There is probably no population group that needs more encouragement than young adult men. The adolescent-minded adult male who refuses to grow up populates movies, television, and commercials. He also populates his old bedroom in his parent’s house. But such men are not total fools. They ask the very appropriate question: “Why should I grow up, get my own place, and take on the responsibility for a family when staying free and untethered is so much fun?”
Because, explain the authors of the book Heavy Lifting: Grow Up, Get a Job, Raise a Family, and Other Manly Advice, there are greater and deeper joys in embracing adulthood. Jim Geraghty and Cam Edwards both took the plunge into marriage and family and lived to tell about it. Their book is a refreshing antidote to the lure of eternal boyhood that is presented by modern culture.
Advantage: The Authors Are Not You
This book is like having a cool, young uncle tell your son that getting a real job and having a family are perfectly acceptable, even enjoyable things to do. Of course, parents say that stuff to their kids all the time, but they have a vested interest in wanting that bedroom back for the sewing room Mom’s always wanted. And what is said by parents and ignored suddenly becomes words of genius when spoken by someone else who is hip and gets where they are coming from, you know. And so Geraghty and Edwards can convey a timely and wise message in a way you can’t because they aren’t your kid’s parents.
Their key message is,
“What leaves a man depressed and hollow inside is not attachments but the lack of them. Come on: gainfully employed, married, a dad—you have no idea how great your life can be. But we’re about to show you.”
That is certainly a message that young men need to hear and that they hear way too little from the culture.
What Would Ward Cleaver Do?
The authors use as their cultural icon, Ward Cleaver, who certainly embodied fatherhood in an admirable way. In fact, their first chapter is called “Ward Cleaver Was a Stud.” And they sum up each chapter with a section called “What Would Ward Cleaver Do?” I do wonder, however, if that icon is as familiar to the 18 to 35 year olds the authors are addressing as it is to parents who read the book and say, “amen” to its message. My kids are highly aware of Ward and the Beaver because my husband bought a set of DVDs with the entire seven seasons of Leave It to Beaver, and family time included watching at least two episodes in succession. Oh, how we all laughed at that scamp, Beaver!
Geraghty and Edwards are out to help young men learn (or at least be introduced to) the skills it takes to be an adult. The book covers living with a roommate, the place of video games in life, the art of drinking, how to dress, how to get a job and the concomitant skill of how to survive getting fired, and marriage and fatherhood—the whole panoply of manly skills that some men never bother to master.
Each author writes an essay about the topic at hand, each bringing his particular perspective and experiences into play. But both authors take a mostly traditional and conservative view toward the issues. They aren’t preachy. In fact, the way they get a lot of their messages across is to share their own mistakes and hope the reader will take the lesson to heart without too much heavy-handed moralizing.
Geraghty recalls how he did not follow the advice he gives in the book to survive unemployment by “relentless, bottomless, indefatigable, determination.” Instead, he said, he would stay up late and watch Deep Space Nine reruns “calling up the local affiliate when they aired them out of order.”
Edwards shares how he and his wife went through some marital difficulties that almost led to divorce but counsels that real men keep going in the face of adversity. And he did (and his wife did, too).
Both guys take a humorous tone and neither guy takes himself too seriously. Geraghty takes on some of the weird wedding traditions such as tossing the garter: “Everyone has just gathered in a church to pledge their love for each other before God and everyone they know…. Then all of a sudden, everyone—Grandma, Aunt Edna, Uncle Leo—get together and watch the groom try to get to third base under the wedding dress. What the hell?”
The Hook Up Culture Isn’t All It Is Cracked Up to Be
The authors consistently promote marriage and family as one of the key ways human beings have achieved fulfillment. There are other ways, of course, but in our culture, those ways are exalted while this traditional course has become less celebrated. They wind up their book with this thought:
Family life, mindfully led, is guaranteed to be a rich with adventure, wonder, and infinite opportunities to better yourself, your kids, and the world around you. No, you won’t be able to avoid every hardship or tough time, but so what? Being a husband and father won’t always be easy, but life isn’t easy. At least when you’re living the Dad Life, you don’t have to do all the heavy lifting alone.”
So three cheers for Geraghty and Edwards for extolling the important, difficult, but ultimately fulfilling roles of husband and father.