Face Time: Joel Stein

Dad, writer, wannabe macho man

June 15, 2012

Some men find out that a son is on the way and order cigars. When Time magazine staff writer Joel Stein learned that he and his wife were having a boy, he had a panic attack, fearing that he wouldn’t be able to teach his offspring about guy stuff like camping and tools. His book “Man Made: A Stupid Quest for Masculinity” ($27, Grand Central) details Stein’s efforts to get macho by driving a Lamborghini, learning to throw a baseball and attempting to complete U.S. Marines’ boot-camp activities.

Why did the thought of having a son panic you?
When they told me that there was a penis involved, I instantly just pictured all the things that I was bad at as a kid, and having to do that with a boy. He’s going to expect these things of me, and I’m not going to be able to deliver. And I thought, “I can’t be that kind of a parent.”

How’d you come up with your list of manly activities to do?
I eliminated all the things that could be fun, even though I’d never done them before, like spring break or being a roadie for Kid Rock. I wanted to do the things that were the most challenging to me personally, that would push my boundaries the most. And I just needed to learn how to be a basic man; I just needed to learn how to hit a ball.

Many adventures don’t turn out as you expect. You go turkey hunting and don’t get to shoot anything. Was that a letdown?
I was disappointed that I didn’t kill a turkey. But I was glad that in almost every situation, I found that my perceptions of what these things were were way off. I had no clue what turkey hunting was like. I thought you looked for a turkey and you shot it. But really, you have to pretend you’re a hot turkey chick who wants to have sex with a turkey guy and trick him into coming feet from your face. Then you shoot him when he thinks he’s coming to have sex.

Many men you met had a strong sense of control. Were you surprised to learn what a manly trait that was?
That repressive self-control is a manly trait I like. It’s very British, sipping tea while the bombs fall, keep calm and carry on. But America is very rooted in that Scotch Irish, Sir Walter Scott, Hatfields-McCoys kind of anger and revenge, that gangster rap and “Sopranos” manliness that’s all about rage and expressing that rage immediately.

You’re not really a fan of watching or playing sports. Did you gain any new appreciation for them from your research?
I did gain an appreciation for football. I can watch it now with other guys and not be bored. I make an effort to read about basic football stuff in the paper now. I can’t start watching every Sunday; that’s a big commitment. But I can name several quarterbacks, or at least name several teams. beth luberecki (for express)

 

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