Modern American society exists as much online these days as it does concretely in the real world.
While there are certainly plenty of technological advancements that should be celebrated for making the world a better and more interconnected place, social platforms, widespread misinformation from the mainstream media, and self-serving and egotistical politicians and pundits with digital access to tangibly influence bigger audiences than ever before has undoubtedly begun to unweave the cultural fabric of our nation.
Comedy is now on par with violence, evil scientists are trying to grow beef in a laboratory instead of just using the cows God gave us, simply waking up and breathing oxygen might be enough to offend some other people, and the right to protect your life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness is becoming increasingly jeopardized.
I spent some time living and working in Washington DC, and some of the parks there literally have signs up that say you can’t bring your dog inside if it’s not neutered. I think that’s honestly a pretty good metaphor for the type of environment some people want for people these days too… My big red dog and I would usually just keep unwelcomely strolling past those parks.
Life has gotten so crazy that sometimes it makes my mind wander back to simpler times more than a decade ago. Back when all I had to worry about was repeatedly dislocating my shoulder laying the wood on the football field, rippin’ two-baggers and strokin’ RBIs on the baseball field, sneaking a couple of warm Busch Lights with the boys around a fire in some forgotten farm field, and cruising back and forth to the tasty freeze like a kindred spirit from the hit movie Dazed and Confused.
While off on some late-night mental examination of modern modern American culture, I also started re-exploring some of the music I held most dear back in those good ole days.
One of the most unheralded country music artists of the last decade, and arguable of all time, is Mr. Brad Paisley. The concert venue I grew up attending in high school and in college is named Riverbend because it sits on a bank in the bend of the Ohio River on the opposite shore from the part of Kentucky where I was born and raised.
The place was basically just one big open-aired dive bar when country concerts came to town, except high schoolers were allowed in and there were pretty much no rules.
The place was enchanting, both literally and spiritually, for a teenager who spent most of his time with a compact disc player in his hand and headphones plugged into his ears.
Brad Paisley was always one of the most hyped-up shows of the summer. It was also at a Brad Paisley concert where I first heard Taylor Swift singing her songs. Some random curly-headed chick about my age just belting out some absolute magic from her vocal cords.
Pretty sure I legitimately thought I was cool enough to think I had a shot at marrying T-Swift back then, but then she jumped on a rocket ship to fame that rose so meteorically fast that I’m not sure she ever came back down.
Sorry, Taylor… I fear it never woulda have worked out anyway (that’s also the title of a Brad Paisley song, too, by the way.)
I pretty much wanted to be Brad Paisley back then… I even grew up with a wonderful black lab named Miss Paisley.
What I admired most about him is that his lyrics were so multi-layered that his songs could make you laugh, make you cry, make you want to be a better person, make you want to romance your woman, and make you want to get drunk with your friends… all in the course of just a few short minutes.
I used to record myself on the computer singing a cappella along to country songs with headphones in to keep me on track. Then I got my very first guitar for my 16th birthday. I was ready to start my journey to becoming an absolute rockstar.
Then I dislocated my shoulder for the first time during football practice that same week, proceeded to have three major reconstructive surgeries, and spent the majority of my final two years of high school with my arm in a sling.
Kind of hard to play guitar with your arm constantly in a sling. I think I wound up trading that guitar for beer and booze my freshman year of college and the closest I’ve got to play an instrument since then was naming my dog Banjo last year.
Brad Paisley was a major reason I thought I wanted to be a country music singer back then though. And to be honest, if I was just a good bit better looking, knew how to play the guitar whatsoever at all, had any kind of capability to write songs, and was a whole hell of a lot better at actually singing, then I might have had a chance to make it big…
While recently re-exploring some of Brad Paisleys greatest hits, I stumbled upon the all-time classic “I’m Still A Guy.”
Much like “A Country Boy Can Survive” by Hank Williams Jr, this song is somehow even more culturally relevant today than when it was originally written in 2008. That was also the very same year I got my first guitar and started inadvertently and habitually popping my shoulder out of the socket.
The lyrics to the song are funny enough to make most people chuckle but poignant enough that if more people actually took them to heart, then those words could potentially spark the cultural reconciliation our nation needs on a broad scale and that many folks are in search of with their own relationships.
Yeah, this song can be interpreted as a guy trying to sweet talk some his chick he’s trying to impress, but it can also be interpreted as two polarization factions of society trying to hash out petty disagreements that have potentially festered into something more malignant.
The song is also a light-hearted reminder that masculinity isn’t inherently toxic. Some dudes are just inherently pieces of what Shooter McGavin metaphorically eats for breakfast in the movie Happy Gilmore.
That’s the beauty of music… however you interpret the songs is how they sound and what they mean to you.
So, let’s dive in…
“…When you see a deer you see Bambi And I see antlers up on the wall When you see a lake you think picnics And I see a largemouth up under that log You’re probably thinking that you’re going to change me In some ways well maybe you might Scrub me down, dress me up, oh, but no matter what Remember, I’m still a guy…”
If people see an adorable little deer and want to stop and take pictures and say, “aww, look how sweet it is,” that’s perfectly fine with me. And if someone can safely operate a gun and has bought a hunting license and deer tag and wants to rip a shot off at one and say, “damn, look how sweet the meat tastes,” then that’s fine with me.
