You may recognize this title as one of Flannery O’Connor’s most famous short stories. I read it for the first time in my AP literature class in high school and being sixteen and more interested in boys, didn’t think too much about it. This fall I read it again and was a lot more taken by her writing – and this story in particular. If you haven’t read it before I highly recommend it.
Toward the end of the story the protagonist notes, ‘a good man is hard to find.’
Her circumstances are very different from mine (as you’ll note when you read the story), but her observation is one that I’ve found highly relevant many years later in the real world.
I state it as a question because I’m not sure if it’s true:
Is a good man hard to find?
Is a good man hard to find?
I have met some really great men in my life. I’ve also found plenty of men who fall short. I think at my age (23 going on 100), it really isn’t the ‘good’ part I’m concerned with as much as the ‘man’ part.
By this I don’t mean that there are more good women out there than men. Rather, it seems as though guys are taking longer and longer to mature…they’re not really men. Most of the good men that come to mind are a good eight or more years older than I am.
Okay so what am I basing these statements on. To me masculinity can’t really be boiled down to a few qualities like physical strength or aggressiveness – do those really matter that much anyway?
It’s more about man’s purpose.
‘Miranda, you are clearly not a man, what do you know about this?’
Not much, however I have read a little about this topic and rely on other, smarter people who have done their research for my information.
Some men who have taken the question of how to define masculinity very seriously found that there are:
…“continuities of masculinity that transcend cultural differences.” While every society’s idea of what constitutes a “real man” has been molded by their unique histories, environments, and dominant religious beliefs, Gilmore found that almost all of them share three common imperatives or moral injunctions — a male who aspires to be a man must protect, procreate, and provide.
– Brett, The Art of Manliness
Okay, so it’s not about big muscles or deep voices or how many bar fights they’ve been in.
Good to know.
We can break this down a little to understand what these really mean:
The only requisite to this is courage. This doesn’t mean running off to battle, picking a fight etc. It is merely a disposition of putting others’ safety in front of your own. Walking a girl to her car at night [even if she insists ‘it’s fine’], walking on the side of the street closer to the cars, getting up in the middle of the night when you hear a weird noise…it really doesn’t have to be anything grandiose. Of course, some men do live this out in very drastic ways such as protecting their country which is of course good too, however it doesn’t have to be that. There are plenty of opportunities for men to live this out on a daily basis in your average city.
“The imperative to procreate essentially requires that a man act as pursuer of a woman, successfully impregnate her, and thus create a “large and vigorous family” that expands his lineage as much as possible.”
Um, so yeah.
I realize this sounds a little…antiquated. The reality is that today sex is unattached to pregnancy, if anything pregnancy is mostly avoided at all costs. Not only that, but for men to be the ‘pursuer’ is considered outdated at best and disgustingly sexist at worst.
However, before we condemn this notion as old-fashioned and insulting, I think we should take a second look at what it really means.
When a man pursues a woman (in a healthy, appropriate way) he is conveying the message that she is worth attaining, despite potential difficulty in doing so. In other words, she is desirable. While men desire to be needed, women really want to be wanted. When men pursue us, this desire of ours is fulfilled in a much more satisfactory way. Not only that, but men are inspired and motivated by a challenge. The pursuit then fulfills their own innate desire as well.
Ok so about the ‘create’ part of this. Sex today is rarely about ‘creating’ anything other than, um, sensations. Ultimately we know that the purpose of sex is twofold: expressing authentic love and bringing new life. For this reason, we should never separate one of these fundamental aspects of sex from the act itself. If we do, sex is shortchanged and something that should be completely selfless becomes selfish. Sex should be preserved for the occasions when both individuals a) love each other and are committed to each other for life and b) are open to life (this doesn’t mean what you think…look up natural family planning).
Okay so what does this mean to men? Basically sex for it’s own sake is not what motivates men (or shouldn’t be). Instead, sex that communicates love and could create life is what they seek (and that distinction is how you separate a boy from a man).
This one is probably the easiest one to understand but also a little tricky. Obviously men need to provide for themselves. What about for us?
DON’T HURT ME IT’S JUST A QUESTION
I realize this is a sensitive topic. I think the answer is that men don’t need to provide for us. Generally women work both before and after getting married (if we marry at all). However that doesn’t mean that men don’t want to provide for us. Whether it’s paying for a dinner or being the sole breadwinner this could mean something different for each person. I don’t think we should shut down the concept of men wanting to do this for us in the name of equality. To say that our equality boils down to our financial contribution is completely inadequate. Women and men can bring different things to the table and still be entirely equal.
Anyway, I feel that a lot of guys my age today have lost sight of these principles of masculinity. I keep hearing of breakups that happen seemingly without good reason…other than he’s just not ready.
He’s not sure, he doesn’t know, he can’t commit, he needs more time…they are not the least bit concerned with protecting, provided or procreating, and it’s a shame because it is through this that they will feel fulfilled and competent as men.
Why they’re struggling with this is a question that would take me a million years to explore, however while maintaining an outlook of compassion and empathy, I know that I’m kind of done accepting less from men. I love them too much to set low expectations.
I don’t want a ‘nice guy’, I want a good man.
A good man is hard to find, but they shouldn’t be.
“I ask you brothers, I ask you men, for the love of all that’s holy, release the stallion trapped in it’s pen, gain a thirst for who you should be. “
Men, what do you think about this? I invite your thoughts on this (you all know better than I do!).