A Brave New Word

Ever since I began writing about Stay-At-Home-Dads and vacuums and how they relate, I have been struggling to find the right word to describe the basic premise of my ideas: that SAHDs need to keep in touch with their maleness, their Inner Caveman. “Getting in touch with your manhood” sounds obscene; “being manly” needs to be said with an Austrian accent; “machismo” is the wrong idea; and “staying masculine” is too easy to say with an lisp. Besides, all of those sound too clinical, too serious. This is a real idea, but dealing with it should be more fun.

After months of research (and a lucky break at the library) I came across a book by one of America’s great philosophers, Dave Barry. According to the New York Times, Dave Barry is also “the funniest man in America.” I don’t live in New York, so I didn’t read the article, but the quote is on the book jacket. He has written two novels (one had a movie made of it), four children’s books, and a bunch of nonfiction titles on everything from money to parenting. He also writes a syndicated column for the Miami Herald, but I don’t live there either so I haven’t read any of them. He even had a television series based on his life called “Dave’s Life” or “The Life of Dave” or something like that. It starred another funny man, whose name I can’t remember, but he was really good on “Night Court” back in the 80s.

The book that has enlightened me was “Dave Barry’s Complete Guide to Guys”. (They made a movie out of this one too, but it went directly to DVD, so I’m not betting on any Academy Awards). Basically, the book attempts to explain Guy behavior. It starts out by explaining that not all males are Guys. Some are Men. Men are responsible, mature, and really not much fun. Guys are childish, clueless, and a source of frustration for women. They are also a source of envy for the responsible men who wish they could still take it easy and have fun like they did in college.

I disagree with one idea from the book. I say that all Men have a Guy inside. What Man would not love to see a Buick launched from a giant catapult, just for the sake of seeing if it was possible? What Man does not believe that his cheering for a team actually helps them win? What Man would not love just one day on the Space Shuttle so he could fly that baby at Mach 24 and go “BBBBBBBBRRRRRRRRMMMMMMMM!”? (You have to read the book.)

Almost all Stay-At-Home-Dads have outgrown most of our Guy’s juvenile behavior. We have realized that we need to be responsible, caring, productive Men in order to help our families thrive and make our world a better place. Not only do we have to know how to use the washing machine, we have to know how to separate the clothes into darks, lights, whites, and pinks (if we have girls). That does not mean that our Guy is dead, just that most of his moronic ideas have been honed and smoothed out by Real Life.

So maybe what I have been trying to say is that Stay-At-Home-Dads—and all Men, really—need to realize that they are still a Guy, deep down. We may have smothered him with maturity and accountability, but he is still breathing. Our wives and our children don’t want him to get out very often, but maybe we would be happier if we gave him some air occasionally.

At the very least, I now have a better word to use.

©2008, Mark Phillips

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 Women, it's true, make human beings, but only men can make men. - Margaret Mead

Mark Phillips is a Stay-At-Home-Dad and freelance writer. Along with raising his four children, he is developing a franchise called “The Vacuum IS a Power Tool.” It is designed to help SAHDs maintain that which makes us men, instead of hairy Mom-substitutes. He earned a B.S. in Communication/Theatre Arts and teaching certificates in English, public speaking, and psychology from Eastern Michigan University. After six years as a high school English teacher and Director of Dramatic Arts at Powers Catholic High School in Flint, Michigan, he changed careers and became a Stay-At-Home-Dad. or E-Mail

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