Friday, January 20, 2006

Self-Made Man

The book review from Salon offers this bit of analysis:
When Vincent reports, "It was hard being a guy," she really means to say that it's hard for all of us to live up to the hackneyed ideals of masculinity, and maybe only a little harder for Ned. But I strongly suspect that she means it was hard for Norah to be Ned in ways she hasn't quite confronted, that pretending to be a man did not confer upon her any of the alleged privilege or freedom of manhood, and that that was subtly and perhaps subconsciously disappointing. She's too guarded to write honestly about the difficulty and pain she obviously experienced, yet also too locked within that subjectivity to see it for what it is.

Ned seems as if he was a good guy. A little dippy, a little overly earnest, a little too eager to please. But his heart was in the right place, and we can always use more guys like that. Is it as tough to be a guy as it was for him? Well, it can be; manhood 2.0 offers all the old pitfalls and some new ones too. We're all trying to make it up as we go, mixing something from Category A with something from Category B: a dose of old-fashioned stoicism, some dudely 'tude, along with the ability to cry every now and then, or hug each other without grotesque embarrassment. A shot of bourbon and a glass of Chardonnay; it doesn't always work.

Come to think of it, you could say the same thing about women. These days they're all trying to be the attorney general while wearing sexy lingerie and downloading killer cookie recipes on their BlackBerrys. It can be pretty awkward. Some, like Norah Vincent, are trying to find a form of femininity that borders on masculinity. It seems to me that it's pretty hard to be human, and that we might all be the same misfit, mask-wearing, role-playing species after all.

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