When you can find step-by-step instructions to “Stitch Your Own Wound” and “Meet Her Parents” in the same book, you know you’ve hit pay dirt in the man department. Chris Peterson, a home design expert and a whiz with the blender, is showing men how to give women the best of both worlds—how to be the go-to guy for the car/the plumbing/the wallpaper AND how to be a refined gentleman who knows his wines and cigars, has table manners, and can dance at his wedding.
His latest book, “Manskills: How to Avoid Embarrassing Yourself and Impress Everyone Else,” serves as your comprehensive guide for how to be a real man in every way. After all, part of being a man is knowing it’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help (and also, with this Dear Abby for Dudes’s wealth of knowledge on hand, you don’t have to—you can just read it in secret). Peterson covers the whole shebang, from the most basic things that guys are presumed to know how to do (but most don’t), to the insanely difficult and specialized. There are some balls to the wall Man vs. Wild-like maneuvers in there, aka: “Cut Off Your Own Limb to Save Your Life.” So 127 hours. How did Peterson become so well-versed in all things man, you ask? I grilled the man behind the skills on which nuggets o’ wisdom in the book he had come by firsthand. While he has yet to amputate a limb, he HAS worked as an auto mechanic, survived a rip tide while swimming in Bali, and fought a dog. And that’s more than man enough for me.
A few extra ingredients for whipping up your Manhood a la Peterson, culled from our convo:
1) Keep Your Eyes on the Swivel
Like a hawk.
Make use of your surroundings, Boy Scout style. Peterson got the inspiration for his second-to-last book, “Man’s Whirled: Every Guy’s Guide to Cooking with a Blender,” from learning to cook for his son in the confines of a doll-sized Brooklyn kitchen—no small feat. He parlayed his new found skillz into a book of 150 blender-centric recipes. The moral of this story? Experiment and follow your intuition, you never know what you might come up with.
2) Get Prepped
Peterson advocates thoroughness, a tenet that resonates throughout all of his books. Success in any area, big or small, means not skipping steps, half-assing, or winging it. Every element of Manskills, from going that extra mile and springing for a tablecloth, candles and flowers to “Plan Your Perfect First Date,” emphasizes that it’s all in the details.
3) Follow Your Heart
A cool-headed daredevil with a black belt, a criminology degree (in addition to his journalism one), a penchant for surfing and snowboarding, and a son for whom he’s over the moon, Peterson understands, and lives by, the importance of cluing into your passion, wherever it may lead you. You will have love in your life and stories to tell.
4) Be a Father Figure
Peterson, a single father, says his son is the best thing that ever happened to him, that kids make it so everything needs to be better for their sake. He laughs, “If I could find a willing victim, I’d have six more!” If ladies get a load of his skills, it’s doubtful that wish will remain unfulfilled for long. Kids not part of your horizon? Consider mentoring. It will get you outside of yourself and your own head. You are best served yourself when serving (deserving) others.
5) Be a Good Man
For all the father/mentor figures out there, Peterson says the best way to be a good dad is: “Be a good man, period. Be open and honest.” Two keys to father/son bonding for Peterson and his son were snowboarding trips to Vermont and videogames—both because they greased the wheels of conversation.
Ladies, if you’re listening and coveting this book as the next gift for your bro/boyf/nephew/cousin/dad, be forewarned you might need to buy two and keep one for yourself. Manskills covers the full spectrum of manhood, but more importantly peoplehood. Women can get just as much out of it as men. I’m personally stoked to try the ingenious ploy to “Catch a Mouse,” and attempt to improve my relationship with my overflow-happy toilet, as per Peterson’s guidance. His book, as well as his personal credo, are bro-y and funny without being chauvinistic or douche-y. He takes life tasks ranging in nature from crashingly dull and mundane (“How to Change a Diaper”) to horrifyingly, nauseatingly grisly (anyone up for a sweet game of saw-through-your-own-bone?), and makes them super fun to read about. It comes down to this: a dude who can do it all AND make you laugh about it, is the dude (or dudette) to be.
—Lauren D Murphy