February 23, 2013

Farting, Fellowship, and Forgiveness

Let's just start with the forgiveness. For those of you easily offended, please forgive me. In my world, this topic just seems to float by every so often. After all, this is a blog about men and boys, and while it's awkward to admit, occasionally taking pleasure in, or laughing at, the passing gas seems to be embedded in the male DNA. So this post is about using information about flatulence to connect with boys . . . OK, males.

 © motivatedphotos.com
Women have a more dignified relationship with this part of the human experience, and are most often offended by any attention focused on the passing of gas. Males however, especially the young dudes, clearly have a more celebratory relationship with this bodily function.

This time the topic was brought to my attention by a mom who had been transporting a car full of young guys, when one of them passed some Serious Gas. Of course, this sent the other guys into fits of laughter, and vain attempts of the boys to match the original “call.” The mom said it was just gross and the last straw. She was offended, really was frustrated, tired of the joke, and just didn't get it. Not all moms feel that way, however.

On The Stir is a blog especially for moms. A recent edition had an article about a young boy who was actually given detention for farting on a school bus and causing a major ruckus. The mom in the article did express some boy-literacy when she said, You know, I don't like anyone smelling up an enclosed space any more than the next gal, but farting is practically an art form for a pre-teen boy. She also allowed that the young man, in his gaseous statement, had . . . just bought himself a one-way ticket to popularity-ville. At least until he starts getting really interested in what the girls think.

I have a theory about male farting. Perhaps we can attribute the joy our young guys (males) take in creative flatulence to our cave dwelling ancestors? Think about it. These guys, prior to football on TV, would spend a lot of time just sitting around the fire with not much to do or say. I can imagine them relaxing after chowing down on a big meal of mastodon, or kangaroo, or venison, and being a little groggy with the digestive process. With nothing else to do and zero social constraints, I'm sure the passing of gas was a major source of entertainment. Because they were guys, I’m also pretty sure competition would eventually commence. From my experience with men, and as a man, I just know this did happen down through time and all around the world. Ancient history there.
When farting is outlawed, only outlaws will fart!
I liked another explanation of why boys fart from a blog actually dedicated to that particular art form. The author of Farting for Boys, I suspect a young male, responded to the question, Why do boys like farting? He said, Because it's gross, unkempt, from the body, and discouraged by society. When farting is outlawed, only outlaws fart, and boys like to be outlaws. If enjoying "dumb humor" is criticized, boys would rather be dumb. The more it's hated by others, the funnier it is to do, and the more they enjoy doing it. If you visit Farting for Boys - (UPDATE! Since the publication of this post, the Farting for Boys blog has been taken down by Blogger. In doing so they obliterated another creative, but boyish expression of the truth. 

When I describe the draft of this post to a couple of my men friends, the response was a smile, an “of course,” and encouragement to let it fly. Having also been through the gaseous part of boyhood and adolescence, they nostalgically remembered the strange form of fragrant bonding that comes from that particular form of male “sharing.” The simultaneously occurring feelings are disgust, compassion, humor, jealousy, and occasionally awe, that unites males in a pack. If you want to endear yourself to a group of young guys, tell a fart joke, or better yet, offer them the real thing. You'll endear yourself to them forever.

If you really want to impress the young dudes (and some of your men friends), here are some fun facts about farting from OnlineEducation.net:
The average person will fart 14 times per day and produce a half liter of fart gas. These farts can travel as fast as 7 mph and due to their composition (largely nitrogen), are quite flammable. The top ten farting animals from most to less, are as follows: Termites, Camels, Zebras, Sheep, Cows, Elephants, Labradors - Retrievers, Humans (Vegetarians), Humans (non-Vegetarians), and Gerbils. And finally, did you know even dead people can still fart?
I’m resisting putting a “fart button” on this post because I really do have my limits. But I am including the edgy video below which I guarantee will bring peals of laughter from any group of adolescent males . . . and a fair number of men. Like I said, it’s in our DNA. If you’re not a fan of flatulence, don’t watch.

If the video doesn't show up, use this link

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February 13, 2013

RESULTS: 2012 Man-Making Blog Survey

The 2012 Man-Making Blog Annual Survey is my attempt to sharpen my editorial focus and, hopefully, increase the blog's interest and relevance for you. Your helpful responses have been compiled and summarized below. Your feedback offered some affirmations, ah ha’s, recommendations, and a few invitations to actually shift my approach to serving this community!

Simply stated, you like the direction I've taken. You continue to want a fairly wide variety of types of information on man-making themes. Many of you use the blog for support and motivation for your own involvement (or intentions) in this work. Many of you have important expertise and are aware of content and resources beyond my reach. Finally, many of you are interested in experience and idea-sharing exchanges using conference calls or web-conferencing tools.

I do intend to incorporate many content suggestions in the very near future. I will also put out an announcement here soon inviting you to register for our first, topic-focused conference call. If possible, I'll also be posting links to the call recordings. I think diving deeper into the rich reservoir of knowledge and experience "you" represent will enrich the Man-Making Blog experience for everyone.

I’m going to leave out your wonderful compliments, but I do want to thank those of you who basically said, “Thanks . . .” and “Keep on . . .”.  Those affirmations feel great and are Very Much appreciated. Thank you for continuing to care about what happens in the lives of men and boys.

