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DANA PARSONS

To Be Up Front About It: It's Nice That Men Are Back

September 17, 1993|DANA PARSONS

You may have seen the TV ads, sponsored by a well-known maker of men's cologne.

"Men Are Back," the ad says.

Very effective advertising, because it's just direct enough to let you know another damn trend is upon us but cryptic enough to make you think there's still something left unsaid.

"Hmm," I mused, stroking my beard, "I wonder what that means, 'Men Are Back'? "

I made a mental note to look into the topic. I also made a mental note to grow a beard.

My research thus far indicates that there's a pseudo-scientific basis for the ad. The cologne manufacturers commissioned a survey earlier this year of 1,000 men and women and asked about the status of the American male.

The findings, as reported in the Washington Post, revealed that--and hold onto your hats--"men and masculinity are making a comeback." The Post article, citing survey results, said today's male is "rugged, confident and won't get weepy when describing how he feels. He's not ashamed or embarrassed about being a man."

Thank goodness. We've all grown tired in recent years of the man who, when asked, "Hey, sport, how ya feelin'?" reached for a tissue.

So, sure, we're all thrilled, but in the euphoria of celebrating the news that "Men Are Back," it might also be helpful to ponder several questions:

1. Where Did We Go?

2. How Long Were We Gone?

3. Did We Enjoy Ourselves While We Were There?

4. Did Someone Make Us Go or Did We Go Willingly?

5. What Happened While We Were Gone?

6. Why Did We Come Back?

7. What Are the Chances We'll Go Back Again?

As mentioned, I've researched the issue thoroughly and here are the answers:

Question 1: Male Sensitivity Training School. You may remember the "Male Chauvinist Pig" era during which a lot of contemporary men discovered that all those things our fathers got away with weren't gonna fly anymore. Wives began bringing home paychecks, and so when men said, "If you're so unhappy, why don't you leave?" the wives left.

Question 2: As long as 15 to 20 years, in some cases. Some men left even earlier, but the large migration began during the middle to late 1970s and continued into the '80s. During that period it was almost impossible to find a man who hadn't spent at least one lost weekend living in his car after being thrown out of the house. Condo and Hamburger Helper sales skyrocketed, as newly divorced men flooded the market.

Question 3: That depended greatly on whether the man mastered disco dancing. If he did, the likelihood that he fared well at Sensitivity Training School diminished considerably. The late '70s and early '80s, sometimes referred to as The Golden Age of Pickup Bars, confused many men, who found that clunky come-on lines actually worked.

Question 4: Some men went voluntarily, but in most cases, women made them go. Frequently, the impetus for men to leave was provided by coming home and finding their clothes on the lawn and the locks changed on the house.

Question 5: Many men underwent dizzying personal metamorphoses. After growing up idolizing John Wayne and the Lone Ranger, they suddenly had to switch gears and begin emulating Phil Donahue and Alan Alda. Believe it or not, during one period in there, women offered up Woody Allen as the quintessential model for contemporary men. Not surprisingly, the flip-flopping was just too tough a transition for some guys and, damn, a lot of good men were lost.

Question 6: Women held the key. After a while, they realized Alan Alda was too solicitous and the Woodman was too whiny. Lo and behold, Sean Connery and Clint Eastwood--a couple of guys who could at least make a decision--became the new models.

Question 7: See answer to Question 6. Nowadays, according to the cologne company survey, women want "rugged" and "confident" and men who aren't afraid to be men. Most men probably don't know what that means and, if history is any judge, will eventually blow whatever cachet they now have.

But why think negatively? The important thing is that, for now, men are back. We've been gone too long and, heck, yeah, we can do Clint and Sean if that's what women want.

We Are Men, Hear Us Roar.

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