Lately the news has been full of “Boys behaving badly” headlines. There was that International Monetary Fund guy. Then came Arnold Schwarzenegger. And all this week, we have been barraged with waaayy too much information about Congressman Anthony Weiner. All of these politicians can find plenty of company with pro athletes (Tiger Woods, Brett Favre, Ben Roethlisberger), Hollywood personalities (Charlie Sheen, Mel Gibson), and musicians (just about every rapper). We certainly sem to be lacking in high-profile male role models these days.
Naturally, I don’t rely on celebrities to model good behavior for Junior. His dad gives him plenty of examples every day of acceptable male decorum. And I try to point out examples of what not to do when I see them at Wal-Mart or church or Wal-Mart. Sadly, there are plenty of teachable moments out there.
Imagine my delight when I found a blog called The Art of Manliness. I spent a whole lot of time there today reading about manly skills, several ways to tie a necktie, refining conversation skills, and good manners. There are videos on perfecting those pesky Windsor knots, lots of photos about matching shirts with ties, tips on ironing dress shirts –I LOVE this! There are also less superficial topics such as preparing for job interviews, finding your calling in life, and getting your finances in order. How awesome is it that there is an entire blog devoted to separating men from “guys.” You can be sure that Junior will be spending a lot of time consulting this site as part of his “Life Skills” curriculum.
Now, the poor kid may not reap immediate benefits from this education. In fact, it may be just the opposite. He’s heading off to an academic camp next week, spending way more time than usual with kids his own age. There’s nothing like total immersion in teen culture to show you how much the traditional argument about homeschooling and socialization is a bunch of crap. The last time Junior went to camp, 2 years ago, his roommates spent their free time experimenting with candy bars in the microwave. Their group projects on rocketry involved how funny toilets on the moon would be. With any luck, the difference between boys at 12 and boys at 14 will be monumental. All I know is that Junior would call me every night from that camp expressing how frustrated he was with these kids that all acted like morons. Apparently, all of Junior’s training in manners, conversation, and martial arts bearing did nothing to ingratiate him with his peers. To them, even though he was smart and athletic and skilled at video games, he was completely alien because he didn’t see the attraction of rough-housing with dorm room property or trying to blow things up in a microwave after lights out.
Have I scarred my kid for life with my focus on manners and courtesy and values? Or have I invested in a generation that, hopefully, will see fewer crotch shots in cyberspace and Weiner jokes? Somebody back me up here. Wouldn’t the image of a pleasant young man holding the door for an elderly lady go a long way toward removing the Weiner underway image from the place it’s burned onto your retina? Just sayin’.