He's still got plenty of macho, but with a catch in his throat Man of the 90s

November 13, 1993|By Jennifer Lowe | Jennifer Lowe,Orange County Register

The glint seems softer in his steely blue eyes.

The taut jaw muscle is, well, less taut.

He's more emotionally vulnerable and willing to show it.

In his latest blockbuster, "In the Line of Fire," Clint Eastwood appears less studly, more appealing.

It was bound to happen. Just as cycles of fashion come and go, so, too, do images of men.

Gone like the yellow power tie is the Macho Man; forgotten like puka shells is the Sensitive Man.

Say hello to the Man of the '90s -- The Manly Man.

"Yeah, Clint Eastwood. A confident man," said Susan Limb, 19, a junior at the University of California, Irvine.

A Manly Man is the attractive part of macho mixed with pinches of Alan Alda -- an Eastwood, a Wesley Snipes, a Van Damme. Even Tim Allen and his tools.

"They can be stuck on themselves, as long as they do the little things," Ms. Limb said. "But they can't be too nice. I can't stand that."

Today's man is under the microscope more than ever before. The women's movement beat him up; the past few years, man himself has scratched his head. Who is he? Batches of books, men's round tables, even all-male weekends spent banging drums in the woods have attempted to answer the question.

Now, a poll by Yankelovich Partners Inc. in Connecticut announces indeed that the Clint type of man is in.

"The Manly Man surfaces as the man of the '90s," Yankelovich says. When 1,000 men and women nationwide were asked if they preferred Clint Eastwood (epitomizing traditional masculinity) to Michael Bolton (symbolizing sensitivity), the majority favored Clint.

Masculinity is back, the pollsters observe.

"It's some new macho attitude not quite like the old one," agreed George Tucker, a Newport Beach, Calif., psychologist who leads a men's study group on male issues.

The Manly Man opens doors for women, knowing that once they would have bitten his head off, but now they yearn for him to lift the handle.

The Manly Man picks up the check, knowing that though her Visa Gold has a higher limit, this is what she wants.

The Manly Man tells her they're going for tacos -- even though she might crave Chinese -- because he knows she admires decision-making ability.

"He needs to have a purpose in his life. Some ambition . . . instead of wandering aimlessly," said Christine Chen, 22, a UCI senior.

The Manly Man must be not only Eddie Bauer and J. Crew, he must be a Knight in Shining Armor. He must know what she wants and do what he thinks best; he must be her protector.

More than half the women in the Yankelovich survey said they want their husband/boyfriend to be the "strong, masculine type." The sexes -- 63 percent of the men and 59 percent of the women -- agreed that what makes a man feel most like a man is "being the provider."

Sensitive? Yes, but not overly.

"He's manly and emotional," said Betty Andrews, 21, a UCI senior. "If he's manly and macho, he can just forget it."

Connie Saldana, 25, a secretary from Santa Ana, Calif., who was married for a year, said, "He is someone who is going to listen when I talk to him -- someone sensitive to my needs."

A good body? Only one women of 13 interviewed for this story said that was necessary for a Manly Man.

The '90s spin on manly is that a man must be both manly and womanly. He must do diapers and dishes, besides being a provider, a listener and a good guy who doesn't demean women.

also there for me so I can go out," said Michele Derus, 39, a homemaker who is appreciative of her husband's help in caring for their three children equally.

In short, women want him to be everything. And be perfect at it.

"The rules are not as clear as they used to be. Women are a great deal fussier -- they don't settle for just anyone anymore," said Suzy Mallery, president of Los Angeles-based Man Watchers, a 15-year-old group of 1,500 women dedicated to acknowledging men with good looks and qualities. The group itself is reorganizing and refocusing.

Brenda Blackman, who teaches relationship classes at Orange Coast College, instructs her male students to be chivalrous and her female students to accept it.

"I know that's old-fashioned, but I think we have to play some roles," she said, agreeing that men are confused about theirs. "I'll tell a modern-day young woman to take her coat and ask a man to 'please help me with this,' to let a man feel strong."

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