February 26, 2010

Page 129

"You're going to put that up?" my wife had asked me when I brought the [towel] rack home from the store. She didn't sound dubious so much as surprised, as if I were also proposing to weave a new set of bath towels from cotton I had grown and harvested myself.

"Duh," I said coolly. "No biggie."

This is an essential element of the business of being a man: to flood everyone around you in a great radiant arc of bullshit, one whose source and object of greatest intensity is yourself. To behave as if you have everything firmly under control even when you have just sailed your boat over the falls. "To keep your head," wrote Rudyard Kipling in his classic poem"If," which articulated the code of high-Victorian masculinity in whose fragmentary shadow American men still come of age, "when all about you are losing theirs"; but in reality, the trick of being a man is to give the appearance of keeping your head when, deep inside, the truest part of you is crying out, Oh, shit!

Perhaps in the end there is little difference between keeping one's head and appearing to do so; perhaps the effort required to feign unconcern and control over a situation itself imparts a measure of control. If so, then the essence of traditional male virtue lies in imposture, in an ongoing act of dissimulation - fronting - which hardly conforms to the classic Kipling model of square=dealing candor.

- Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon

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