Manolo for the Big Girl Fashion, Lifestyle, and Humor for the Plus Sized Woman.

March 23, 2010

The Art of Manliness

Filed under: Uncategorized — Miss Plumcake @ 4:11 pm

I am, in the words of good ole Ozzie Hammerstein, a “girly, womanly, female, feminine, dame.”

I own and have actually deployed a hoop skirt in non-ironic, non-nerd circumstances.  I have won blue ribbons for my pies and, thanks to the fine men of Texas, Carolina and Virginia, I’m not entirely sure I have ever touched a door in mixed company.

The being said, I also carry jumper cables.

Once every few years or so I get into a big argument with women who just don’t understand WHY they should carry jumper cables.  Isn’t that why they pay AAA? Yeah? Well I have insurance but I still buy Band-Aids.

Here’s the thing:  Even if you are a delicate flower of womanhood like myself, you’ve still got to be self-sufficient.  It’s part of being an adult, the more tools in your belt, the better prepared you’ll be when stuff breaks all around you.

One of my pet complaints is adults are soft now.  Generations X and Y? Essentially useless when it comes to character. Baby Boomers? Forget about it.

Too harsh? Probably.

But I am all about character and so much of what we choose not to learn speaks to a lack of it.

It’s no secret I’ve got just about the smartest, most well-rounded (as it were) readers in the world here at Manolo for the Big Girl, but we are smart and well-rounded mostly in a liberal arts way.

Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the liberal arts, but that’s not being well-rounded.

I’m not sure exactly why, but so many folks of my generation(s) lack basic life skills that our grandfathers took for granted. Some of them have outlived their utility (slide rule anybody?) but how many folks can reliably read a map? Drive a stick shift? Change a car battery?

I’m not even talking about the survivalist stuff (someday I will tell you about my survivalist streak. Sure I’ve got a reputation for being high maintenance but Come The Revolution, mama’s gonna be juuuuuust fine). I’m just talking about handy things to know. You might never have to find true north in your life, but it’s nice to know that if the occasion ever presents itself, you’ll be ready.

To that end, let me commend unto you:

The Art of Manliness

I. Love. This. Site.

It is rare, almost impossibly rare, for me to come upon a website and wish I’d written almost every single article.  I particularly like the Manly Skills (which just as easily could be renamed Adult Skills).  Go, visit. I promise my feelings won’t be hurt when I become your SECOND favorite website.


  1. I caught myself smiling at this post. My friends have always been surprised at exactly how handy I am. My dad liked to tinker and my brother had no interest in learning. I, on the other hand, loved to take things apart to see how they worked, so my dad taught me how to use most tools and what I didn’t learn from him, I teach myself.

    Comment by Danielle — March 23, 2010 @ 5:05 pm

  2. My parents were pretty even-handed with the life skills learning when my brother and I were growing up in the 60’s and 70’s. True, he did more mowing of lawns and I did more ironing, but we both learned how to cook, clean, grocery shop, wield tools properly, change a tire, dig a hole, and do our own taxes, among other things.

    Oh, and that includes how to jump start a car, either my own or someone else’s. More than once have I come to the rescue of someone else, or even of myself. Because almost anyone’s willing to GIVE you a jump start, but not everyone carries the essentials. And even if you have Triple-A, having your own cables can save you a long, uncomfortable wait.

    Comment by Wendy — March 23, 2010 @ 5:28 pm

  3. Amen.

    I too am from the Old Dominion, but Daddy didn’t let me get a driver license
    until I changed a tire in the dark, recovered from a fish tail in the snow, and
    could temporarily patch a nail hole in a tire.
    Mom taught me household budgeting and Daddy taught me how to do my taxes and
    re-wire an outlet. And from my great-uncle I received a red tool box along with the ubiquitous luggage as a high school graduation gift.
    We have a bunch of believers in self reliance in our family.

    Comment by jojo.k — March 23, 2010 @ 5:58 pm

  4. Wait. Go back. Under what non-ironic, non-nerd circumstances does one wear a hoop skirt? Appearing in a play? Making one’s debut in certain Southern communities? Inquiring minds want to know.

    Comment by Jane — March 23, 2010 @ 7:54 pm

  5. Oh my goodness, thank you for this post. I really thought I might be the only one who cared about being able to jump-start my car while wearing high heels.

    I will check out that link post-haste.

    On the flip side, it drives me insane when I meet young men who don’t know how to care for themselves around the house.

