What makes a man a man? Is it facing up to your mistakes and learning from them? Is it rising to challenges, and finishing a job, no matter the odds? Is it being kind of a prick that’s hard to work with because you feel things too much? Is it canoodling with Megan Fox and fighting robots in a shitty blockbuster franchise? (UPDATE: Bahaha, a man also takes an old Esquire bit and passes it off as his own. A man plagiarizes an apology, apparently, which at least makes that odd Mark McGwire mention, from 2009 when the piece was written, seem a little less out of left field).
Yes, it’s all of those things and more. Also publishing emails between your co-workers on Twitter that explain why you’re not going to be able to punch in at the make pretend factory because the other make pretend guys don’t make pretend the way you’re accustomed to. That’s what Shia LaBeouf did when it was announced earlier this week that he will no longer be appearing in the production of the critically lauded Lyle Kessler play Orphans opposite Alec Baldwin.
Baldwin wrote: “When the change comes, how do we handle it, whether it be good or bad? What do we learn? I don’t have an unkind word to say about you. You have my word.” Nine minutes later, LaBeouf responded in all lowercase: “same. be well. good luck on the play. you’ll be great.”
All of which is very interesting if you’re the type of person who is concerned with the inner workings of professional stagecraft. You know who doesn’t care about that sort of thing? A man. But what else does a man do? LaBeouf was kind enough to spell it out for the world, in another email.
“My dad was a drug dealer. He was a shit human.” he wrote. Men are often drug dealers. Men are often shit humans. Sometimes they are both.
“He taught me how to be a man. What I know of men Alec is – A man is good at his job. Not his work, not his avocation, not his hobby. Not his career. His job.”
Who wrote this thing, LaBeouf or Jaqen H’ghar?
A man, apparently, is not good at constructing complete sentences.
“A man can look you up and down and figure some things out. Before you say a word, he makes you. From your suitcase, form your watch, from your posture. A man infers.”
From your emails, a man can also infer all sorts of things.
“A man owns up. That’s why Mark McGwire is not a man.” Woh, woh, what did poor old steroid-using, cheating liar McGwire do to anybody. Seems like kind of a non sequitur, but ok. A man does take baseball very seriously, after all.
“A man grasp his mistakes. He lays claim to who he is, and what he was, whether he likes them or not. Some mistakes, though, he lets pass if no one notices. Like dropping the steak in the dirt.”
A man has to have a code, and that code is the five-second rule.
“He does not rely on rationalizes or explanations. He doesn’t winnow, winnow, winnow….” Winnowing, or separating the chaff from grain by blowing a current of air through it is not, to be fair, all that manly of an image. We’re with him here. “…until truths can be humbly categorized, or intellectualized, until behavior can be written off with an explanation.”
A man seems like he might be doing just that here, but sometimes poetry is hard to parse.
“A man knows his tools and how to use them — just the ones he needs. Knows which saw is for what, how to find the stud.”
Is this a resignation email or a note to the cute girl in 19th Century British Literature that you’re trying to impress with how deep you are? (A man may or may not have done a lot of that sort of thing himself as a young man).
“A man does not know everything. He doesn’t try. He likes what other men know.”
Kind of respect that point, if we can drop the shithead character for a second here. Knowing that you don’t know everything, and being able to appreciate the people who have specialized knowledge that you do not is a pretty spot-on description of what it means to be mature. Also sometimes lazy, but mostly mature.
“A man can tell you that he was wrong. That he did wrong. That he planned to. He can tell you when he is lost.” Ho ho, not my dad though, right? He would never stop for directions! Mom’s all: Just pull over, like, and ask, we’ve been driving around in circles for 45 minutes. No. A man doesn’t do that. A man goes. He drives. He is not about to enlist the aid of a map, or a machine, or a kindly gas station attendant of some sort, particularly in this neighborhood, would you just shut up for one minute and let me think straight/stare out the windshield upon everything in front of me, which, to utilize this car metaphor we’ve stumbled into here, appears much the same as that which I am now also, currently, seeing in the rearview mirror, ie, miles and miles of repeated, indistinguishable scenery.
“He can apologize, even if sometimes it’s just to put an end to the bickering.”
Also good advice, am I right fellas, haha, knowing most of your wives, which I don’t, specifically, I should point out. Not as far as you know.
“Alec, Im sorry for my part of a dis-agreeable situation,” he concludes, unless you count the part where he adds his name, that name being “Shia”, at the end, which is usually just a formality when it comes to writing emails.
A man, most of all, is confused, is the lesson we can take away here. A man, however, doesn’t want people to think he’s a difficult bastard, having developed said reputation, over, say, a few years of odd ball behavior in the public eye. A man, above all things, needs to get work. We are, after all, no better than what we do for a living.
-A guy who writes about celebrity email drama on the internet