value of teamwork through sports, or the value of getting dirty by working on the car or building something with your own hands.
When I look back, some of the rites I experienced were:
Crawling under the house to unfreeze pipes in the dead of a Michigan winter
Shoveling the snow, sometimes multiple times a day, keeping the porch, steps, and sidewalks safe
Learning how to work on a car, teaching me problem solving, mechanical aptitude, and taking care of your possessions
Mowing the yard and then raking and bagging the grass
These may seem like simple things, and they really are, but look around at the younger generation today. At the risk of sounding cruel, many of our young men are soft. They lack the strength of character that is built shoveling snow in the freezing weather or mowing the yard in the summer heat. They see their possessions as disposable and treat them as such. Then when they break they expect their parents to just simply replace it. Something as simple as cleaning their room is treated as medieval torture.
Now, some of this is our fault, men. We, too, have become soft in many ways. We hire landscapers to maintain our lawns. We call service technicians to fix our stuff instead of spending time tapping into our inner masculinity and fixing it ourselves. The garage used to be our Mecca, a place where we’d build things, fix things, and where we’d build relationships with other men over beers and a dismantled carboreatur.
Nowadays the garage serves as a place where shit gets stored and is only a passage from the outside world and into the house.
For whatever reason, we’re not passing on these rites of passage to our children and we’re all worse off for it. Instead of raising generations of men, more and more ‘guys’ and ‘dudes’ are appearing.
Dudes, dudebros, frat boys, this group of adult males has many names. No matter the name, the dude is the same person: irresponsible and immature. The dude can also be a misogynistic creature, viewing women solely as conquests, trophies to be won. They value a good time over everything else and it shows in their surroundings and sometimes the inability to keep a job. They don’t seek advancement in their work as long as their paycheck covers their pleasure seeking. Romantic relationships, if they have them, are extraordinarily shallow and rarely last longer than it takes for him to get bored with his ‘plaything’.
The guy is a slightly more evolved version of the adult male. The barrier of entry into ‘guy-hood’ is still rather low. All it takes to become a guy is grow up, pay bills, and don’t be an asshole. This version of an adult male has little direction in life and is just kinda ‘there’. He probably has a decent job, might even have a family, but he lack purpose in his life. His motto can be summed up as ‘it is what it is’. He’s resigned to his lot in life, figuring he’s gotten as far as he can and it’s as good as it’ll ever get. He often assigns blame for his quality of life on others or his circumstances. You can find him surfing the couch in the evenings and weekends, exhausted from working to maintain his identity as ‘provider’. He lives his life for his family and can be best described as a martyr. He’ll have occasional flashes of inspiration, but gives up easily, preferring the comfort of security over the discomfort of growth.
The man is the most highly evolved of the adult male human. The man has developed a sense of self awareness that alerts him when he’s becoming complacent. He is consistently seeking to grow, try new things, and develop new skills. He isn’t afraid to speak up when he feels slighted in his relationships. He follows his intuition, trusting his inner self to lead him. He recognizes when he strays from his path and seeks to get back on track as quickly as possible. He’s strong, vulnerable, honest, and empathetic. He knows who he is and who he isn’t. He owns up to his mistakes and doesn’t blame others or his circumstances. He doesn’t resign himself to a mediocre life and doesn’t derive his value from his job title or his material possessions. He’s the one who has taken the red pill and walks the road less travelled. He prefers to blaze his own trail. He values the wisdom of his elders and seeks to be an example to younger males. He has integrity and people just inherently trust and look to him as a leader.
Which one are you?
More importantly, which one do you want to be? Being a dude means never growing up and never tapping into your potential. Soon enough, the party will end and all the dude will be left with is a string of conquests and a life devoid of meaning.
Being a guy is easy yet exhausting. A guy’s life is full of frustration, resignation, and regret. A guy lives the ‘supposed to’ life. His goals and dreams really belong to other people and after achieving all he was ‘supposed to’, he’s deeply unhappy. A guy will self medicate to numb the pain of mediocrity. Eventually, though, he’ll snap and either struggle with depression or lash out in anger. He knows he could be so much more and he’s angry with himself for never going for it.
Now, being a man, is the difficult yet most rewarding path. Things may not always work out the way he wanted, but just the fact that he went for it leaves him with a sense of satisfaction and the resolve to do it better next time. A man’s life is rich, not necessarily in money, but in experiences and love. A man who is also a father leaves his children something more valuable than property. He leaves them with the belief that they can do anything they put their minds to. He leaves them with experiences and memories.