The Manliness Of Having An Education
If you are a bookish man, you may often be mocked and scorned for your interests. Your love for ideas, literature, and serious talk may put you outside the circle of gregariousness that everyone in a social gathering is expected to join nowadays. It may have even been suggested that being educated makes you less manly than others of your gender: the more you shine as a person of intellect the more effeminate you are deemed to be.
Before examining these absurd notions, I will make clear exactly what I mean by “education”. I do not mean the possession of a college degree, but, rather, the possession of a well-furnished mind. Education does not come through instruction in institutions of higher learning. The conditions and resources of an undergraduate program can provide a place and opportunity for it, but the heightened power and quality of mind exhibited by the truly educated man can only come through self-directed reading and reflection.
Gore Vidal and George Orwell were two of the most brilliant public intellectuals of the twentieth century, and not one of them spent so much as a day in college. Abraham Lincoln had little schooling at all, and went on to become not only President of the United States, but one of the greatest literary artists in American history.
No one of sound sense would label any of the men named above unmanly, though they were all known for the profundity of their thought and the elegance of their prose. A man like Orwell who fought bravely in the Spanish Civil War and a man like Lincoln who led and won the American Civil War cannot be called sissies because they also happened to like books.
Indeed, it is books that made them into the men they became. Lincoln credited his reading of The Bible, Shakespeare, and the works of Byron for his moral education, and Euclid for introducing him to solid principles of reasoning and argument. If the measure of a man is his ability to master the circumstances of his life and break down, circumvent, or avoid all together the obstacles that stand in the way of him obtaining his goal and fulfilling his purpose, then there is little doubt that the kind of articulacy and richness of mind that is the result of a good education will help any man meet this criterion.
Career success aside, the educated man is also one for the ladies. Educated does not have to mean socially awkward—which is a turn-off to most women. If you are bookish, then you should turn it to your advantage by harnessing your fluency in conversation. Part of being educated is having the ability to move with ease from one topic to another. If you are able to talk unceasingly about the latest biography you’ve read, then you should have no problem engaging the attention of a woman who catches your eye.
When it comes to dating her, your education can only improve your inner game. As a man who appreciates fine books and fine minds, you will no doubt have a similar liking for fine food, wine, and entertainments. Here, discretion and proportion are essential. You don’t want to overwhelm her by flooding all of your initial dates with candle light and music. Though the heroes of the nineteenth century novels you’ve read make quite exuberant gestures of passion and romance, our time is much more casual and carefree; and you must be able to show that you have the sort of style that makes you at once substantial and fun-loving. You need only make a few touches here and there to demonstrate your classiness and charisma.
Being educated adds a certain solidity and sophistication to your mind and character. It enables you to deal with adversity and uncertainty with a modicum of calm and coolness. It also gives you the kind of suavity that comes with the ability to use words to tackle serious matters or to literally charm the pants off a woman you have in your sights. Having an education makes you a man with a mind—and there is nothing more attractive and commanding than that.
About Christopher Reid Chris was born in Washington, D.C. and lives in Britain. He works as a blogger, essayist, and novelist. His first book, Tea with Maureen, has just been published.