December 16, 2014

Holiday Gift Advice: Avoid Spray on Manhood for Teen Males!

Many older men can remember getting Old Spice aftershave for a Holiday gift. It's a long-standing tradition that began back in grandpa's time and was handed down through the generations. Because it was such an easy guy's gift to get and give, Old Spice became the common smell of "manhood" for a couple generations.

I thought Old Spice had been lost in the sea of more trendy lines of men's fragrances now available. So I was surprised to learn the Old Spice tradition is being upscaled with a fresh and clever approach to a new generation of young males. Old Spice is calling it Smellcome to Manhood.




We all know young dudes will never be able to spray on manhood, but apparently, in addition to its other deficits, the adolescent male brain is unable to sort out reality from clever marketing promises. Even I have to admit the Old Spice folks have come up with a very creative approach to a young man's desire to be seen as manly.

Check out this video and watch for the gender interplay between the men and women, messages about emancipation from mom's world, and the hints of the benefits young guys might get if they smell right:


If this clip doesn't show up use this link.

The good news about this campaign is that it brings the idea of a young man's rites of passage into the present day conversation. The Old Spice folks even had a contest for a Smellcome to Manhood Kit that contained some of what they considered to be manhood essentials:

  • Old Spice Re-fresh Body Spray - the spray on manliness stuff.
  • Old Spice T-Shirt – with a manly chest tattoo.
  • Old Spice Branded Earbuds - because real men isolate (?).
  • Bear Paws Meat Carving Tool - Well, meat, I guess, is for men.
  • Duct Tape Art of Manliness Book - No comment, I like duct tape.
  • “Scent Responsibly” Instructions - About time, see below.
  • Smellcome to Manhood Certificate - Because someone has to say you're now "A Man."

I love the "Scent Responsibly" instructions. The overall goal of the instructions is to prevent the juvenile over-spraying epidemic. That's where young guys tend to overdo a fragrance in order to increase the amount of manliness they are projecting into the world.



This holiday season, I'd pass on the Old Spice tradition and skip the gift of stink for your young man. Instead, make a commitment to teach young lads to hike or how to build a campfire, grill meat, fix a toilet flapper, or change a car or bike tire. Encourage them to take education seriously, to trust older men, be respectful to women, and feel good about being male without enhancements. There's a much longer list, of course, but the idea is to launch them on a real journey towards manhood and save us all from the adolescence fragrance cloud being marketed as spray-on manhood.



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December 2, 2014

How Circles and Rites of Passage Weekends Transform Young Men

Two Thoughts on Transformation:

1. The Power of a Circle: A recent article in the Minneapolis StarTribune describes an interesting use of group circles in schools. We all know about the existence and dangers of cliques in high school. In some communities, for young guys, they are called gangs. In this case, there were serious tensions, sometimes leading to fights, between African-American students and the Karen community of recently arrived refugee students from Myanmar. There are about 8,000 Karen refugees who have settled in Minnesota over the past decade and most of them are in the east metro of Minneapolis.

Multicultural Leaders group at Roseville High School - (Photo David Joles)

The StarTribune article describes how a high school junior named Soe from the Karen community approached his teacher with a proposal. Rather than continue to feel the discrimination and get in fights, he wanted to talk. It wasn't long before a circle of "Multicultural Leaders" was convened and a conversation between the young men of the two cultures got started. That initiative has blossomed and now includes additional schools, and other minorities in the dialogue. Sitting across the room and listening to each other has reduced racial tensions, led to cross-cultural friendships, stopped fights, and maybe it will even keep teen gangs from being formed in the community.

. . . maybe it will even keep teen gangs
from being formed in the community.

In my experience, when young men, or any group, come together and have an honest and open dialogue, they always learn this one valuable lesson. Soe said during the conversations, he realized everyone liked similar sports and music. He said, “We found out we are not different that much. We’re almost the same, except for the color of our skin.” That is real transformation.


2. The Power of a Rites of Passage Weekend: If you take what happens in a young guy's circle, add about 20 -30 good men, run it for a weekend, conduct a continuous series of challenging physical and emotional experiences, add in some ritual, toss in some fun, teen food, and fires, the impact on the young men (and the old guys) is also powerful.

