Study Guide

This Is Where I Leave You Men and Masculinity

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Men and Masculinity

Having spent years laboring under the restrictions of the power company, he took a certain pride in outwitting them in his own home. (11.2)

Mort was an old-fashioned working man. That's a pretty stark contrast to Judd, who probably wouldn't know which side of the hammer he's supposed to hold. (The wooden one. We think.)

"He called me worthless. So dad stepped between us and I didn't see what he did, but next thing I know, the coach is on the ground, and Dad is stepping on his chest. And he says, 'Call my son worthless again.'" (11.30)

The Foxman boys love to settle their arguments with a strong right hook, and now we find out where they learned it from. How do you think this manly man ended up with a talk-it-out celebrity therapist like Hillary?

Like most guys with genetically superior shoulders, Wade was an asshole, an alpha male who asserted his presence physically, through viselike handshakes and powerful backslaps, the kind of guy who needed to win at everything (14.5)

While Mort represents the positive male ideal, for Judd, Wade represents the negative one. (Although we get the feeling Judd wouldn't mind having those shoulders.) Wade's overbearing masculinity only makes the pain of Jen's affair sting harder.

But at this moment, all I can think about is the fact the Wade Boulanger is all cock and no sperm. (20.12)

This is the one chink in Wade's super-manly armor. It might seem like this would be a silly thing for Judd to be happy about, but we wouldn't want to insult Judd's fragile sense of masculinity by calling anything about him silly.

"You've got six months or so to get your s*** together, to be ready to be a father and start caring for someone other than yourself." (25.27)

When push comes to shove, that's all manhood is really about: accepting your responsibility to the people around you. It's a lot less sexy than making love to women and dominating other men, so naturally, it'll take some time for the message to completely sink into Judd's head.

I bleed into the fuzz of his peacoat as he rubs my back and says, "It's okay, bubbie. You're okay. Everything's fine." And then he stands me up on a bench and pulls out a handkerchief to softly wipe away from my blood. (29.6)

This is a rare moment of tenderness from Mort. Although Judd hasn't thought about the memory in many years, it helps him remember that his father was capable of great compassion too. So maybe men don't actually have to go around beating people up all the time? Imagine that.

When I try on the black one Mom has chosen it fits perfectly, except for slacks being an inch or so too short. I am somewhat surprised, because I've always seen him as taller than me. I never got close enough to know better. (30.12)

Judd still sees his father the way he did when he was a kid, and it's hard for him to realize that his father went through all of same experiences that Judd is struggling with now. But guess what, Judd? Men have struggled with these issues for, well, as long as we've been modern humans. (But don't ask us how long that is. Wars have been fought over that question.)

"I've been trying to get pregnant for almost two years [...] I take a drug to make me ovulate, and my eggs have tested fine, but Paul won't get his sperm tested." (31.20)

Alice is desperate to have a child, but Paul is unwilling to even get his sperm tested. We're not psychologists, but that sounds like some serious insecurity to us.

The socket wrench clicks noisily as it spins, and I can see the long muscles in his forearms flex and move as he turns it. He has spent his life working with tools, and they fit naturally in his hands. (32.1)

Like many of us, Judd associates his father with tools. The tools represent many things: strength, wisdom, and the ability to fix problems for the people around him. And they're pretty handy for hanging shelves and tightening faucets, too.

That's the thing about jocks. They're wired to compete, regardless of angry wives or busted shoulders. They will not back down. (32.34)

To Judd, a jock is just one spray-tan and a few expensive suits away from being Wade Boulanger. And since Judd's anger is rooted in a fundamental insecurity about his own manhood, he doesn't have the fuzziest feelings toward them.

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