A few good men on our radar this summer

Dudes, dudes, dudes.

  • Category
  • Above:
    Buttoned up; An editor gets his first suit.

What does it mean to be a man? I’ve entertained this question quite a bit in my life. “C’mon, be a man” … or, “Man up” … even, “Are you man enough?” Growing up in L.A., these phrases were as common as heat waves in August. But as someone who didn’t identify as “masculine” as a kid, being on the receiving end of one of those sounded more like oppression than encouragement.

I was your typical ‘80s SoCal kid: Body Glove T-shirts and neon shorts, too much Sun In sprayed on my hair and plenty of summer days spent loitering the beach. On the surface, everything looked suburban, safe and idyllic. But that was only part of the picture. I was also sensitive, intuitive and emotional … not one of the confident, athletic, assertive types I observed in my classmates, brothers or adults. I secretly felt an awkward obligation to act “manly”—even if it wasn’t my default. Unfortunately my definition was skewed—partially by my peers, partially by the media and partially by my own prejudices. I tried sports and failed. I tried to woo girls and failed. I dumbed down my true personae … all in an effort to fit in. But did I?

As I got older and wiser, I discovered that definition of “man”—the one I had obeyed as bible for so many years—wasn’t serving me well. I met new people, people with very different interpretations of masculinity. Women who rebuffed traditional gender roles in relationships, career and lifestyle. Men who embraced their sensitive, intuitive and emotional selves with pride.

Women and men who recognized a real man as someone who acts honorably, speaks his truth and respects the truths of others. I’m a much better man today because of their examples. I still can’t properly throw a football to save my life, but I’m a valued son, brother, uncle and friend. I’m one lucky dude.

In this issue we celebrate the men of the South Bay: the artists, the entrepreneurs, the dads, the adventurers, the heroes, the legends. Some have played pro football … some followed the American Dream to California … some pay it forward to at-risk youth … some save lives for a living. They are all incredibly awesome and inspiring members of the community. We’re proud to feature their contributions on these pages.

Enjoy the start of summer!

—Darren Elms