Audience: Struggling men
Ted O’Bryan: Buff Stud or ‘Roided Crud?
What is it to be a man? A popular belief nowadays is that masculinity is defined by a man’s degree of “buffness.” Everywhere you look: on billboards, in magazines, on television you see an idealized image of man. John Cloud in his article, Never Too Buff, discusses this image and what it has done to the male psyche. He asserts that many men now take anabolic steroids to gain muscle tone and definition so they “stack up” to the ideal. I believe that a buff appearance does not define a man’s worth. Masculinity is defined by much more than this.
To illustrate my point I would like to tell you a story about the O’Bryan family from Mt. Lebanon. Ted is a seemingly All-American man. He works out at the gym five nights a week and coaches football at his son’s high school. His wife, Mindy, is a high powered business executive who nets a significantly larger sum of money than Ted. She pays their mortgage and all of their major bills. They use Ted’s income for superfluous things such as a basketball hoop for the driveway, a bigger, improved television, and all their family outings. Ted and Mindy have a son in high school named Matt. Matt has just reached puberty, is very tall and lean with hardly any muscle tone at all. Ted constantly nags Matt to join the football team, take steroids, and work out at the gym with him. Matt is a momma’s boy though, and more concerned with his studies. He has no desire to change who he is for his father.
One day after school, Matt comes home and goes straight up to his room to start his homework, as usual. Mindy pulls up in her SUV after a long, arduous day at the office. She strides authoritatively into the house, starts dinner, changes, and begins a load of laundry. They both know Ted will arrive home from the gym in an hour. When Ted gets home, dinner is waiting for him on the table. They all sit down to eat and almost immediately Ted starts in on Matt. He says,
“Better eat up boy, get some meat on those bones!”
Matt looks, dejectedly, at his food. Mindy, seeing the look on her son’s face, retorts,
“Ted, give the boy a break.”
Ted, raising his voice, says,
“No, Mindy, I will not give him a break. Do you want our son to be a man or a WIMP?”
As he finishes his last word, he slaps his hand down on the table, hard. Matt looks more depressed than ever now. He knows in his mind that he will never be the man his father desires him to be. Mindy gets so mad at Ted she yells,
“What, be a man like YOU?”
At this remark, Ted is infuriated. His manhood has been crushed by his high-powered wife. The fact that she is the bread-winner eats at him and he believes this is what she was referring to. He gets up from the table, slams his chair, and storms out the door.
A few hours later, Ted returns home. He has just come from the bar where he was “unwinding with the guys.” His trip to the local tavern has left him pretty intoxicated. As he walks into the house, he sees his son, Matt, helping his wife with a floral arrangement.
Ted tromps into the room and yells,
“So this is what you do when I am gone? You make my boy play with flowers?”
He swiftly approaches Mindy and grabs her up out of her chair. She yelps,
“Ted, please, I was only…”
Before she can even finish her sentence, Ted slams her violently into the wall and screams,
“You were only, WHAT?”
As he says this, spit flies into Mindy’s face. Her body throbs with pain and vehement disgust of her husband. Matt, then, jumps up and cries,
“DAD, I wanted to help!”
At this, Ted looses his grip on Mindy and she crumples to the floor in fear and pain. Ted glares at his son and says,
Stupidly, Matt obeys and follows Ted into the den. Ted locks the door behind them and screams with intense fury,
“I’ll make you a man myself then, boy!”
Matt’s cries pour through the walls and Mindy’s senses return to her. She knows that Ted is beating him senselessly. She bangs on the door and yells for Ted to stop. When the violence continues, she reaches for the phone and immediately dials 911.
The police arrive within minutes and break down the door. Ted is arrested on the spot. It takes four men to restrain him and put him in the back of the police car. Mindy can hear tires screeching as they pull out. The sirens start to wail and so does Ted. Mindy approaches her son in the den. He is lying face down on the floor. There is a pool of blood next to his mouth. Terrified, she rolls him over. He is still breathing. Mindy hears an ambulance outside. The paramedics arrive and quickly take Matt to the hospital. Mindy stays by his side the whole night. When he finally returns to consciousness, she speaks softly but surely,
“Don’t worry my precious son, they will never let that hollow shell of a man hurt us again.”
Let’s now take a closer look at Ted. It is readily apparent that he has defined masculinity by a buff appearance. His obsession with that definition caused him to follow a rigorous workout schedule enhanced by steroid use. His muscles are, to him, what makes him a man. He is completely self-centered and insensitive. He does not help out around the house or care about anyone’s feelings. In addition, Ted is not the bread-winner of the family. This fact greatly intimidates, threatens, and otherwise demeans his manhood. His violent outburst occurs because he is threatened by his wife. He must compensate and re-establish his dominance over the family. Although this is the wrong way to go about it, and he will pay dearly later for it, he knows no other way. His steroid use combined with the consumption of far too many alcoholic beverages induces his rage. Logic and reason have no power here. He hurts both his wife and son.
A real man is protective of his mate and offspring. He should never harm or endanger them in any way, shape, or form. He has physical strength, but uses it to move furniture or lift heavy objects. A real man is sensitive, but not overly emotional. He cares about everyone’s feelings in the household and at the same time is a pillar of emotional stability. He also joins in, contributing to the menial chores of living, otherwise known as housework. These are the things that define masculinity to me, not a buff appearance. Do you think maybe if Ted wasn’t so obsessed about his appearance, he would be a better man?
My commentary on Steroid Use in America