This summer, All Things Considered is looking at the lives of Men in America and how things have changed — or haven't. Part of that is redefining masculinity, so the show asked me to ask guys about the stuff they equate with manliness today. (Submit your own stories in the form below.)
I started my very unscientific investigation on a Friday night at a Washington, D.C., barbershop. Fresh Cut owner Bernard Fernandez chose his Buick. He fixed it up himself and says that first car meant freedom and independence; a way to get to and from work and a paycheck. "That's manly!" Fernandez says.
"It didn't have nothing but one seat in it, that was the driver's seat — anybody else rode in it, they just rode on milk crates. I had a lot of fun in that car."
When I asked on Twitter, one of you picked a BabyBjorn as your object because you tweeted that you didn't feel like a man until you had a kid. Others mentioned motorcycles, chainsaws and even a "man pan" (that's a heavy cast iron pan for those who are curious; I know I was).
When I posed the question to writer and rapper David Lee, he immediately thought of what he should say.
"I should pick something like a watch or a boot, perhaps a battle-ax," he says.
Lee is a New Yorker who writes Gumship, an online men's guide to Asian lifestyle and entertainment. He ultimately voted against the battle-ax and went with a bathrobe as his masculine object. But his is no Hugh Heffner-esque robe. The blue terry cloth Adventure Time cartoon robe hits around midthigh, and Lee says it represents the luxury of being a man today.
"I think we're at a space in time where men are openly loving My Little Ponies, embracing cartoons, still playing video games, and we're really dictating what it means to be a man," he says. "Everyone's confused whether or not they're being ironic or not, and that's so luxurious, you know?"