Saturday, July 1, 2017

Heavy Lifting

I enjoyed Heavy Lifting by Geraghty and Edwards (GE)-- a breezy, funny, chippy, secular read; provocative and profound in places; and quite a few nuggets of wisdom in terms of counsel and contemporary culture. 

The primary audience is Millennials, but there are good reminders for everybody. They make Ward Cleaver (WC) into their exemplar, which sounds corny, but it's funny and it works. Each chapter closes with, basically, a short WWWCD. In a nutshell, the negative argument is that "growing up" for men is not a "trap" but a glorious ride, an adventure, frought with costs and risks but blessings and...well, the opportunity to be a man. 

A number of nuggets to share: 

"A loud corner of American culture has been rebelling against the image of the 1950s since, oh, the 1950s...It's almost as if the rebellious counter-culture...needs the 1950s as an opponent to define itself." (p. 3-4) The authors ask: Still, if all men acted like WC, wouldn't the world be a (far) better place? This reminds me of the 10 C's and the point that-- for all the tumult about/against them-- if we lived by them, wouldn't the world be much better for it? In a word, "If all the slackers in the world disappeared tomorrow, the video game industry would collapse. If all the Ward Cleavers of the world disappeared tomorrow, civilization would collapse." (6)

GE argue that most women want something like WC, at least in terms of marriage and family: "responsible...indisputably masculine...a particular brand of alpha status...not much chest-pounding...admits he's wrong...makes amends...natural honesty and courtesy...respectful...but isn't afraid to respectfully speak his mind...can act quickly but he's not impulsive...takes responsibility...doesn't make excuses...doesn't whine, fume or brood in defeat." (5-6) 

GE argue that college is not "real life" and in many ways high school is more like real life-- with its schedule, requirements, etc. (9) Likewise, landlords and roommates (ch. 4 including "clean your room...just do it") are much more realistic than your parents' basement. As for WC, "he didn't stay at home; he made a home." (17)

GE make a funny little observation about "tiny houses"-- noting that it's more about materialism than minimalism, given how these people want really nice tiny houses. (You can simply get a double-wide or a used RV if you want to go minimal.) 

GE aren't critical of gaming per se, but note that "it's rarely the most worthwhile thing to it when you can. Don't neglect [important things}...real life is more rewarding than virtual life every time." (30) They take the same approach to phones, social media, and "being connected". Both are fine; both can be distractions or addictions; take care, enjoy them, but have or get a life. 

Part II is on life skills. Chapter 6 is on drinking. Chapter 7 is on dressing. Chapter 8 is on networking and job search. Chapter 9 is what you can learn from getting fired. Chapter 10 moves into vocation. 

Part III is on marriage and family. Chapter 11 is on dating and actually "asking out" women. (Apparently, it's common for Millennials to be tepid and non-committal in this process.) If you don't commit to "asking", then you're conveying that she's not worth much. Don't worry about rejection; build up a tougher skin. Chapter 12 is on getting married-- particularly, in contrast to piddling along in a cohabitation relationship. (As an aside, they note some interesting research-- that big wedding spending is positively correlated with divorce. In contrast, having a child, attending church, having many people at your wedding, and a honeymoon are negatively correlated. [101-102].) Chapter 13 is for new husbands. Chapter 14 is owning a home. 

Chapter 15 is avoiding divorce, with a particular emphasis on frank communication and exhortations to avoid drifting apart. On the former, "Each time you sweep a difficult issue under the metaphorical rug of your day-to-day interaction in your marriage, that rugs gets a little harder to walk on." (127) This chapter also includes a ton on the social science's literature on kids raised without a father, finding fewer positives and many more negatives, on average (128-131).  

From there, Part IV easily segues into Fatherhood. This didn't have as much value-added for me (given the stage of life I'm in and my approach to fatherhood). They do share a funny/sad anecdote where Arne Duncan proposed govt-run boarding schools in Buffalo (174-175). One of the authors had a 1st-grade teacher who visited the homes of every student (188). "There's a special place in hell for any teacher who can make a kid hate reading." (189) GE express concern that teachers can't handle boys (190-191) and connecting it to reading, they ask why students aren't assigned Huck Finn, Sherlock Holmes, Brave New World, Lord of the Flies, and Edgar Allen Poe. If you want people to only read women, how about Mary Shelley and Ayn Rand? 

Chapter 21 has multiple references to Lenore Skenazy's work on "free-range kids". GE note that parents approve of the casual way in which many of them were raised, but we've gone the other direction in recent decades. GE blame over-protection on a media-induced paranoia and lack of trust-- as well as rank ignorance about the facts (gun-related crime has diminished greatly over the last 20 years). But I'd also point to greatly-diminished community with suburbs, single-parent households, social media connectivity. 

Chapter 22 opens with the excellent Peanut Butter Cheerios "Dad" commercial. I hadn't seen it previously. Other resources mentioned in this chapter: "The Other F Word" (documentary); Punk Rock Dad (written by frontman for a punk rock band); a popular video from 2010; and How to be a Man (written by GnR's Duff McKagan).


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