My grandfather used to say that a man is not fully dressed without his pocket knife. I've been carrying this old one of his for about ten years now. I never knew my grandfather in any meaningful way because he died when I was too young to remember much about him, but he left literally boxes of amazing old tools and other grandfatherly stuff that helps me connect with him.
I don't spend a lot of time actively thinking about being a man, or doing manly things. I don't normally walk around thinking, "Damnation, I sure do like being a man!" and then go off looking for someone to wrestle. I only do that maybe once every couple months. Tops.
But yesterday I was cleaning and oiling my knife to put it away for the month of August (I'll be out of town all month and can't bring it on the plane), and I started thinking about that sentiment of my grandfather's. Carrying a pocket knife is probably the most manly thing I do, but I rarely think about it, and I doubt if more than a couple of people even know I do it.
I know I'm looking at the past through rose-tinted glasses a little bit here (something a historian isn't supposed to do), but it makes me wonder if our culture has lost the quiet, understated, and dignified idea of masculinity that my grandfather and his kind knew. The kind in which a man wasn't fully dressed without his pocket knife, but didn't have to go around bumping chests, slamming brews, and revving engines all the time to prove his manly worth.