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A guest post by Chris Piper – The Kassi Project

**Editor’s note: I met Chris when we were both panelists on a HuffPost Live segment on Oops Babies. When all four guests had told their stories, host Nancy Redd asked me which panelist I most related to and my answer was Chris. His approach to single parenting struck a chord with me and I was especially impressed with his website aimed at confronting the issues men face when unexpected pregnancies arise. I asked him to write a guest post for us and it appears here, unedited. Please feel free to comment here, or visit him on The Kassi Project for further discussion. — Katie ** 

There is no such thing as a real man. “Manning up” does not exist. Let me explain.

Being a man in today’s world can be confusing. Our fathers and their fathers spent their days smoking cigars, drinking whiskey neats, “reading” Playboy and grooming their beards – or something to that effect. They were raised by men, taught by fellow men and lived their lives like men. A very clear picture was painted of what a man was – and what it wasn’t.

Nowadays, men struggle with finding an acceptable male identity. Boys are increasingly being raised by women. Adolescents look up to the soft, overgrown child-actors found in their favorite movies and television
shows. Men no longer wear denim jeans and a wool button-ups or the classy three-piece suit. Men get mani pedis, subscribe to GQ and long gone are the days of chopping wood for the fire – we are tethered to e-mail 24/7 and devour our Netflix subscription to watch the latest Mad Men episodes, asking ourselves, “is Jon Hamm’s character a real man?”

There is no such thing. It is a lie we all tell ourselves.

There are many misconceptions about being a man. Here are a few of my favorites from Ben Bransetter’s article, 35 Lies Men Tell Themselves on Thought Catalog:

1. If I wear a fitted cap and a polo shirt, I’m a douchebag. If I wear skinny jeans and a scarf, I’m a hipster. If I wear Caterpillar boots and a camo hat, I’m a redneck.

2. Cops and soldiers are the epitome of manliness.

3. I should require no help from anyone.

If I had only known the fallacy that is #3 when I found out my on-again off-again girlfriend was pregnant.

My own father had been mostly absentee since I was 13 and from the day he left I had been told about “being the man of the house now” and “manning up” and swallowing any feelings of uncertainty, as that isn’t a characteristic of a real man. Seven years later, my girlfriend is unexpectedly pregnant and it’s déjà vu – the “manning up” remarks come raining down on me from her family, my friends, colleagues … basically everyone; everyone except from the people who in retrospect gave me the best advice. Advice that I follow today and should have then.

That advice boiled down to this: There is no such thing as manning up, be the man you want to be. A true man’s man.

My head was so turned around during this time and without a real male persona to identify with, I conjured up an idea of what I thought a “real man” was supposed to be. During my “manning up” phase, I made a few critical mistakes, including:

1. Extending a relationship I didn’t want to be in, just because we were having a child together. Cue amazingly disastrous relationship. I remember thinking, “is this really as good as it gets?”

2. Having my girlfriend move in with me, one day before she went into labor with our child, because what man would allow the mother of his newborn to still live with her own parents?

3. Nearly purchasing a home for us to live in together. Luckily it fell through; I re-grouped and finally realized I’m an idiot.

4. Feeling ultimately responsible for the poor decisions my girlfriend was making in other areas of her life, since, as a man, it was “my fault” she became pregnant and was a young, single mom.

5. Letting people’s own experiences with having an unexpected child with someone lead me to believe that my own would be the same.

Women, you can’t force a man to be someone he does not want to be. Men, you can’t commit to something you are not ready for. It will ultimately lead to disaster if you do.

Today, my father and I have a great relationship and while we have our similarities, we are significantly different. We are each our own man’s man. Over the past few years I’ve realized that I’m still a man even though I’ve made mistakes while chasing what I thought a true man was. To this day I am still aspiring to be the person I want to be, because that is what I want, not what anyone has told me I have to be.

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.” – George Bernard Shaw, Co-Founder of the London School of Economics

Although I have had my life greatly altered by the decisions I have made and by those of my daughter’s mother, I can still be the man I need to be to my daughter and the one true father figure she desperately deserves in her life.

A whiskey neat here and there doesn’t hurt either.

Chris and daughter Kassidie

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