    Comment by Jelly — March 23, 2010 @ 8:20 pm

  6. Amen! Incidentally, my son is fourteen now which means he is plenty old enough to learn The Basics, where “The Basics” includes jumper cables *and* biscuits.

    Comment by Deb — March 23, 2010 @ 8:53 pm

  7. Keep reading. You’ll grow to hate the art of manliness rhetoric. I find the site incredibly offensive. Sure, everyone should know how to do car and house stuff, but there’s nothing “manly” about it. The subtext – and it’s not even “sub” all the time – is that women are delicate flowers who need a man to do stuff for them, because we’re too dumb to do it ourselves. Eff that.

    Comment by Jezebella — March 23, 2010 @ 8:56 pm

  8. Because of my ability to break furniture by simply walking in the room, my family decided it best I not follow the other women into an auto mechanic’s class. I’m sure I could change a tire if walked through it again.

    But I have extra long jumper cables. I live in Minnesota. I have to.

    Comment by Diana — March 23, 2010 @ 9:28 pm

  9. My sister and I were raised by the same man. However, I gained my majority with the ability to snake a drain (or worse, stick my hand armpit deep into a toilet drainage pipe to deal with a blockage), fix a hole in a wall, change my own oil, drive a stickshift, and still – if I have need – physically protect myself.

    My sister? With the love, support, and instruction of the same father? Had to call my father in order to find out how to PLUNGE a backed up toilet.

    I don’t think it was the fault of the parents who taught us. If I don’t know how to do it, and I can’t seem to find the right words to search for it on Google, I do call my father – who usually either can give me quick instructions over the phone….or, if it is something he doesn’t know how to do, does at least know the correct words to refer to whatever it is, so that I can Google it more specifically.

    And, he respects me enough to admit when I know more about a subject than he does (he’s not computer savvy….and I am – so I get the 2:00 am phone call saying “I have a presentation in the morning, and I can’t get Powerpoint to do x, y or z – – tell me how to make my dang computer work!”)

    Many of “our” generation (I’m an X, I don’t know what you are) think that if they won’t ever need a particular skill, why should they take the time to learn it? Well, isn’t it better to HAVE the skill and not need it, than NEED the skill and not have it??

    Hell, knowing at least the basics of car maintenance has kept me from being screwed by unscrupulous mechanics in the past. Let alone knowing that a plumber is trying to bilk you out of cash by saying nonsense words that “sound” official.

    Ladies – we need to know some basic skills. All hail letting the guy do it for us – I am not so feminist that I must insist that I do everything. But if there isn’t a guy around? You may not have any luck simply hoping some guy will come along and do it for you.

    Comment by Cat — March 23, 2010 @ 10:22 pm

  10. I have to add some additional points to this. We also had a brother, and this SAME father (and our mother as well) taught that brother how to wash dishes, clean house, mend his own clothes, WASH his own clothes (properly, not just throw them together), as well as cook for more than 1 person.

    Before my brother died, he was well on his way to becoming quite a well rounded man, and a blessing to any woman who had the luck to marry him.

    In contrast, it has taken *MY* husband 16 years to learn how to wash his own clothing, and he still burns water (oh, he can make ramen noodles in a pinch, and can microwave Chef Boyardee – but that’s not cooking). And while I *KNOW* he knows how to clean (he works retail, and yes – they do DUST and VACUUM on a regular basis), but he chooses not to clean the house the way he cleans at work.

    Again, it is about having skills that you may not think you need – but really ought to have anyways.

    Heck, I absolutely hate guns (while my husband loves them) – but I know how to shoot one (pistols, shotguns and rifles), and tend to be a better shot than my husband. Do I think I will ever have to use a gun? No way. But I would rather know how to – if I had to – than not know how to, and be a danger to anyone but the person(s) whom I wish to shoot.

    Comment by Cat — March 23, 2010 @ 10:28 pm

  11. My dad’s dad was a drinking, womanizing assh*le who finally walked out when my father was about 7 years old. So, my dad was never taught any of these “manly” skills. He got a good education and provided comfort as well as love to my sibs and me but wasn’t able to teach us how to fix a toilet or patch a leaky tire. Do I wish I had these skills? Hell, yeah. But do I think my dad was less-than-manly because he wasn’t able to teach us? No way. The most important elements of being a man (or a woman, for that matter) are personal responsibility, kindness and integrity.

