Futures and Options

Just another town along the road.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Man List

I came across a simple question today on one of the forums I frequent: Do you own a suit?  I couldn’t help but think, “Of course I do, every man has at least one suit,” but it seems that about 25% of the people who responded didn’t own a suit and didn’t see any need for one.  This kind of rattled around in the back of my head for the rest of the morning until I was making lunch, when it came up in the form of my own musing over how many men my age cook for themselves.  The two questions got me thinking about what other sorts of things I thought that a man ought to know how to do, and from that, grew this list.  Much of it could apply equally well to women; I certainly don’t mean to imply that everything on this list is exclusively for men.  Still, I’m a man myself, and this list is rooted in that fact.

  • Own at least one wool suit, specifically one that fits well.  If a nice suit can make me look good, it can make anyone look good.  And when you look good, and know it, there’s a confidence in your actions that can really help you impress your boss, close that sale, or catch the eye of that cute bridesmaid at your buddy’s wedding.
  • Own a couple pairs of tailored wool slacks.  There really are few things more comfortable than a well-tailored pair of slacks.  Wool wears well, hangs nicely, breathes in the summer and is warm in the winter.
  • Know how to cook at least a couple of meals that don’t involve grilling or previously-prepared foods.  Anyone can grill a steak, make mashed potatoes from a box, or make spaghetti sauce from a jar.  I’m not saying that you have to know how to make fine French cuisine, but every man should know how to make some basic meals from scratch.  Instead of grabbing that jar of Prego, learn how to make your own spaghetti sauce; instead of that can of Dinty Moore, make it yourself with fresh ingredients.  It’s not rocket science and being able to make even basic foods like these can save you money and impress people.
  • Know how to bake.  If you paid attention to the item above this, you probably know that I’m not talking about being able to make Pilsbury brownies.  Remember those cookies that your mother or grandmother used to make?  Learn how to make those.  And other treats you used to like.  If I can manage to bake half-decent molasses cookies and figure out a passable copy of my grandmother’s fudge, then so can you.  The store-bought versions just aren’t nearly as good.
  • Know how to drive a manual transmission.  This can come in handy at the most unlikely times.  Such as when the truck rental company has overbooked and the van you reserved with an automatic turns out to be a 26 foot truck with an International diesel and a 6-speed Eaton-Fuller manual transmission.
  • Know how to build a fire.  Whether lighting a charcoal grill, a wood-burning fireplace, or camping with friends or family this is one of those skills that tends to come in handy.
  • Know how to handle a firearm safely.  You don’t ever have to go hunting, or even just shooting at a range, but everyone ought to know how to safely un-load and handle a firearm.
  • Know how to put up and take down a basic campsite.  You don’t have to go backpacking in the Andes, but knowing how to build a fire pit (and how to fill it in afterwards), pitch a tent, and construct a makeshift rainfly from a tarp and bungee cords will allow for a lot of adventures that would otherwise just pass you by.
  • Know how to do basic maintenance on a car.  Yes, modern cars are becoming increasingly difficult to work on, but some things will always remain.  At the minimum, everyone should know how to change a tire, check the oil and top it off if necessary, charge or change the battery, replace fuses, and how to change the various light bulbs (this includes paying enough attention to the car to know when one has burnt out).  The last thing you want is for someone to rear-end you because you never noticed that all of your brake lights were burnt out.
  • See an outdoor production of a Shakespeare play.  Worst case scenario: you have a nice nap in a grassy field on a summer day.  Who knows though, you make even like it.
  • Know how to fix basic things around the house.  You should be able to take a door off its hinges, fix a leaky/running toilet, hang pictures using wall anchors, remove the trap from a sink drain and clean it out, and install a dishwasher, refrigerator, clothes washer, and drier.
  • Know how to be friends with a woman without wanting to get her into bed or trying to pidgeon hole her into your perception of how “women” behave.  Seriously, just let her be herself.  I guarantee that she’s a lot more interesting and fun to be around that way.
  • Know how to do your own laundry and ironing.  Yes, wrinkle-free shirts are a godsend, but you’ll still need to refresh the creases every so often and freshly-ironed shirts and slacks really stand out and make one look well-dressed.
  • Know how to replace a failed hard drive or optical drive in a computer.
  • Know the basics of photography.  Even if it’s just some elementary composition it can change the way you look at the world and get you to appreciate the little things.
  • Know how to maintain a lawn in respectable condition.  It doesn’t have to look like the 18th green of St. Andrews, but there’s no real excuse for a lawn with bare patches or that never gets mowed.
  • Fall in love with a woman because she makes you want to be a better man than you are.

This list is hardly exhaustive, but it covers a lot of things that most men my age seem not to know or find important.  I haven’t managed everything on this list myself, and I am open to additions that others might suggest.

posted by Zenmervolt at 18:17  

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