This summer, All Things Considered is looking at the lives of Men in America and how things have changed or haven't. Part of that is redefining masculinity, so the show asked me to ask guys about the stuff they equate with manliness today. (Submit your own stories in the form below.)
I started my very unscientific investigation on a Friday night at a Washington, D.C., barbershop. Fresh Cut owner Bernard Fernandez chose his Buick. He fixed it up himself and says that first car meant freedom and independence; a way to get to and from work and a paycheck. "That's manly!" Fernandez says.
"It didn't have nothing but one seat in it, that was the driver's seat anybody else rode in it, they just rode on milk crates. I had a lot of fun in that car."
When I asked on Twitter, one of you picked a BabyBjorn as your object because you tweeted that you didn't feel like a man until you had a kid. Others mentioned motorcycles, chainsaws and even a "man pan" (that's a heavy cast iron pan for those who are curious; I know I was).
When I posed the question to writer and rapper David Lee, he immediately thought of what he should say.
"I should pick something like a watch or a boot, perhaps a battle-ax," he says.
Lee is a New Yorker who writes Gumship, an online men's guide to Asian lifestyle and entertainment. He ultimately voted against the battle-ax and went with a bathrobe as his masculine object. But his is no Hugh Heffner-esque robe. The blue terry cloth Adventure Time cartoon robe hits around midthigh, and Lee says it represents the luxury of being a man today.
"I think we're at a space in time where men are openly loving My Little Ponies, embracing cartoons, still playing video games, and we're really dictating what it means to be a man," he says. "Everyone's confused whether or not they're being ironic or not, and that's so luxurious, you know?"