We Are Not Our Fathers
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Politics and Activism

We Are Not Our Fathers

Thoughts On "Growing Up"

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We Are Not Our Fathers
Street Style Market

It's been a personal guilt of mine for quite some time, this occasional struggle to accomplish those tasks that the stereotypical guy can and should be able to do. I'm frustrated at myself when I have to call a plumber in for a simple water issue that he fixes in a few minutes but one that has been plaguing me since I moved in. I dread the seasonal trip to the local Valvoline because I'm embarrassed at my lack of knowledge in such vehicular matters. Every time I listen to my fellow man proudly apprising me of how he successfully, single-handedly finished off the house's drywall, or replaced the bathroom tile, or built a chicken coop from scratch, I cringe inside thinking of my limited successes assembling (and re-assembling) IKEA furniture. I look at my non-callused, occasionally ink-stained hands, free of workmanlike scars and fret about how I expect myself to hold a physical house together without it all falling apart around me.

I remember my dad's small old fishing boat and the excitement he had upon procuring it, the plans he made for the countless fishing trips and excursions he would enjoy with his sons. Little did he know that those very same sons, who were excited on the onset, would grow bored with these intermittent trips and the lack of tangible progress (read: fish) they yielded. We abstained from fishing in favor of sports, video games, books, and anything else we could muster up as worthy of our teenage attention spans. Our father thus went on these trips alone, bereft of company, a familial take on the lone fisherman epitomized in literature. Over the years the trips grew shorter and more infrequent until the boat was sold off due to disuse and neglect. This abandonment on my part has left me no shortage of guilt and self-loathing, especially as I've grown over time to understand that fishing is more than the fish one catches and the lily pads one snags, it represents something deeper and more meaningful in the quiet mornings and dusky sunsets spent with family.

I figure (read: hope) I'm not alone in these episodic crises of self-identity. A GE commercial aired last year almost perfectly illustrated such shortcomings in the digital age, starkly illustrating the differences between father and son. A recent Washington Post article discussed the findings of a study which found, among other things, that millennial men's' grip strength was weaker in comparison to their predecessors at the same age. Perhaps most striking is something I watched years ago that has stayed with me since. What first got me thinking that others were in a similar conundrum was when I watched Mike Rowe - of "Dirty Jobs" fame - speak before a congressional hearing in 2011, encouraging them to promote the need for more vocational trades nationwide. Don't ask me why I was watching this particular hearing, but during his testimony, he mentioned his lifelong admiration for his grandfather as a "jack-of-all-trades" around the house and on the job, a man whose disregard for instruction manuals earned him the respect of those around him. Such an individual seems like a work of fiction in this day and age.

I know there are solutions to this malaise of character, and there are other more noteworthy things at stake than one's pride in his sense of masculine identity as defined by the stereotypes of handiwork and technical knowledge. And I'm not completely bereft of knowledge - when someone mentions "Phillips" I'm prepared and know not to ask, "The screwdriver or the last name of that one American Idol singer?" I also know that life offers roughly a 50/50 chance of success when using physical intimidation to impose your will over a household appliance. And in truth is it really that terrible to pore over the instruction manuals and access Youtube tutorials for even the most mundane of tasks? I surely don't speak for an entire generation with this article, but I wonder if there's someone else out there who feels a brief moment of self-doubt at the mention of the standard "How many men does it take to change a lightbulb" gag and might, to himself, begrudgingly answers, "more than one...depending on the situation."

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