For brevity, I’ve combined your responses into common themes. Here’s a summary of what you expressed:

What is ONE thing I can do to make the Man-Making blog more meaningful for you?
  • Continue featuring the variety of man-making groups around the U.S. and internationally (I'm writing from Italy).
  • Create a space for existing organizations to promote their offerings for boys/men.
  • We’re running school workshops for adolescent boys in Australia. We’d love to get feedback and ideas from your readers.
  • I’m interested in being a better father and hearing about activities for my son and his friends.
  • Tell us about meaningful stories of initiation in other cultures, for example, Asian, Aboriginal, that support younger men to live more fully inspired lives.  
  • Write more about your experiences mentoring boys. Keeping the conversations and stories real keeps me coming back. 
  • Encourage men to take GOOD care of themselves, medically-in particular. 
  • I am a father of 5 boys, ages 5-11, and would like ideas for practical rites of passage ceremonies for my boys. 
  • Write a simple how-to ebook describing a simple initiation ritual for men and offer it to every man on the planet.
  • I have no personal connection to any men interested in this work. I’d like a check-in call where people answer "why are you on this call?" to hear about successes and from other newbies. 
  • Add more pithy quotes, if I cannot read the whole post, at least I could be inspired by the quote.

What type of content in blog posts is most interesting or helpful to you? 
In this question, I forced you to choose from a list of possible content and allowed multiple choices so the total is over 100%. Here is how you voted in order of preference:

Getting men interested in mentoring and man-making63%
Rites of Passage activities or programs for boys51%
Men's stories about men who made a difference in their lives         43%
Young male developmental stages40%
Man-Making Films and Book Reviews 40%
Man-Making related research31%
Developing school-based support groups for boys29%
Activities men and boys can do together29%
Community based violence prevention for young males23%
Single parenting of boys17%

Is there a Man-Making resource you know of that I should profile in the blog?
Your responses to this question were proof that there is a wealth of ideas and experience "out there." In your responses, you told me about young male-serving programs from around the planet, as well as books I'd not heard of, and even some inspirational video clips. You'll be hearing about many of these and others in upcoming blog posts, but here is just a sample:

Interest in forms of Idea Sharing: In the survey I said I felt the challenge of getting good men to show up for young males is too big and too important for me to be the only voice being heard. So I asked you about your interest in other ways we might share ideas. While Earl's Special Reports don't really fit here, many of you do want to find a way to hangout. We will be experimenting with these ideas in the near future. In order of preference, you said:

Topic-Focused Webinar or Conference Call         55%
Earl's "Special Report" Publications55%
Private Facebook Group45%
Open Conference Call39%
Mini-Conference with 8-15 Participants29%
Internet Call-In "Radio Talk Show"16%

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February 1, 2013

Urinals - Graffiti, and Boys Being Seen

I've come to enjoy using a urinal that actually "recognizes me!" With the relentless advance of technology, I fully expect that someday, in addition to its blinking red eye and watery greeting, it will say, Hi Earl, welcome back. You know you should really go easy on the burgers and eat more greens. In those personal moments, at least my presence is being noted. In the big world, that's not true for too many boys.

I have long felt for many teen boys, maybe the majority, their job description in the community is to stay out of trouble, don't be a nuisance, and don't bother us. Essentially, they are relegated to background action, like all the people we never notice behind the main actors in a movie.

Think about it, where is the teen boy place in your neighborhood or community? In some communities there might be a skateboard park, but that is really for the few who can get there. In some neighborhoods, there may be a place where guys can play basketball. If so, young males will swarm there like moths to the proverbial light bulb. If the weather is bad, you might find the young guys hanging at the mall, flirting with girls, and doing their best to not be seen by mall security. That's my point, not being seen, being invisible, is a big price to pay just cuz you're a teen male.
. . . not being seen, being invisible, is a big price to pay
just cuz you're a teen male.
From my work with boys, I know they are mad about it. One common and, of course, illegal expression of their frustration and anger is the tagging and graffiti we see all around us. Sometimes it's just marking territory, but very often it's bold and beautiful work, full of color and outrageous images, and created in impossible places. To me, it is their way of saying, "LOOK, I'M HERE, SEE ME, I'M CAPABLE OF CREATIVITY AND BEAUTY."

Last summer, my wife and I traveled across the U.S. by car, and then last fall, in Switzerland and France by train. In every town we drove through, and all along the train's route, on buildings, train cars, train stations, and walls everywhere, there was a continuous stream of boy tags (signatures) or works of boy art screaming out to me that the boys were demanding to be seen. If you start looking, you'll see them, too.

Of course, the common and predictable reaction by the adults in the world is to criminalize these personal expressions, to arrest the taggers, and when caught, to require the offenders to paint over their artistic statements, to overpaint themselves back to invisibility. I kept thinking of this ominous quote from Michael Meade:
A culture falls apart from two places at once - when it's young people are not welcome and rejected, and when it's old people are not remembered and respected.
I do know that on the other end of the social order continuum, we just can't let the young dudes go wild. I keep hoping for some middle ground that will allow us to see and honor our young males and do better including them as a visible part of community life. That wish may just be coming true.

As I get more connected across the generations, I've been learning to speak a new boy language, understanding the world through their eyes, and learning more about how they operate. That's how I learned about a privately-sanctioned graffiti gathering in my winter base of Tucson, AZ called Winta-fresh. On February 2nd, for one day, more than 50 graffiti artists, both from Tucson and around the U.S., will be allotted a four by eight-foot space to display their work. At last, here is one place where this amazing boy art can be freely displayed, encouraged, and celebrated.

We'll never limit our young guys to just one day or one small space. Just below is a short video showing off some of the other graffiti around Tucson. Turn down the volume if you have to, but DO listen to the words. They speak directly to the young male hunger to be seen and appreciated.

Use this link if the video doesn't appear.

Here's a Man-Making challenge for you. The next time you get a chance, see, or maybe even positively acknowledge the young guys around you. You just might make a kid's day.
Dudes, we see you, you are welcome here, and your creations are beautiful.

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