Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Mohican, Samurai, American . . . The Last American Man

I really enjoy reading. I like it a lot. Whenever I get into a book I love, I read it during all my spare time, at stoplights in the car, while standing as I wait for the microwave to beep, basically during every second I'm not talking or holding something else in my hands. I'm sure Jonathan hates it. He doesn't get as much attention when I'm into a book. Perhaps that's why I don't purposely choose a new book to read right after finishing one. I need to take a break from reading. It's an enjoyable hobby but I have trouble spending my time doing it because I don't have any tangible evidence that I did something productive that day. I try to rotate how I spend my time. When I say "time", I mean the few minutes that are sprinkled throughout the day in between wiping butts, doing dishes, screaming orders up the stairs, driving places, etc. Jonathan does give me a good couple of free hours every Wednesday night where I can actually get into a hobby of choice.  Back to reading . . .
I just finished The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert. It's a biography about Eustace Conway. Look him up. I'm so grateful that people like him still exist. He runs summer camps and other types of educational camps at his reserve in North Carolina. If I had the money, I'd send my boys there to learn how to be closer to the land and not be babied. Kids are so babied nowadays. I just don't know how to get around it. That's why the title of the book intrigued me. I saw that Elizabeth Gilbert had written it and had there not been a photograph of the long bearded, long haired Eustace Conway on the front, I wouldn't have given the book a second thought. I realized that Gilbert's idea of an American man goes along with my own idea. Someone who actually knows how to survive in nature without damaging it. Someone who doesn't have to pay someone else to do things for him. That's what I think an American man should be, however, that is not an American man anymore. If you look at the TV screen, or any sort of media, or even the people walking down the street, you won't find my version of an American man.
Today's American man goes to the gym to perfect his physical image.
Today's American man spends time going shopping for clothes. He cares which stores he goes to. He tries clothes on and has an opinion about how he looks.
Today's American man does his hair.(Excuse me while I vomit in my mouth.)
Today's American man cannot change a tire or change the oil in his car.
Today's American man pays someone to take care of his yard.
Today's American man diets.
The list goes on and on. To describe a typical American man is difficult. It is also wrong to generalize, but I do see patterns and changes as I get older and it scares me. How will my boys be when they are men? Will I have to go shopping with them? Will I have to change the tire when we get a flat on the freeway? When I go to the effort to cook them a healthy breakfast will they have the nerve to say to me, "Sorry Mom, I can't eat that, it's my down day"?

I would hope that no matter how my sons turn out, whether they diet or not, whether they like to wear spandex or not, whether they don't know how to do anything that's tangibly useful in my book, I hope that they will always care about other people's feelings first.  

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