Superman & the Search for Good Men

I still haven’t started grading, but this distraction is well worth it. My first article for the estimable Good Men Project Magazine is now up on their website. The article is called, “Superman of the House,” and it parses some similar themes I’ve mentioned here regarding my ever-in-process memoir, as well as discusses some modern thoughts on what that snaky, snarly phrase, “man of the house” means to us in America today.

If all goes well, I’m hoping this will be the first of many for the Good Men Project. They’re well-connected (ties to the NYTimes) and are doing edgy, respectable, honest work. Their articles are worth reading on any given day–add them to your list.

As is becoming custom, here’s a chunk of the piece, with a link to the full article:

In 1987, just a few weeks before he died of cancer, my father recorded his final thoughts onto an audiotape. Among his slow, breathy reflections, he made sure to leave messages for his three kids. His charge to me?

“A lot of the weight of the man of the house will be on your shoulders.”

I was 4. A week or so after he died, I refused to leave the house for preschool, claiming that I needed to stay home to take care of my mother. “I’ll be OK, buggy,” she said. “Why don’t I make sure your Superman pajamas are clean for when you get home later?”

“Can I wear the cape to bed?” I asked.

“Heavens, no!” she cried. “You’ll choke in your sleep!”

♦◊♦

Who is the man of the house? At first it seems like a silly question in a culture that often sees equality in simple terms: women can vote, be CEOs and stay-at-home moms; we must have wrapped up that issue. But even if it is an antiquated phrase, we still see it emblazoned on IRS forms and bellowed with fist-pounds in church services.

At 28, I have been happily married for over seven years, and I don’t think my wife Natalie or I have ever used the phrase “man of the house” seriously. The idea directly contradicts an egalitarian relationship and implies that we are expected to take on predefined roles like “bill payer” and “toilet scrubber,” even if those tasks do not fall in one’s individual skill set or career goals. Read More

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About bp

I'm writing a book. It's called, Wake, Sleeper. My writing revolves around this idea of art: attempts to recover what is lost.
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3 Responses to Superman & the Search for Good Men

  1. Katelyn says:

    Fabulous article bryan!

  2. Mariah says:

    Hey bryan, I saw the article link on natalie’s facebook then I saw your link in gmail so…
    I liked this question because there are so many things that affect the ‘man of the house’ role. in our case, a disability shuffles all those things again. for instance… when you are suddenly carrying the heavy grocery bags for your husband it is a little bit unsettling. just when you think it’s figured out something changes. anyway, congrats on becoming a dad, and the article!

    • bp says:

      Right–that’s what’s so interesting (and harrowing) about all this ‘man of the house stuff’–roles in relationships are so incredibly customizable and independent of everyone else’s experience, that it seems harmful to have phrases around like this. Then again, there is something about learning from historical definitions of relationships, even if it means learning from mistakes, or marking where things went awry. Ugh! The balance is so hard to strike! Thanks for ‘finding’ this and reading it. Hope to catch up properly soon!

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