We Are Le­gion T


O SEE MY RIDE, this beau­ti­ful, hulk­ing piece of Detroit mus­cle, one might as­sume I was burn­ing down the I-90 on some de­cid­edly manly ad­ven­ture. Out­run­ning a pack of goons maybe, or off to res­cue a beau­ti­ful woman I had only met once be­fore, out­side a bar in Pitts­burgh, who told me I was the only man she could trust. That’s the kind of nar­ra­tive that would fit this car. Su­per­man blue, with red race-ready seat­belts, and a Ne­an­derthal hood, it re­mains the man­li­est au­to­mo­bile I’ve ever driven.

Frankly, the car was in­con­gru­ous to my mis­sion. The 2016 Dodge Charger SRT 392 wasn’t built for lit­er­a­ture-in­spired road trips. It ac­quit­ted it­self per­fectly, but the drive was be­neath it. I was driv­ing to Syra­cuse to in­ter­view George Saun­ders (pg. 42), an au­thor I re­spect so much I named my dog af­ter him. Saun­ders (the au­thor) is a favourite of the NPR set, a re­cip­i­ent of the Macarthur grant, the most gen­er­ous man you’ll ever meet, and a writer who can con­sis­tently make me cry in that sub­dued, in­evitable way men in their late 50s cry, only I’m not in my 50s. Ba­si­cally, I was a liv­ing con­tra­dic­tion, bar­relling (safely) down the high­way: hard on the out­side, earnest on the in­side.

Only, that’d be true no mat­ter what car I hap­pened to be driv­ing. As much as we talk about how style, which ex­tends be­yond what clothes we wear, is a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of who we are in­ter­nally, the fact is no one brand is able to fully em­body ev­ery as­pect of a man’s iden­tity. Man­hood isn’t a mono­lith. We can be dispir­it­ingly pre­dictable, sure, but as­sump­tions based on style, or re­cent pur­chases, or one’s In­sta­gram feed, are rarely fully ac­cu­rate.

To look at me, you wouldn’t know I can quote When Harry Met Sally as ef­fi­ciently as I can Die Hard (two great hol­i­day movies, by the way). Or that I have a stereo­typ­i­cally male fas­ci­na­tion with fire, es­pe­cially when it’s used on meat, but I can clean a bath­room bet­ter than most.

Most as­sump­tions we make based on out­ward sign­fiers are harm­less — like the non-se­quitor rec­om­men­da­tions of Ama­zon. Still, one of the goals of life (as you’ll hear George Saun­ders dis­cuss) is to em­brace the nu­ance of oth­ers. To project less, and lis­ten more. It’s ac­tu­ally not a bad mes­sage dur­ing the hol­i­days, as the best gifts are the ones that show a full un­der­stand­ing of the per­son we’re giv­ing to.

I think about the con­tra­dic­tions of man­hood when­ever we put to­gether a new win­ter is­sue of Sharp. We de­vote pages to cars, women, and the bi­o­log­i­cal pull of Cool Stuff, along with cov­er­age of lit­er­a­ture, en­ter­tain­ing, and, yes, fash­ion. So, yeah, it can be dan­ger­ous to make as­sump­tions based on a man’s pre­ferred brands. Un­less that brand is Sharp.

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