The video clip below is from Boys to Men Arizona. It will give you a brief sense of what happens on a passage weekend and the impact on both the men and the young guys. Some of the activities may look strange to the outsider, but the events and processes are all designed to speak directly to the young male reality. As one man says, "We use the fun part to get to deeper stuff that's inside these young men."

Listen closely to what the young guys say about their experience. A well run rites of passage experience, like the impact of an on-going support group circle, can have a life-changing effect on a young male.


If this clip doesn't show up use this link.

A great scenario for sustaining a young man's growth would be for him to come out of an ongoing school (or church, or community) support circle, experience a weekend passage event, and then return to the circle of support to build on his self-discovery and commitments. Or like the Arizona men, meet with the guys a couple times a month to hang out, have an adventure, eat some food and check in about what's going on in your life. Time with men willing to have fun AND be real is part of what creates the transformational juice.

. . . it wasn't just crap,
it was real!

If you hear the call to be part these kinds of experiences, give me an e-shout, or check out the website of Boys to Men Arizona. I can guarantee you the men showing up for this work with young guys are gloriously imperfect men just like you and me. Your masculine hardwiring and willingness to take the risk are the only credentials you need. There may be a group like Boys to Men Arizona or something similar near you now. It just also might be possible for you and a couple men you know to get something started that will serve the young males in your part of the world. It really could be that simple!

What I can say for sure is the young guys are waiting!



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November 26, 2014

The Season of Gratitude


In the U.S., Thursday, November 27, is Thanksgiving Day. For most, it's a time of family, food, and, sadly these days, shopping. However, I want to take the meaning of the holiday literally and use this moment to express gratitude, real thanks-giving.

I feel quite blessed to have your support.

This blog's subscribed audience is about a thousand and growing. I know there are many other site visitors who pass by regularly. Taken together, you make up a good and loyal group, and I feel quite blessed to have your support. It really does make my heart sing to know there is a global collection of people who care enough about our young men to let these posts into your lives a few times every month.

I'm grateful for the possibility that some, or even many, of you are already involved in some form of Man-Making. Or because of what you read here, some of you will be moved to take an action in support of a young man. Now that deserves some real thanks-giving!

So, in this season of gratitude, let me simply and directly say, Thank You!

Earl Hipp



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November 20, 2014

Father Hunger, Son Hunger, Two Songs, and the Father Wound

I was in a men's circle last night. It was a meeting for men interested in working with young males. To help men get anchored in the teenage male experience, they were asked, "As a teen, who were the men who were, or were not, there to support you?" It was a rich conversation and, as is always the case, men learned that when we speak our "truth," when we are real with each other, we are all way more alike than different.

As a teen, who were the men
who were, or were not,
there to support you?

One of the common themes that showed up in the conversation was about the father who was physically present but emotionally distant: workaholic, alcoholic, womanizing, angry, sometimes abusive, and/or a man without any skills for intimate connection. One man labelled him a ghost father, visible, but was not really there. For some men, it felt more confusing, painful and damaging than having a father who just left, leaving a fatherless boy.

Men, sometimes teary, talked about the profound longing for time and connection with their dad, the most important male in a young man's life. They described how, without this man's guidance and direction, it was so easy for a life to take a wrong turn. Each man, in different ways, and for different reasons, spoke to deep father hunger that was never satisfied, and the wound they have carried into adulthood as a result.

Daddy, where are you?

The film clip below is titled Papaoutai and performed by a Belgian singer named Stromae. It was sent to me by a brother in mission, Andrew MacDonald, who lives near Ottawa, Canada. Loosely translated, Papaoutai means Daddy, where are you?. I don't speak the language of the song, but no matter, it's message is painfully clear.

In countless young guy circles, I've heard "Daddy, where are you?" asked many times by so many young men . . . too many young men. It's at the literal heart of what I often call "the epidemic of under-male-nourished boys." Men and young men carrying this kind of father wound may find Papaoutai hard to watch, especially the ending.


If this clip doesn't show up use this link.


