There is a book out -- 50 Things Every Guy Should Know How to Do : Celebrity and Expert Advice on Living Large -- that purports to teach readers all they need to know about the gentle art of manliness. Well, not all that gentle, obviously. We're talking about men here.
Here, then, are some things a man needs to know:
- How to get dressed for a date
- How to balance work and family
- How to care for children
- How to buy a car
- How to buy a house1
- How to travel cheaply (presumably without only going to places like Cleveland)
- How to negotiate
Fair enough. Those are definitely useful life skills for a man ... sorry, a guy. They're useful life skills for women, too, but they have their own books. Not so much on child-rearing, since all women come preprogrammed for that anyway, but the other stuff.
The compilers do try. There are sections by Carson Kressley and Richard Simmons, and some by women that have no direct connection with women (for example, the chapter on how to pick a beer is by Julie Bradford, editor of All About Beer magazine and co-founder of Pop The Cap!; that on starting a business is by Stephanie Chandler), but most of the chapters are by people who fit the narrow construction of Man (or in this case, I suppose, Guy).
Two are by porn stars: Peter North tells readers how to last longer in bed and a woman who has chosen (if not had bestowed upon her) the side-splittingly clever nom de guerre Britney Rears provides motivation, penning (or at least allowing her name to be used for) the oddly-titled chapter on how to "get a woman to date you." I can't quite put my finger on what's off about that phrasing, but there's something not quite right.
Some sections speak to the fantasies supposedly lurking i n the hearts of men, or guys: from L.A. Times sports editor Bill Dwyer, we learn how to get a job in sports, while Suzy Baer (not an associate of Leonard Peltier as far as I've been able to determine) explains the ins and outs of having a threesome, that being her area of expertise. No longer having the book to hand, I'm not sure whether the advice includes instructions on persuading your current partner, if necessary, or just on finding a third and working out the mechanics.
Perhaps the clearest (unintended?) display of the nature of privilege are two consecutive chapters which respectively instruct the reader on detecting infidelity in his partner and indulging in it himself. A private investigator gives you signs that your wife is cheating -- such as going out to get milk at 9 P.M., which must be worrying to fathers and other readers who tend to run out of milk at all hours -- and then Judith Brandt condenses her book explaining how you can cheat on her. Evidently the secret is to avoid anyone you know and anyone who lives closer than 50 miles from your home. I imagine rising gas prices will lead to a lowering of adultery rates. Either way, another chpter tells you how to get a divorce.
On the other hand, those who wish to indulge in one of the most manly (guyly) of pursuits -- cooking a steak -- are left to the advice of one Tiffany Collins. I'm going to guess the executive chef from the Texas Beef Council is a woman.
Some choices boggle the mind. It's useful to know how to be funny; it's less useful to be advised on same by -- well, anybody really, since either you've got it or you
write like I do don't, but Carrot Top would seem a particularly bad choice.
All of this, however, is out-mysterioused by the existance of the book in thie first place. Can masculinity really be boiled down to 50 things? Is it really so important not to put a foot wrong that you need a book to set you on the correct path? What does it say about someone who purchaces and reads this?
Hopefully, in the vast majority of cases, it will indicate nothing more than a combination of disposable income and a penchant for sarcasm.
1I'm not sure why Buffalo Tom lead singer Bill Janovitz is supposed to be particularly adept at this, but I guess we go with the talents God gives us.