By Ellen Garnett
If you’re the kind of person who enjoys reading snarky, sarcastic material, you will love “Man Made,” a book written by “Time Magazine” columnist Joel Stein.
Stein, a clever middle-aged man, goes on an adventure to learn about manliness for his newborn son, Lazlo. He explores activities that are typically deemed “manly,” such as hunting, fighting, and camping as a Boy Scout, all of which Stein missed out on as a kid because he shut himself off from exploring outside of his comfort zone.
As a journalist, I have a huge intellectual boner for Joel Stein and his level of snarkiness. He is not afraid to share his observations on life, such as on owning a dog. For two weeks, Stein adopted a dog to fulfill the “taming animals” aspect of manliness. He is thoroughly confused as to why people invite nature into their housing. When he runs into another dog owner, he becomes more confused about people who have pets.
“It seems awkward to make small talk with the guy whose dog’s butt is getting smelled out, but it seems more awkward not to. I’m not sure if we’re supposed to pretend the butt smelling isn’t going on or address it directly like, ‘Wow. It seems like your dog’s butt smells fantastic. What do you do? Wipe it?’ ”
I love his sense of sarcasm and that his writing has a definitive voice. In my writing, I also strive to put a clever edge on my work. Overall, Stein is very creative and honest in his journey to reclaim his manhood.
However, at times, I felt annoyed at how “unmanly” he was, which speaks to how clear-cut we are as a society in our understanding of manliness. I did like that his book made me reflect on my own definition of manliness, which is, I will admit, somewhat based on stereotypes. Also, he had an obnoxious tendency to refer to women as “chicks” but perhaps that was part of his “trying to become a man” bit.
I liked that he focused on not just staying up in his brain but also being actionable in life, which is a great message for his audience. As college students, it is important for us to step out of our comfort zones to see what we are really capable of doing in this world. The whole point of college (besides, you know, getting a degree) is to experiment. We find things we are good at and that we like to do and others that we absolutely hate.
“Man Made” is a great book for reflecting on our definition of what it means to be a man, and, more importantly, encourages us to not be afraid to discover the reaches of our capabilities.