Young screenwriter, Bruce Feirstein, recently published a book which sold so fast that the printing presses scarcely cooled between editions. It is an amusing, if superficial, attempt to insert laughter into the painful issues surrounding women’s liberation and the male proclivity for what is macho. Entitled, Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche: A Guidebook to all that is Truly Masculine, it submits, among other things, that real men don’t eat quiche because it is French, decidedly feminine and, moreover, looks like it already has been eaten! As well, real men do not wear designer clothing. That too is unmasculine. The book presents a list of caricatures, some humorous, others tasteless, which point out what real men will do and what they will not do. Perhaps it is unfortunate that the book is only meant to be amusing, that it has no serious intent whatever. Indeed there is need for just such a listing of what constitutes a healthy masculinity as opposed to what constitutes an oppressive and asphyxiating machoism.

What follows is a brief alternative list – a sometimes-less-than-amusing guide to all that is truly masculine:

  • Real men do not feel that their work is more important than their families; nor indeed do real men believe that their work is more important than their wives’ work.
  • Real men know what eight-10 hours a day alone with pre-schoolers, diapers and baby talk can do to someone’s energy, nerves, self-image and ability to be exciting. Accordingly, real men help with housework, do dishes, babysit kids regularly, encourage their wives to get out more and do not classify other men who do this as wimps.
  • Real men do not watch 36 hours of football each weekend. Real men do watch some football on weekends.
  • Real men cry occasionally and real men still feel the need to apologize when they do.
  • Real men do not consider religion and prayer as effeminate. Real men pray with their wives and families, instruct children religiously, attend church functions, make retreats and eventually go on a Marriage Encounter with their wives.
  • Real men are not scared of emotions, their’s nor anyone else’s. They do not buy the line that being masculine means never sharing your feelings and fears
  • Real men do not announce to a wife and kids frustrated by their perpetual absence that they are adored at work and that they might be suffering from “success-stress.”
  • Real men do not shout: “Hit the bastard!” at hockey games, particularly at minor league games.
  • Real men still get upset when young kids hear this at hockey games. Real men do enjoy good hitting at hockey games.
  • Real men do not consider the sign of peace at church as mushy. Real men never pretend that they are Alan Ladd acting in the movie Shane and that they are beyond the need for ordinary human intimacy and gesture. Real men, however, kiss only their wives on the lips at the sign of peace.
  • Real men know how to say “No” to unhealthy and excessive demands from their kids.
  • Real men also know how to say “No” to unhealthy demands from their sexuality. They do not buy the line that says: “Given the right circumstances, every full-blooded man will go for it!”
  • Real men can be trusted by their wives when they go on conventions and when they work with attractive members of the opposite sex.
  • Real men enjoy watching the Dallas Cowboys more than their cheerleaders. Real men do not have centrefolds hanging over their workbenches; they do not read Playboy, and neither want nor need a pin-up girl in the daily paper.
  • Real men understand and, qualifiedly, support women’s issues.
  • Real men are not gay-bashers. Real men are upset by militant gays, but understand the complexity of sexual orientation. Real men are self-assured enough within their own sexuality that they are not threatened by those whose sexual orientation is less clear.
  • Real men will occasionally wear designer jeans, but will never buy designer cat food. Real men do not ask their wives or girlfriends for a chainsaw or a flamethrower as a gift.
  • Real men accept at some stage in their lives that they will never be a professional athlete. Real men do not ruin minor league sports by playing out their own frustrations and unfulfilled fantasies through kids. Real men do get involved in little league sports, but they let the kids play them.
  • Real men do not live a sexual double standard. Real men do not call a sexually promiscuous male a “swinger” while dubbing the feminine counterpart “a slut.”
  • Real men never say: “I don’t care!” Real men know that only when they are strong can they be tender. They know that only fear, shame and weakness allow one to be hard and dispassionate.
  • Real men do not call women “broads,” they do not rate women’s bodies and have never seen the movie, Ten.
  • Real men can, very occasionally, enjoy going shopping with their wives.
  • Real men watch the Super Bowel, despite feminine protests.
  • Real men spend time with little kids.
  • Real men do send flowers.
  • Real men do apologize.
  • Real men let women love them.

Finally, real men have read Bruce Feirstein’s book. Real men have had a laugh but have not taken the book seriously. Real men have not told some of their women friends that they have read this book.

Real men do eat quiche, albeit only occasionally. A real man sees nothing incongruous in walking into the most French restaurant in town, winking at the waiter and saying: “Ta quiche designer, s’il vous plait!”