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Are You a Man? One Author Feels Your Changes

Off the Cuff

There’s a seismic shift on the Earth’s surface. All around us, imperceptible to the human eye, creatures are evolving.

It’s men. They’re changing.

That’s according to Bruce Feiler, the best-selling author and New York Times columnist. “I think the evolution of men is actually one of the under-discussed conversation topics in the world today,” he told “Off the Cuff.” “There are so many conversations about women and work-life balance. Men are facing these issues in a very real way. “

Feiler’s grandfather made 28 cassette tapes before he died, on which he narrated his life story. “He didn’t mention his wife by name,” he said. “He didn’t mention his wedding. He didn’t mention his children more than once or twice. He talked about his life, his job, and what he thought about things. I see in my father, particularly as he gets older, an evolution to be much more open about feelings. Men now in their 20s and 30s, they don't want to just get on a corporate ladder and climb to some height. They want to have more meaning in their lives.”

He said men’s relationships with their friends are shifting. “I think there is this idea that men don’t have friendships. Everything that I have seen in my life suggests that is a change that is happening,” he said. When Feiler was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer in 2008, he asked six friends if they would be father figures to his twin daughters, in the event of his death.

“In a way, it forced me to tell them what I really thought about them. And my wife would listen in to these conversations. And she would say it was almost as if I were ‘friend-marrying’ these guys. There were flowers and chocolates, the whole thing,” he laughed. “She said that the things that we were talking about in our most intimate moments, our feelings, our fears, even our weight, were exactly the things that the moms were talking about at drop-off. “

Six of Feiler’s books have been best sellers, including his latest, “The Secrets of Happy Families.”

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“I've written about the Middle East. I've written about religion. I've written about aging. I've written about mortality. I've written about family. These are topics that people feel incredibly strongly about,” he said. “There is this culture of hostility on the Internet. So, yes, I get a lot of critics. But I also get a lot of people saying to me, ‘Thank you for being honest. Thank you for answering the questions that I have.’”

“The Internet has become the equivalent of the school drop-off or the playground,” he continued. “People are criticizing their neighbor. People are discussing whether the school's doing the right thing. Social networking has become that public sphere. So, all of those emotions, ranging from gossip to hostility to rivalry to openness, are all being played out in real time, and it's a little bit messy. There's this almost Wild West idea out there.”

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