A Summer in Hell

I’ve been enjoying the summer break from my full-time job, chiefly because I’ve stayed inside for most of it. I’ve been re-reading the Harry Potter series (up until I finish the fourth book, which I’m reading now, at which point I’ll be reading the remainder of the series for the first time), and The Lord of the Rings. I’ve also been reading Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James. It’s quite good, but my other reading options have been so light and easy on the eyes that it’s easy to choose them over it. I’m determined to get to a good stopping point with Harry Potter, probably after the fourth book, after which point I’ll be “caught up,” and continue on with James’ work. I’ve already reached the half-way point of Tolkien, which is a good place to pause.

Outside, it’s been ridiculously humid. The temperature has been around average for a North Carolina summer, but the humidity has been such that the heat index has been over 100 degrees every day. It’s expected to reach 120 degrees tomorrow, which is of course the day my wife wants us to get back in the habit of going to the gym.

I’m putting a couple of submissions in, but have set aside for my writing for awhile. I’ve hit something of a wall and have no good ideas. However, the only way to write is to actually do it, so if I don’t have a spark of imagination any time soon I’ll write some fan fiction. That’s gotten the creative juices flowing before.

What Makes A Man?

In an ongoing effort to improve my health, I’ve started taking more care in my cleaning and grooming habits. Attracted by their whimsical marketing, I started a “soapscription” at Dr. Squatch and now have six bars of soap made from all-natural ingredients. I also ordered some products to take better care of my beard (I had long fallen out of the habit of daily applications of oil and balm). I grew to be a particular fan of Grave Before Shave when trying to maintain my facial hair before, so I turned back to them in my latest efforts to have a soft beard that my wife actually wants to touch. I’ve also got some solid cologne on the way from Duke Cannon. I haven’t worn cologne in years, so this will be a welcome change.

Of course, I’m well aware that all three of my sources are marketed specifically for men, using stereotypical cisgender heterosexual male imagery. I’m not fooled into thinking that using Bay Rum scented soap (it smells fantastic, by the way) and “Naval Supremacy” cologne will turn me into a barrel-chested sea captain. And I’m aware that by buying these brands, I’m sending the message that this type of marketing works, and telling me I’ll be more attractive to women and feel “like a man” will make me buy a product.

But we live in a capitalist society, and this type of marketing is inescapable. So I’ll try to balance out whatever social harm I’m doing by contributing to this ever-hungry animal by actually displaying the non-superficial qualities of masculinity in my everyday life.

Which begs the question: what are those qualities?

According to websites such as The Art of Manliness, those qualities are honor, hard-work, a sense of classical style, physical fitness, and the possession of the same types of skills one tends to learn as a Boy Scout or survivalist enthusiast. According to the more hostile places online, such as The Return of Kings (which I refuse to link to), those qualities are a dominating and aggressive personality, sexual conquest, and–dare I say–the triumph of the will.

Traits like honesty, dedication, and the possession of practical skills are all good traits to have, but what makes them masculine? The only answer is tradition. For much of human history, especially in the memory of the oldest among us, men were caretakers and women were homemakers. Men did things with their hands, earned money, paid bills, and made decisions. Women raised children, cleaned house, cooked, and sewed. There were two easily identifiable genders and thus two easily identifiable gender roles.

But there are no longer two easily identifiable genders. We’ve come to realize that gender exists on a spectrum, and most people are no longer pigeon-holed into being either a man or a woman based on what traits they possess and what role they fulfill in their household. Our understanding of biological sex is even more complex than it once was, so there’s not even a suitable peg of indisputable science to hang these conventions on.

So, what makes a man? The answers are beyond skill sets and social roles. The answers are more broad and subjective. The qualities of a “good man,” however, are still simple. A good man: pays his debts, keeps his promises, works toward social justice and the greater good, is an active and contributing part of his household, is respectful to others regardless of their social standing, expresses himself open and honestly while minimizing the damage his words could cause, cultivates healthy and enriching habits and hobbies, has an appreciation for both practical and aesthetic experiences, is intellectually curious, is willing to admit fault and accept accountability,  and does not hesitate to constantly re-examine his beliefs and values in light of new knowledge.

It’s almost as if that which makes a man makes a person.

Adjust your pronouns accordingly.

Coffee or Tea?

I’m a dedicated coffee drinker. I started drinking coffee as a child and haven’t looked back since. Granted, as a child, I would load my coffee up with sugar and cream (one could say I was ahead of the curve when it comes to gourmet coffee drinks) and now I prefer it black. Unfortunately, one of the health issues I’m facing right now is high blood pressure and I’ve been looking for ways on how to lower it.

After some cursory research (and, admittedly, without consulting an actual medical professional), I’ve found out that tea not only has less caffeine than coffee but can help lower your blood pressure. I made the switch, ordering some fine tea from The Tea Spot, and have been enjoying my tea thus far. I’ve loved chai tea for years, so I helped myself to a chai sampler pack–which I highly recommend. So far, I’ve sampled the Rise and Chai and the Pumpkin Spice chai. The Rise and Chai has a hint of turmeric that gives it a subtle sweetness. I love all things pumpkin spice, so of course I enjoyed that flavor (though the aroma was more pronounced).

But here’s the thing: I miss coffee. I like tea, but I love coffee. It’s my favorite non-alcoholic beverage. Now I’m no coffee purist. I have a Keurig and use it without regret. I also have a pour-over coffee pot, and on the days I have time to do so I love using it. Regardless of how it’s brewed, I just simply love a good cup of bold, flavorful coffee.

So I’m think I’m going to switch back. I’ll still drink tea so I get the health benefits of it, but my daily beverage will be coffee. I just love it too much. I can look for other ways to lower my blood pressure, many of which I’m already doing. I just–in case you haven’t gotten the gist yet–love coffee too much.

Been Feeling Less Than Better

I haven’t posted in a very long time. I’ve had some health issues and have had difficulty gathering the energy to write, for this blog or otherwise. Making it through my day job is taxing enough, considering I’m fighting fatigue all day. I’m taking medication to help, but I’m still on the road to recovery as opposed to having arrived there.

For those of you that read (or started reading) this blog, don’t worry; I haven’t forgotten it. Just been feeling, as the title of this post says, less than better.