Those of you who checked out last week's Bonus Bananas may have noticed #7, a piece lambasting the commercialism promulgated by one of BuzzFeed's, "Buy these or you suck!" lists. Now, let me start by noting that the derision Thomas Pluck from Good Men Project piled upon Justin Abarca from BuzzFeed was well earned, but I thought it could have gone further. I would recommend reading through Pluck's retort; it will give you some great high level bits on why BuzzFeed's original piece is nonsense, in particular:
Because being a man is not about being a consumer, it is about being a decent human being.
Words to live by, certainly, but they are not the whole story.
As I read through the 40 products that BuzzFeed requires self-respecting men over 30 to go out and buy, I noticed that many of them were more suited to a wedding registry instead of the average man's collection. I think if the author came out and said, "Be Married by 30" his list wouldn't have seemed so utterly ridiculous. But, I digress.
One could easily break down the original list into five basic categories: "Clothing", "Accessories", "House Ware", "Other", and "Actually a Good Idea". We will focusing on the 39 things found in the first four categories, where I will correct the misconception of the original author for you, the reader.
Clothing - #1, #2, #3, #24, #32, #33
What the Original Piece Suggests: The author suggests that a self-respecting man over 30 owns the following: "A Tailored Black Suit", "Black Dress Shoes", "Brown Dress Shoes", "Undershirts", "Good Socks", and "Good Underwear". Hilariously, the single most uselesscolor is the very first item on the list. This should've been every reader's first clue that the whole list is utter bullshit. The second clue is that while the author chose to include a , dress shoes, undershirts, underwear, and socks, dress shirts and ties were conspicuously left off the list. Suggesting, rather peculiarly, that self-respecting men over 30 wear black , nice shoes, and undershirts.
How to Actually be a Self-Respecting Man: In terms of clothing, there is nothing you need to buy in order to be a self-respecting man. It's all optional. That's not to say you can write it off completely. You should know how to tie a tie, whether you own one or not (bonus points for tying a full Windsor and/or a bowtie). Also, you should know how to shine (if applicable) and take care of your shoes.
Accessories - #6, #7, #8, #12, #14, #21, #28
What the Original Piece Suggests: Holy crap does this guy have a boner for accessories. I had no idea how unmanly I am given that the author suggests that every self respecting man over 30 owns this awfully exhaustive list: "A Nice Wallet", "Cologne (Not Body Spray)", "A Watch", "A Weekend Bag", "Grooming Kit", "An Umbrella", and "Sunglasses". First, let me point out that referring to a duffle bag as "A Weekend Bag" is weird. Also, who buys entire "Grooming Kits"? All of this is totally optional. Owning all or none of these things has exactly zero impact on whether you're considered a self-respecting man.
How to Actually be a Self-Respecting Man: Most men, as they pass through their 20s, will acquire many accessories. What accessories you ultimately purchased is meaningless, what matters is why they're purchased and how they're used. Watches and sunglasses are prime examples. If you want a watch, don't go out and buy whatever everyone else bought. Buy something that you've researched and will enjoy and appreciate. If you don't want a watch, don't buy a watch. Same thing goes for sunglasses. If you don't give a shit about sunglasses, don't buy them, if you do, buy whatever you think you'll like. Grooming is not something you need a special kit for, just something you should do on a daily basis. If you want to look clean cut, go to the barber or hairstylist regularly. If you want a ZZ Top style beard, keep that shit brushed so you don't a bird's nest in there. If you want to be a self-respecting man, do whatever you want but do it right. That's the only requirement.
House Ware - #9, #13, #15, #16, #17, #20, #22, #26, #31, #34, #35, #36, #37
What the Original Piece Suggests: Self-Respecting men over 30 are all married.
How to Actually be a Self-Respecting Man: This is easy, yet took up a 1/3 of the original list. Here's the jist: Whatever you happen to own, keep that shit clean and straight. That's it. You don't need to "buy" anything.
Other - #4, #5, #10, #11, #19, #23, #25, #27, #29, #30, #38, #39, #40
What the Original Piece Suggests: Sweet shit on a stick, I should've broken this one down a lot more. The author lists the following as necessities for the self-respecting man over 30: "Stocks", "A Tool Kit", "A Flashlight", "Duct Tape", "A Flask", "Jumper Cables", "Playing Cards", "A Leatherman", "A Record Player", "Foot/Soccer/Basket/Base-Balls", "A Decent Car", "A Solid Book Collection", and "A Decent Bottle of Booze".
How to Actually be a Self-Respecting Man: Okay, I'm going to hit these one at a time where applicable. The author's original reasoning on many needs to be forcefully rebuffed.
Stocks - The author says, "Who cares if you know how the market works or not?" This is the exact opposite of what makes one a self respecting man. Owning stock is completely unnecessary for many (saving for retirement is not), however, a self-respecting man will know what simple stock metrics mean from a high level. If you're over 30, you should know that a high P/E is worse than a low P/E. The self-respecting man knows a little about how the world works. Only children buy shit they're clueless about.
Tool Kit - The author says, "It doesn’t need to be the most expensive, it just has to have the necessities: hammer, screwdriver (both Phillips and flathead), wrench, pliers, and a tape measure." Now, I'm big into DIY projects and I have a tremendously large assortment of tools and I can tell you that for the typical repair I've done over the better part of a decade, those are not the necessities (with the possible exception of a crescent wrench). In order to be a self-respecting man, you don't need to own ANY tools, at all. However, I would recommend being able to fix two common problems: Drywall and toilets. I would high recommend you learn how to patch drywall and fix a toilet. In my days as a renter, holes in drywall would magically appear after an awesome party, and people break toilets all the time. If you know you to fix these two things, you're in a great situation. Borrow the tools.
A Record Player - The author says, "It doesn’t need to be fancy, it just needs to be able to play The Clash’s London Calling without it skipping." If you like playing records, by all means, go out and buy a record player. If you'd like to get into playing records and building a collection, by all means, go out and buy a record player. If you like playing MP3s on your iphone and don't give eight shits about vinyl, never buy a record player. Self-respecting men don't buy shit they don't need. They buy shit they want because they enjoy it.
Books - The author says, "Nobody is saying you have to read them all, but just having them speaks volumes." Yes, if you have a lot of books that you've never read, that does speak volumes about you, but it's not positive. If you love reading and/or love collecting books, go to town. If you don't like reading books and don't care to collect them, the don't. If you stack your shelves with a bunch of books you've never read and don't intend to read just to make it seem like you're smart, you're a douchebag.
Booze - This is easy, ask yourself if you like drinking? If so, what do you like to drink? If the answers to those two questions are, "yes", and "wine", go buy some wine. If the answers are, "yes" and "scotch", go buy some scotch. Buy what you like and don't buy what you don't like. Some people like to have a good liquor cabinet, some people don't care. Both are perfectly reasonable options.
Actually a Good Idea - #18
What the Original Piece Suggests: The author states that the self-respecting man should have a passport because, "It’s better to be prepared than disappointed when you win that trip overseas in that radio call-in contest." The author is correct here, but somehow is completely wrong as to why. A self-respecting man over 30 has a passport. However, I've never met one that participates in radio call-in contests.
Being a self-respecting man has more to do with "what you know" than "what you have" and more to do with "what you like and want" than "what you should want to have". In closing, the final words from Thomas's post from the Good Men Project are worth repeating, as I cannot write something more appropriate:
5. A skeptical attitude toward anyone who says you have to buy anything to “be a man.” Want to be a man? Act like a man. Sometimes it sucks: to get what you want, you often have to do things you don’t wanna do. It can be hard. But you know who whines about it?