Being a man is hard. Where previous generations opted to take the easy road, defining manhood with tangible accomplishments like carving out a homestead in the untamed wilderness or shooting at the Axis of Evil from a trench, our modern approach is much more subtle and high concept. We are trying something new. We refuse to just plow through the fleshy folds of life with the firm morals and rigid convictions of our grandfathers. No, instead we've opted to stay flexible and rubbery, capable of shifting our concept of masculinity on the fly. And while it doesn't always satisfy the needs or expectations or even the women of the era, we are courageously ensuring that the world will never suffer a shortage of ironic T-shirt companies, or mods for the original Wolfenstein, or 30-year-old dudes wandering around Central America for a year just really finding themselves.
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History will remember our sacrifices.
Even though it's tougher now than ever to say for certain what characterizes a man, there are still a few tacit rules by which all men live. So ladies, if you find yourself uneasily wondering whether your boyfriend, your son, your husband, or even your father can legitimately be called an adult, I have created this helpful checklist. What follows are four simple tasks every guy worth his salt should be able to accomplish using nothing but his two hands, his ingenuity, and maybe a quick 45-minute Internet search (accounting for extra time spent listening to '90s cartoon theme songs on YouTube).
#4. Building a Fire
It doesn't matter whether a man is in his backyard, lost in the woods, or attending a children's music recital, if he can't get a fire going at a moment's notice, he is a hopeless failure. Fire has been so integral to the success of our species that now we can't help but start them, even accidentally on the sides of freeways and with grease in our own kitchens. In fact, if a man can't build a fire, you should rip open his trench coat and make sure he's not just a bunch of rabbits piled on top of each other pretending to be your boyfriend.
"But I framed those Maroon 5 lyrics for you. Didn't that mean anything to you?"
The trick, of course, is to start small when building a fire: create a teepee of dry twigs, stuff some tinder or kindling in the middle, and then gradually add bigger and bigger pieces of wood in the same structural form as the fire catches and grows.
But What if That Sounds Like a Lot of Work?
Fair enough. I get it, the modern man doesn't always have time to sit around blowing on dead grass and bark. These aren't the carefree days of living in caves and eating every animal and berry in the forest for free. He has people counting on him in other quadrants of his life, specifically his followers on Twitter, who are waiting for hilarious updates about his camping trip. So consider this rule amended to: Every modern man should be able to build a fire using only a Duraflame log, lighter fluid, and 87 matches.
It's even shaped like masculinity.
The Duraflame log saves him time so that he can build a fire and still find a high spot with mediocre service, effectively killing two birds with one stone, figuratively, though, because he likely can't throw a rock hard enough to kill anything. The lighter fluid is a precautionary measure to ensure he gets the log lit even if he forgets to read the instructions on the wrapper, and the 87 matches are crucial because he will inevitably discover he can build a little Lincoln Log house out of them, then burn it to the ground. Something he will no doubt want to Vine.
#3. Running a Mile
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In elementary school, most of us had to endure physical fitness tests that ensured we could each do pushups and situps and run a full mile. In the United States it was called the Presidential Fitness Test, presumably because it was the '80s and Reagan wasn't sure yet if he would need an army of tiny super soldiers to fight World War III. But if that was the lowest bar America could set for children, then surely an adult male should be able to meet the same requirements. While it may not come in handy all the time, a man should have enough authority over his own body to haul that sack of guts for 5,300 feet without stopping.
Pictured: All of us, more or less.
"But what about the people with asthma or polio or something?" you may be asking. "Does that preclude them from becoming real men?" And my answer is, of course, "No, but trying to piggyback on their disability so that you don't have to run a mile is a decidedly unmanly thing to do. Now get going, Devon, or whatever your name is."
But What if That Sounds Like a Lot of Work?
It's just one mil- OK. Alright. I realize that test was conducted in the '80s, and that the definition of manhood can change quickly over a short amount of time, given new advancements and knowledge, sort of like CPR training. So if a mile just sounds too damn far, then I'm happy to amend this rule: The modern man should be able to run a mile or, at the very least, hustle to the kitchen for a cheese stick and a soda before a Hulu commercial is over. A feat of that caliber showcases both physical strength and pure determination in one shuffling, sock-sliding exercise. I can't foresee a single woman in the world who could witness that without getting misty-eyed with the knowledge that, yes, there are still some men left in the world.