    Comment by NaughtyChimp — March 24, 2010 @ 4:44 am

  12. A friend of mine said a while ago, she found out she had more success with guys when she acted dumb and helpless.
    She’s over 30, owns her apartment, has a good job and generally is a very fine human being.
    And she is neither dumb or helpless.
    I answered I feel sorry for women who actually *are* dumb and helpless and even more sorry for women who feel they have to act like that.
    Surprisingly, we still talk.
    Any words from the wise Plumcake would be appreciated – how can I make her see that she can (and should) be herself without resorting to “How to catch a husband” tips even my grandmother would have been angry about?

    Comment by Banana — March 24, 2010 @ 6:19 am

  13. Boy howdy you were not kidding about the quality of writing on that site.

    This post, on the Bucket List Generation knocked my socks off.

    Comment by JenniferP — March 24, 2010 @ 10:25 am

  14. @ Banana: The couple of times I managed to pull off the dumb and helpless act, I really did attract more men. Fortunately I quickly realized that while the numbers had gone up, the quality had seriously taken a massive tumble. When Mr. Twistie and I got together, he found it one of my more attractive qualities that I don’t dumb myself down or bother him for help I don’t actually need. And boy you should have heard the sigh of relief the first time I told him I didn’t really care for a song he’d written! After that he knew I would always tell him precisely what I thought, whether it was what he wanted to hear or not.

    Remind your friend subtly that quantity and quality are two different things, and of the two quality is hugely superior.

    Then let her make her own mistakes as long as she needs to. You can’t force a person to stop making mistakes. All you can do is be a better example and hope they get the message.

    Comment by Twistie — March 24, 2010 @ 11:19 am

  15. I have something of a love/hate relationship with The Art of Manliness. On the one hand, I love the can-do, practical bent to their writing. On the other, I really don’t like their take on the definition of gender. So, I tend to read that blog in gluts, not regularly.

    (I’m perfectly comfortable with being a SUPERAWESOME woman, who likes to wear high heels and pretty dresses, and also being more then a little butch and masculine in some of my [keyword, *my*, as in mine, as in an expresion of my inmost self] mannerisms. And I really dislike being told that I don’t exist, or I’m kidding myself.)

    Comment by ananas — March 24, 2010 @ 5:33 pm

  16. @thanks Twistie – also for reminding me I can’t force someone not to make mistakes. I will – very gently – use the quality vs. quantity argument and hopefully one day she’ll see herself as the superfantastic woman she is who does not need to dumb herself down to be attractive.
    My husband (whom I will not refer to as Mr Banana which is all kinds of ridiculous) did also marry me because I am who I am – and so did I.
    (I remember flaming rows about my short stories, though, and we agreed for the sake of our marriage I will never force him to do so again.)

    Comment by Banana — March 25, 2010 @ 6:08 pm

  17. I’ve always been good at tinkering with things, but have gotten much better at it thanks to my husband. He’s all for me learning how to do things, so since we’ve met, I’ve learned how to use a power drill, a chop saw, a router, a chain saw, and a drain snake. I’ve learned how to lay tile, install a toilet and properly build a fire.

    But it’s been mutual. I assemble all the furniture in the house (I’m better at it AND more patient), and taught him how to install more RAM on his computer, properly grill meat and parallel park. Next on the list is to teach him to swim and to drive a stick shift.

    Playing dumb IS dumb.

    Comment by La Petite Acadienne — March 25, 2010 @ 7:28 pm

  18. I’m the woman that my friends all turn to when something isn’t working, when there is a crisis, or they want to understand a new technology.

    It’s all because I have a natural curiosity and I like to do things myself.

    Comment by Kath — March 27, 2010 @ 8:19 am

  19. Wow, I wish I had thought to send this link to two friends of mine earlier… one calls me on Friday in a panic because his tap water is running out discolored and he thought I could fix it (this is the same guy who mocked me for having a toolbox and a fire extinguisher. Neither of these are unusual things to have.).

    The other one, I kid you all not, slept through a fire last night in our building. Now, he lives five floors above where the fire was, but the ENTIRE BUILDING got smoky, and the alarm was going in the building for a solid two hours. Meanwhile, I’m out of the building, at 2am, fully dressed, with my wallet, insurance papers, keys and cell phone, helping my neighbor carry her cat outside, since the cat was freaking out at the noise–I assumed that he was at work still (he’s a resident) since he wasn’t answering his phone and I didn’t see him in the parking lot of the complex. No. He’s sleeping. He heard the alarm, but thought it was a dream.

    Y’all, there are basic survival/life skills that an unfortunate number of people seem to lack. I’m not sure how much I like all the ‘manliness’ rhetoric, but it’s a step in the right direction, for sure.

    Comment by Genevieve — March 28, 2010 @ 1:11 pm

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