And if that person wants to put those antlers on their wall and show them off with pride, then that’s pretty cool too.
Nothing wrong with a serene little lakeside picnic. Little wine, little cheese, a little blanket, and a sunset. I’m down for it. But, you can plan a pretty picnic, but you can’t predict the weather. You can still go fishing when the weather gets nasty if you’re tough enough, though.
Plus, instead of just sitting there looking at the lake, fishing allows to actually kind of be the lake (that’s another Brad Paisley song, by the way.)
The opening verse is an important examination of nuance. And nuance is something not enough people appreciate these days. Understanding nuance unlocks the ability to comfortably accept ideas or opinions you may not agree with in a constructive way instead of getting triggered by them.
“… When you see a priceless French painting I see a drunk, naked girl You think that riding a wild bull sounds crazy And I’d like to give it a whirl Well, love makes a man do some things he ain’t proud of And in a weak moment I might walk your sissy dog, hold your purse at the mall But remember, I’m still a guy… “
I am fairly cultured. I can appreciate fine arts. I mean, after all, I have a neon bar sign for Voodoo Ranger Beer hanging on the wall above my kitchen table and I use a cooler as coffee table in my living room.
But that doesn’t mean a man so refined can’t also appreciate a drunk naked girl, too. Unless of course, he’s with his girl looking at a painting of a drunk naked girl hanging on the wall of some fancy museum? That’s kind of a confusing juxtaposition for my simple dude brain but whatever.
It’s literally on my bucket list to get bucked off of a big pissed-off rodeo bull at least once in my life. No innuendo there. Just literally want to be a cowboy. That’s the kind of difficult and potentially pain-staking task that can teach a dude a lot of life lessons, even if it only lasts 8 seconds at the most.
I’m more of a big dog guy, but they say all dogs go to heaven, so that’s good enough for me. And a purse? Please… “It’s called a satchel, and Indiana Jones wears one.”
“…I’ll pour out my heart Hold your hand in the car Write a love song that makes you cry Then turn right around, knock some jerk to the ground ‘Cause he copped a feel as you walked by… “
This is the type of versatility I was talking about. Brad Paisley has so much range that he could probably pull off every one of those feats on just the first date alone.
The machismo. The bravado. It should be applauded, not canceled by internet nerds who are intimidated by the confidence and success of strong, yet compassionate dudes.
“…I can hear you now talking to your friends Saying, ‘Yeah girls he’s come a long way’ From dragging his knuckles and carrying a club And building a fire in a cave But when you say a backrub means only a backrub Then you swat my hand when I try Well, now, what can I say at the end of the day Honey, I’m still a guy…”
This verse just addresses some things that are literally engrained into a man’s DNA, like carrying a club, building campfires, and saying “Sup?” to a lady whose vibes they’re digging. Because shooters shoot, right?
“And I’ll pour out my heart Hold your hand in the car Write a love song that makes you cry Then turn right around, knock some jerk to the ground ‘Cause he copped a feel as you walked by.”
Damn, sounds like ole Brad hit the grand slam again on the second date with this song too huh?
“…These days there’s dudes getting facials Manicured, waxed and botoxed With deep spray-on tans and creamy lotiony hands You can’t grip a tacklebox
If that’s what some people are into, that’s cool, but when it comes to personal hygiene, I’m more of ashower beer kind of guy. And if I get some raccoon eyes going from a good sunglass tan and get cooking with a little blend of suntan and sunburn, then that’s when I feel the most elegant and beautiful.
I know plenty of fellas out there agree with that. If you can’t grip a tackle box with those creamy lotion-filled hands, then you probably can’t “Bait A Hook“ either. If you can’t bait a hook, then you can’t catch big fish. That’s like fishing 101.
“Yeah, with all of these men lining up to get neutered It’s hip now to be feminized But I don’t highlight my hair I’ve still got a pair Yeah, honey, I’m still a guy.
Yeah honey, I’m still a guy My eyebrows ain’t plucked There’s a gun in my truck Oh thank God I’m still a guy…”
It’s even more hip to be feminized now these days, but that’s not all bad. Any dude worth his weight in Burt Reynold’s mustache should be confident enough to enjoy a nice iced latte, do a little yoga, take pride in looking fresh, and cuddle up for a big binge of cheesey feel-good romantic comedies.
And even the most effeminate of dudes should be comfortable packing a little heat if you know what I’m saying. But all of the macho things they do should be celebrated by society as well, not chastised by feeble internet warriors.
Because after all, most of us dudes are not actively trying to hide our red flags, celebrate misogyny, or make more introverted or sensitive people uncomfortable… for the most part, we’re just guys being dudes. Dudes being fellas. Fellas still being guys.
And one of the most important parts of still being a guy is just trying to make Burt Reynolds proud…