What defines a real man? Does a reliable template exist? Chuck Norris! He’s a real man, isn’t he? The truth is masculinity is not tied to a specific code of conduct. There is no rulebook. The best measure of what it means to be a real man is in the example of men who have lived life and have experience to show for it. It’s not about rigid rules of masculinity or pseudo macho conformity.
I want to share the stories and ideas about masculinity from 5 very different men who are all strangers to one another. I want to stress that I didn’t pick any of these guys for their story. In fact the selection was random and based on who could get to my place on Tuesday for an impromptu photoshoot - I learned their stories after. Try to appreciate the uniqueness of each man represented here. Every one has a story, a skill, a battle. As do we all.
Marital Status: Married
Current Ride: 2016, Harley Davidson Street Bob
True love exists. And Aaron is an evangelist for this. “I have this beautiful woman behind me who just says: “you want to do this? Lets just figure out a way!” I feel like I can go anywhere, do anything.” This is one example of the way this guy talks about his bride. Aaron’s story is no less unique than the others featured here. For his 21st birthday, instead of a gold watch (which was the family tradition), his father gave him a one-way ticket out of Perth and told him to “go”. And so he did, he explored Australia, working and collecting adventures as he went. Aaron's pursuit for the exciting and unusual led him down many paths, one of which left him with serious injuries that bit a significant chunk out of his late twenties. It took Aaron a few years to recover but eventually he became a paramedic and is now studying midwifery and nursing as a mature age student. Between him and his wife they have 4 children but their ambition is to empty the nest in the next few years and travel Europe and Canada where they hope to work and live.
What makes you a real man? “I really believe that one of the greatest things you can do as a man is to help others for no want of reward. We all have times when we are down on our luck, I’ve been there, and people have fed me, helped me financially. Look for opportunities to do things for other people without looking for anything in return”
Marital Status: Single
Current Ride: 1984 BMW R65 Scrambler
Bong is a native of the Philippines. He was a very successful businessman trading in popular lines of toys and children’s wear before making the decision to immigrate to Australia with his family in 2009. Why Perth? “Because of the outdoor Aussie lifestyle”, says Bong. Always a keen participant in life, moving to Perth fed Bong’s passion for windsurfing, camping and motorcycles. His savvy international business acumen allowed him to slide straight into the WA corporate scene and so he did. For about 6 years. When he suddenly realized that life was for the living and that precious time with his son and daughter was more important than competing in the rat-race. A lifetime of hard work has set him up well and Bong now earns a few extra dollars working as a professional motorcycle rider: For Australia Post - on a postal route. The work-life sea change has allowed him more freedom to spend time with his kids and ample opportunities to tour the world on two wheels. So far he’s conquered the world highest motorable pass in India (with Himalayan Heroes) and Mount Agung in Bali.
What makes a real man? “Taking responsibility for your actions is important. Too often I hear someone say, this happened to me because of something someone else did. But we need to be strong enough to take responsibility for how our actions can cause hurt, pain or misfortune. I also believe in old school values like opening doors for a lady, pulling chairs and taking time to do things your lady wants to do. Like watching a chic flick! Haha!”
Marital Status: Married
Current Ride: 2010 Yamaha Tenere 650
Lucky for Odin, he has a beautiful partner and two gorgeous little girls. Otherwise I swear this guy would never sleep in clean linen. As one of my closest friends, of more than 16 years, I have witnessed him mellow slightly since the arrival of his cherubs a shift barely recognisable to those outside of his sphere of close friends. He’s an adventure junky. He competes regularly in triathlons, decathlons, half Iron Man events and WA's famous Cape to Cape. He's regularly posting his latest mountain bike or off-road Motorcycle adventure on Facebook. Odin's a keen motorcycle adventurer participating in the Australasian Safari, numerous desert races and he recently shipped his Tenere to NSW for the Tenere Tragics run through the Dividing Ranges. He also followed and bettered my lead in 2013 by riding a trail bike through rural Cambodia. Odin’s lust for living is only tempered by his work. Once a cop for over a decade, he is now a FIFO Safety Advisor in WA’s mining sector.
What makes a real man? “Masculinity to me is a bloke being a bloke. Doing “blokey” things or at least knowing he can. I think manliness is about being strong and confident when required without overdoing it to make up for any flaws or deficiencies. I believe in doing things for my lady; jobs around the house, making things, fixing things, yard work, cars etc. anything she can't or doesn't want to do. So she can be a lady. As I get older I also see that maintaining physical fitness is important it helps me to engage in those adventurous activities that seem to elude others as they age.”
Marital Status: Single
Current Ride: 1978 Ducati Bevel
“I’ve always been interested in the philosophy and practice of Bushido”, Scott told me. So much so that he travelled to Japan a few years back in order to satisfy an urge to connect with the land of its origin. Bushido literally means “The Way of the Warrior” and was the Japanese code of chivalry practiced by the Samurai for centuries. The first thing that strikes you about Scott, aside from his 6”2 frame is his gentle nature: soft spoken and accommodating. He’s your typical creative type, engaged in painting, fabricating, architectural drafting; he even built his own house. But he’s also a man’s man. He builds and rides motorcycles, is an avid climber, abseiler and cave explorer. About three and a half years ago his wife walked out with the kids and a few months after that he was injured whilst working off-shore on an oil rig. Compressed vertebrae joined broken dreams: the perfect den for the oppressive Black Dog of depression. How have you coped I asked him: “medication and shutting myself off from people”, he replied. “I lived alone on a rural property so I just kept to myself. I avoided social situations and regular work because I felt like I couldn’t handle it.” It’s becoming a common story here in Australia but in recent months Scott has been strengthened by the gradual healing of his body and his heart. He’s now actively looking for work and perhaps love.
What makes a real man? “Duty, honor, loyalty. The principals of Bushido are what inspire me. I think that if more guys spent more time treating other’s the way they want to be treated, the world would be a happier place. Put yourself in someone else’s boots from time to time. Try to imagine how they are feeling and what their journey has been.”
Marital Status: Married (48 years)
Current Ride: 2014 CF Moto 650 TK (Touring)
Fit and active is the best way to describe this 69 year old. Eric retired in 2012 having spent half of his working life on the tradesman’s shop floor and the other half as a spiritual leader of his church. Raised in Sydney NSW, he started his mechanical apprenticeship during the heyday of motoring in Australia. He would later earn his stripes working in one the most culturally and vocationally diverse institutions in Australia, the infamous Midland Railway workshops. In the late eighties he became a full-time pastor, swapping wrenches and grazed knuckles for a bible and a life or servitude. Retirement has spurned new passions for this father of four and grandfather of 12, including video gaming, brewing the perfect beer and a renewed passion for motorcycles.
What makes a real man? "4 images express balanced manhood to me:
- An ox is a load carrying worker, servanthood is in the image
- A lion is a protective and if necessary fierce guard of family and community
- Lamb is an image of gentleness and approachability playful harmless, and
- An eagle is an image of a spiritual capacity to rise above and to see the big picture: to be at ease in heavens.
Be tough but gentle I say. A real man never stops learning and growing in these capacities. He looks outward toward others with a passionate love of life. When a man is aware of these purposes and is working to fulfil them he is happy and his sky is blue his grass is green and the birds are singing (this is a word picture of an emotional state of mind and body that I have used for most of my career as a minister). A real man understands that relationships are primary. Love is essentially a decision to serve another persons needs. It's centrifugal ie moving outward: sacrificial. As opposed to centripital which is inward and self focused."
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