So, what’s a guy anyway?
By Ed Lange
In April 2007, when I first began writing this column, “Guy Stuff,” for CRL, the criteria for guydom seemed—like the truths in the Declaration of Independence—self-evident. A guy is, well, a guy, right? No, not so fast.
As it turns out, the definition of a guy is not an immutable truth such as “all men are created equal” or “that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” Nope. The definition of a guy is considerably more amorphous and elusive. It is the intent of this declaration to codify what I mean by a guy, at least for the purposes of this column and its prospective readers. Please understand; we are not dealing with a dictionary definition here. The dictionary definition of a guy is as worthless and meaningless as a pocket in your underwear.
First and most important, a guy is not defined by gender, race, age, religion, sexual preference or nationality. A woman can qualify to be a guy just as surely as a man. And it is no discredit to man or woman. The title is a respected honorific. Today, a woman who qualifies to be a guy can wear the designation with pride. When I was a kid, a common insult was, “Ah, yer mother wears combat boots.” Today, that exact same phrase qualifies as an expression of praise and respect, pride and awe. Times change, and as Bob Dylan says, “they are a’changin’.”
To be a guy is to be self-reliant. A guy is someone you can count on. Someone who puts substance before style. A guy makes choices and decisions based on integrity and inner confidence rather than the capricious whims of current fashion. But sometimes a guy goofs up. A guy doesn’t shrink from challenges or hard work. A guy does what needs doing and perseveres in the face of adversity. A guy has a sense of humor and laughs – a lot – at one’s self as much as anything else. Maybe more. A guy knows no one is perfect. Some guys shave their chins; some guys shave their legs. Some guys don’t shave at all. And some women earn guydom automatically if, like the editor of this magazine, they take boxing lessons! (Advance token to “Go.” Collect $200.)
Generally speaking, guys strive to treat others with dignity and respect, and have very little patience with pretense, pomposity or the phrase, “You should…” Similarly, guys are fairly easy-going, down-to-earth, and even-tempered unless they encounter actions that infuriate them such as arrogance, injustice, cruelty or tyranny.
Here’s a list of stuff that help define what a guy is. A person doesn’t need to have done all these things to qualify as a guy. Even one or two may be enough to earn some semblance of guydom. But if someone has done none of them, chances are pretty good that person isn’t a guy. You earn three points for each of the following that you’ve done. 100 points possible (including one point for the special bonus at the end).
You may qualify to be a guy if…
1. You have at least one cut or skinned knuckle on your hand.
2. You own a hammer.
3. You’ve drunk a beer from a bottle or a can.
4. You carry a pocket knife.
5. You’ve changed a flat tire by yourself.
6. You’ve served in the military (or AmeriCorps or the Peace Corps)
7. You own a piece of clothing made by Carhartt or Dickie.
8. You have a dog that weighs more than five pounds.
9. You’ve put a worm on a fishhook.
10. You’ve played pops and grounders.
11. You take responsibility for your actions and admit when you’re wrong.
12. You’ve pulled a muscle lifting something you shouldn’t have. (Extra points if you cussed and called yourself a dope.)
13. You’ve nearly rear-ended another car while eyeing a pretty girl (or a studly guy) while driving. (Extra points if you actually rear-ended the car. You jerk.)
14. You wear jeans made by Levi, Wrangler or Lee. (Extra points if you’ve worn a hole in the knee. Deduct points if you wear jeans only by Calvin Klein, DKNY or Guess.)
15. When wearing a necktie, you loosen it and open the top button on your shirt at the earliest opportunity. (Extra points if you also roll up your sleeves.)
16. You’ve dug into the dirty laundry for something to wear.
17. You’ve built something out of wood – and it looked or functioned as it was supposed to.
18. You’ve removed and cleaned out a sink trap. (Extra points if you replaced it and it didn’t leak.)
19. You’ve been pulled over by a police officer and didn’t cry.
20. You’ve swapped insults with a friend – and laughed – and stayed friends.
21. You tune-up and service your lawnmower yourself. (Extra points for sharpening the blade.)
22. You’ve ever been on the roof of your house.
23. You’ve helped a stranger out of a jam.
24. You’ve walked in mud without saying either “Ewww” or “Gross.”
25. You can build a fire – outdoors.
26. You’ve planted a tree and/or cut down a dead tree.
27. You’ve done a favor for someone without telling anyone or expecting payback.
28. You cook – not only on the barbecue. (Extra points if the food is edible to anyone besides yourself.)
29. You’ve ever gone camping – in a tent – at night – in the rain and you didn’t cry.
30. You’ve flown a kite that remained aloft for more than 10 minutes. (Extra points if you got it back in good enough condition that it could fly again.)
31. You’ve ever given yourself a manicure with a Swiss Army knife.
32. You have more than one article of clothing with paint on it. (Extra points if you have clothing with driveway sealer on it.)
33. You’ve told a story to a kid. No, not a lie, a story. A ghost story, wolfman story, pirate story, adventure story.
Special bonus. Add one point if you ever said to your spouse or significant other, “You were right.” Deduct the point if you ever said, “I told you so.” Deduct two points if you also said, “See!”
How’d you do?
As I wrap up this silliness, some song titles have occurred to me. “There Ain’t Nothin’ Like a Dame”, “I Enjoy Being a Girl”, and “I Feel Pretty”. Well, I think it’s high time somebody wrote some “guy” songs: “There Ain’t Nothin’ Like a Guy”, “I Enjoy Being a Guy” and “I Feel Guy-Like.” So, if any guy out there has a knack for clever lyrics give it your best shot and send ‘em in. It’s time for guys (of either gender) of the world to unite and we need an anthem!
A freelance writer, three of Ed Lange’s plays were finalists for national Audie Awards, in 2000, ’05, and ’07, and one of the three won. His articles have appeared multiple times in national magazines: Sail, Soundings, American Theatre, and Dramatics.