Every man does not need to know how to tie a bow tie. Let’s get that clear up front. I don’t know why it is on every “Things a Man Should Know How to Do” list but it’s simply not true. If you have a reason to wear a bow tie (e.g., you’re going to prom, your name is George Will) then you can ask someone or you can look it up. That’s why Google and preppie college Republicans exist.
But there are some things that every man should be able to do. Here are fifty. Not necessarily the fifty most important (though some are)—just fifty things a man should be able to do if he wants to live a good life.
1. Forgive your parents—they did the best they could . . . or they didn’t. Either way, you’re a man now so it’s time to move on.
2. Ask your parents to forgive you—you know what you did. They do too.
3. Change a diaper so that the baby is cleaner and you are no dirtier than when you started.
4. Perform CPR and the Heimlich maneuver.
5. Use a soldering iron to fix a loose connection.
6. Comfort a child—if you want to judge the character of a man, observe how he treats a child. He may not have any himself—he may not even like kids—but if he can provide them comfort when they are scared or hurting then he can’t be all bad.
7. Cook one signature dish.
8. Calculate square footage—width x length.
9. Innocently flirt with a woman at least twice your age—without causing offense or being disrespectful, of course.
10. Write three coherent, connected, and grammatically correct paragraphs—if it’s really necessary, you should be able to repeat the process well enough to add three more. Unless you have a job that requires extensive writing, that’s probably all you’ll ever need to get by.
11. Navigate your way around an unfamiliar city without getting completely and utterly lost.
12. Differentiate between various types of mortgages and insurances and know which one is best for your situation.
13. Get a prostate exam without crying.
14. Know what a prostate is.
15. Make and follow a budget so that you can get out of—and stay out of—debt.
16. Tell a spellbinding (though not necessarily true) story.
17. Survive in water for at least a few minutes without drowning—71 percent of the earth’s surface is covered by water. You’re bound to fall into it sometime.
18. Know the four lifesaving steps—stop the bleeding, start the breathing, protect the wound, treat for shock.
19. Give a great compliment—tip: Be specific, be sincere.
20. Tell a joke that is (a) clean, and (b) funny.
21. Make a brief, informative speech in public without having an anxiety attack and/or using PowerPoint.
22. Type with more than two fingers.
23. Know how to use the mass transit system in any city within 100 miles of his home.
24. Use reference materials to find out any information that you’ll ever need to know.
25. Recite the Ten Commandments from memory—if you remember them, it’s easier to follow them; if you follow them you’ll avoid about 90 percent of the self-inflicted damage that will screw up your life.
26. Carry on a conversation with someone who bores you to tears.
27. Recognize when you are boring someone to tears with your inane banter.
28. Make a plan for the first 24 hours after a zombie apocalypse—sounds silly but you’d be surprised how much you can learn about yourself by thinking through unlikely scenarios.
30. Push-start a car with a manual transmission—by the way, as I learned in the summer of 1988, you can’t push start a car with an automatic transmission. (I still don’t know why I was stomping on the brake as if it were a clutch.)
31. Tell the difference between snark and wit.
32. Properly maintain your basic form of transportation, whether it be a car, bike, horse, feet, etc.
33. Grow food—even if you never owned a vegetable garden, you need to understand the basic theory of how to grow food. When the zombie apocalypse happens, you’re going to be hungry.
34. Make it through the rest of your life without saying the thirty-seventh dumbest sentence in the English language: “I have to learn for myself.”
35. Endure an insult with grace.
36. Wash a load of white clothes without turning everything pink.
37. Load, shoot, and clean a firearm.
38. Admit being wrong in a situation that will cost you dearly.
39. Physically protect your loved ones and be willing to risk life and limb if necessary to keep them safe.
40. Lead your family in prayer.
41. Cogently explain and defend your most fundamental beliefs, preferably without raising your voice.
42. Hug another man.
43. Take harsh criticism without being defensive.
44. Differentiate between love and lust—and avoid the latter.
45. Recognize wisdom and know how to get it.
46. Help someone who is vomiting (without throwing up yourself).
47. Write a letter of recommendation.
48. Write a love letter.
49. Avoid the Three A’s That Ruin Your Life: Anger, Adultery, Apathy.
50. Be able to list at least 50 more things a man should be able to do.