As almost a direct counterpoint to Papaoutai, I want to offer up another song. This one comes from the other direction, a song about a father hungry for time with his son. Mark Chandler, in his song Making A Man, is speaking out for so many good men cut off from their sons by life's circumstances. Mark is a military officer approaching retirement. It's been difficult to get time with his son because for three of the last eight years, Mark has been deployed. On top of that, he's been divorced for the last four years.

Mark feels the core message of the song is it takes a man to make a man, and it's what "poured out of him" when he was longing for time with his son. Again, for men and young men carrying a father wound, Mark's longing, love, and commitment, as expressed in this song, may dampen your eyes.


If this clip doesn't show up use this link.

To connect with Mark Chandler, visit his Facebook page.

These songs represent two very different and profoundly deep calls for connection between fathers and sons. When that bond is broken, everyone suffers. What's left for us to do is to support men and young men who've been damaged in that unique way. Today, in so many ways, we're paying the social costs of not offering that support. We can do better and we must.



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November 14, 2014

A Young Man's First Shave and A Different Movember Challenge

A strange wave of joy and sadness hit me when I noticed a can of Barbasol shave cream in a friend's bathroom. I had seen it there before, but this time it took me right back to my early adolescence and those first few times shaving. I've written about that sad rite of passage event for me in previous blog posts. I guess the impact of that time in my life is still very much alive in me.

The feeling of joy was from the memory of all that white and fragrant foam in my hand and then all over my face. And I do mean ALL OVER my face. Somewhere underneath all that white stuff hid a few tender facial hairs signaling, not the need to shave, but the first hint of approaching manhood. I don't think the foam helped me get a better "shave," but it was a helpful guide showing the path the razor had taken.

I can also remember a rather evil green liquid aftershave. When the shaving ordeal was over, I'd put some of this potion on my hands and rub it on my face. I then had to endure the rush of burning pain as the liquid met up with all the dings the razor had left behind. I'm sure it made me smell odd at best, but in my naive adolescent mind it all made me irresistibly manly.


...in my naive adolescent mind
it all made me irresistibly manly.

The sadness in that Barbasol moment was not so much about the painful nicks from poor shaving technique or even the resulting shameful face dotted with little pieces of Kleenex. I felt sad because, in that important moment in my life, I was again left alone to figure out another aspect of manhood. In a way it's like a first menstrual period for a girl; it was an occasion that begged for guidance. My only real guides were the terrible shaving commercials of that era. As it was then and is still the case today, what I saw on the screen was seductive, but really poor training for real life and manhood. Here's an example:


If this clip doesn't show up use this link.


If you haven't heard, "No Shave November" or Movember is when men don't shave for 30 days in order to grow a moustache (Movember = Moustache + November). It's a global campaign designed to invite conversation about men's health and to raise funds to improve the lives of men affected by prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health problems. Think of it as the male version of the pink ribbon breast cancer campaigns. The Movember Foundation, the leading global organization, has raised $559 million todate and funded over 800 programs in 21 countries. If you want to get involved, you can visit the U.S. Movember website or just Google Movember and your city, state, or country. It's a very good cause.

...here's a different Movember challenge for you.

But here's a different Movember challenge for you. Use the idea of Movember, or just beards, to start a conversation with an adolescent male in your world. Ask him if he knows about Movember. Ask him if he's shaving, how did he learn, and how is it going? Tell him your story of learning to shave and your approach today. If you know the young guy is an under-male-nourished kid, all the better.

Sure, the young dudes can find the information about shaving themselves. However, showing an interest as an adult man in this part of a young man's life, or starting a conversation about this common male issue, carries a lot of weight. It really doesn't matter exactly what you talk about. The important thing is the fact that you are recognizing his emerging manhood and offering some support. In this way, you'll be honoring this young man's small but important rite of passage, and possibly passing along some needed shaving tips.

If you didn't get any good training on how to shave or how to teach a kid how to shave, Shaving Tips for Teen Guys is one of many great websites.

If you have a first shave story, please send it along. I'd love to hear it, and if you're willing, I'll post it in the comments to this post.



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