Dissecting the Modern American Male


Remember that cute little film Juno?  There is one scene where Juno (played by the adorable Ellen Page) tells her love interest Paulie Bleeker (played by the hilarious Michael Cera) that she digs him because he is so cool without ever trying.  Paulie responds that he tries really hard to be cool, all the time in fact.  Unknowingly, or perhaps on purpose, Paulie has exposed one of the cornerstones of the Modern American Male mentality: the constant strive toward maximizing coolness.

I’m sure you already know that guys put a lot of emphasis on being cool or acting cool or appearing cool, but what you ladies don’t know is how deep this desire is engrained into the male subconscious, bordering on fanaticism.  Pursing coolness starts at an early age and continues well into adulthood.  As soon as the male becomes aware that he has a public image, he starts romanticizing being cool, usually around 10 or 11.  And this continues until the male realizes that he no longer has to make an impression on anybody, which happens around retirement.

A more important note is that guys define “cool” as what they perceive women want, not what women actually want.  Some guys think that women want the nonchalant, irreverent, pseudo-bad boy who talks off the cuff and has the body to back it up (think Tyler Durden).  So they will go to extremes to embody this image – getting some ink done, hitting the gym for some P90-X and rocking an Ed Hardy hoodie.  Some guys think women want the uber-cute, semi-hipster, lonely-boy intellectual with a heart of gold (think Dan Humphrey).  So they will do the New York Times crossword on public transportation, get some thick-framed glasses and buy skinny jeans in a dark wash.

I'm so cool

No, I'm so cool

From so much exposure to clichéd gender roles, guys have developed a warped view of what women want and they subsequently behave that way, for better or worse.  In countless movies/shows/videos over the decades, guys see that flippant bad boys get girls and therefore they mimic this behavior.  The character of Don Draper (from Mad Men) is the epitome of cool, and yet he is also a misogynist and an alcoholic.  Yet look what Don Draper has done: guys from Murray Hill to West Hollywood are trying to imitate him.  (Ironically, Don Draper was also voted Number 1 most influential male of 2009 by AskMen magazine!)

The pursuit of coolness lies at the core of an incredible amount of guy behavior, from the clothes they buy to the intonation in their speech.  But the important thing to remember about coolness is that perception is what drives male behavior.  Once you get to know the guy you may be surprised, pleasantly or unpleasantly, at their true nature.  The gym rat meat-head could end up being a closet dork and a certified Dungeon Master.  The soft-spoken boy next door could be an egotistical womanizer.  Guys will put in a lot of effort into presenting an image of what they think that you think is cool, but the reality could be far different.


Juno image via The LA Times blog; Tyler Durden image via Instructions for Performance; Dan Humphrey image via Article Input

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=510443063 Jaime Hammer

    Haha great article! I knew a guy who seemed like a stereotypical jock and then found out that he loves anime and video games. I feel like girls do the same thing though. Not necessarily with being cool in mind, we just try to change ourselves based on what we think guys want. It’s such a problem that everyone does that because you don’t know what anyone is actually like if they’re always pretending to be different. :/

  • http://www.facebook.com/amalia.pantazi Amalia Pantazi

    I don’t know, I’d like a guy who is cool with who he is, who’d wear what he wants to wear, who’d do a crossword in public only if he’d find it interesting, who’d not be afraid to admit that he likes what he likes, even if that’s Beyonce or the Twilight movies or something. Is there such a guy?
    Anyway, I think that this ‘pursuit of coolness’ is not just a guy thing. We do it, too, we worry way too much about what others -and by others I mean men- will think of us and we always try, consciously or not, to attract them. But us girls have a different way of ‘showing off’, we are much more manipulative. That’s not necessarily bad. Nor good. What can you do.

  • http://www.facebook.com/heatherlyndall Heather James

    One of my good friends always says, ” You don’t date a guy, you date his representative”. I think the same goes for girls. Hence the reason I’m single I suppose.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=627550753 Monica Burton

    I got very lucky… Eleven years ago I met a guy who isn’t afraid to show his true self. Of course, after three years of dating him, I had to marry this rare find!! =) My husband isn’t afraid to say he plays video games like a professional, plays geeky pen and paper games every other week (Mage, D&D, etc. ) and can admit that Sex and the City is one of the greatest shows ever written! I love that he is comfortable enough with himself and his “manhood” to be 100% completely honest with me about himself and everything else! Boy, I am one lucky girl!! =)

    • http://www.facebook.com/ashley.lynn.cook Ashley Lynn Cook

      Yoav, great article! And Monica, I’m right there with you girl! I’ve been married for a little over 2 years (been together for almost 6) and from the start my man was completely up front with his true self, and I love him for it. :-) He admitted he’s geek (NOT nerd however, he made that quite clear lol) but he’d like to think he’s geek chic if categorizing. He dresses slightly on the metro side (shoes must match belt must match watch) loves indie music along with rock and roll and some pop dance, loves cats (rarity in men I find, most love dogs or animals in general but I’m a catlady so it was hard to find a guy who supported me in this) and looooooves to snuggle! I just had to keep this man. 😀

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1134030012 Michele Segroves

      Amen sister. My husband is total dweeb and isn’t afraid of embarrassing me or himself, in public…no matter how much I beg him to stop, in order to have fun or make me laugh. It drives me nuts, but it’s the reason I love him and married him. We will be in the car with the windows rolled down, in a very populated area, everything is going fine and all of a sudden he decides he is going to belt it out with Taylor Swift and starts singing as loud as he can while my cheeks turn bright red and I try my best to glare at him and not laugh my butt off.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sarahlambert.bender Sarah-Lambert Bender

    I totally agree with this article to a point. I think too much emphasis is put on the idea that guys’ main goal is what women think. Honestly, I think the whole trying to be “cool” thing is a lot closer to the “alpha male” mentality amongst men rather than how women perceive them.

    If you really think about what Don Draper represents in “Mad Men” it isn’t the uber-cool sexy guy to women. Nope, he’s the alpha male of the office. Actually, he doesn’t win the good opinion of most of the women on the show, but he does have the mens’.

    It’s kind of the same way girls don’t go out looking super cute for the guys–not really. We do it for the other girls who will be there and to outshine them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1134030012 Michele Segroves

    “Girl’s” or “women” don’t want one specific thing lol. We all have individual ideas of what we want. You can never go wrong with just being yourself. It’s funny how most cliche’s are actually true huh? But seriously what’s the point in trying to be something you’re not halfway through the relationship you are going to get tired of pretending and she is going to realize that you aren’t what she thought you were…is this starting to sound like most breakup arguments? Be who you are and if you don’t who you are then figure it out. If a guy had a problem with me liking a movie or band or food he didn’t like then guess what, he didn’t really like me that much to begin with. What’s the point in being with someone who cares more about the image you project than the person you really are?

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