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The Art of Manliness Podcast Episode #7: Rules for My Unborn Son with Walker Lamond

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Welcome back to another edition of the Art of Manliness podcast. In this week’s episode we talk to Walker Lamond, author of the new book Rules for My Unborn Son. Walker’s book is based on his popular blog, 1001 Rules for My Unborn Son. We discuss the inspiration for the book, wheelie luggage, and required listening for boys. Pick up the book  from Amazon.com today! Full of advice both insightful and humorous, I highly recommend it. It makes a great stocking stuffer this Christmas for any man in your life, not just dads.

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Brett McKay here, and welcome to another episode of The Art of Manliness
podcast. Now, if you made a rulebook on life for your son, what sort of
rules would you include in it? Well, our guest today has recently published
a book with rules that he hopes his son will follow in order to become a
well-rounded gentleman. His name is Walker Lamond and he is the author of
the book, “Rules for my Unborn Son.” Walker is a writer and television
producer and lives in Washington D.C. with his wife and their newborn son
who was actually born shortly after he finished his book, “Rules for My
Unborn Son.” Walker, welcome to the show.

Walker: Thanks for having me, Brett.

Brett: All right, Walker. Well, first off, congratulations on the book
and congratulations on becoming a dad.

Walker: Thanks, I appreciate it. Now if we can just get him turned into
a man, we’ll be in good shape.

Brett: There you go. All right. So, Walker, what inspired you to start
this project? From what I understand, you actually started this before your
son was even a twinkle in your eye.

Walker: Yeah, it was really years ago. I mean, the whole project
started back in New York as a single guy. It was kind of a back of a bar
napkin type of thing where I just wanted to start keeping track of all the
things that my old man had taught me growing up because I didn’t want to
forget it. So even long before I was married and long before I had a kid, I
just knew what kind of a son I wanted to have. So, I thought, well, let’s
write it all down now because I know that when actual fatherhood comes,
there is a good chance that I would end up too exhausted or too overwhelmed
to remember all of the things that I always meant to teach him. So, I said,
“Hey, let’s just write it down in a book, and I can just give it to him.”

Brett: Yeah. So, you actually started off as a blog, right?

Walker: Yeah. Absolutely. When I got a good number of these things
going, I said, “You know, let’s, I want to share these with some friends
and family.” Luckily for me, the Tumblr blogging platform had just kind of
come out and it was so easy that even a guy like me could figure it out. I
started throwing them up on the Web. I really liked the way they had these
really nice design templates, and I really just did it for a gasp. But, you
know, the Internet is a funny place. It was like doing stand-up comedy, you
know. Before I knew it, a few people were laughing, a few more people were
reading, and it turned into this everyday thing where I was getting more
and more readers. It just kind of encouraged me to keep adding.

Brett: And is this how you, your book publisher found you was through
your blog?

Walker: Yeah. I mean, lucky me. You know, I didn’t have to write any
query letters or any of that stuff that you had to do in the old days. Old
days meaning probably, like, three years ago.

Brett: Mm-hmm. [laughs]

Walker: You know, before I knew it, there were enough readers on there
that it was getting passed to the type of people that are in charge of
making books. So, an agent contacted me and a couple weeks later we were
pitching publishers. It was all done before I really knew what hit me.

Brett: [laughs] So, Walker, what are some of your favorite rules from
the book?

Walker: There’s so many, you know. I’ve got lots of rules about how to
dress like a man, how to act on a date. But if I was just to flip open the
book at any point . . . here’s one, “On a road trip offer to buy the first
tank of gas.” I’m a firm believer that men should never wear sandals, ever.
How about this one? “Never pack more than you can carry yourself, and a
man’s luggage doesn’t roll.”

Brett: Yeah, I love that. It was funny. Actually, before I read the
book and read that rule, my wife’s uncle and I were talking about that. He
just can’t stand wheelie luggage.

Walker: And not only that, I mean, it’s one thing to see, you know, the
golf-shirted businessmen rolling through the airport, you know, from gate
to gate, but have you seen, like, the fifth grade boys with their rolling
luggage backpacks?

Brett: Yeah.

Walker: It’s absurd.

Brett: Yeah. It is absurd. Just going back to the golf-shirted
businessmen, you see them, you know, they don’t even have a big suitcase.
It’s just like a carryon.

Walker: Yes.

Brett: And they’re still wheeling it.

Walker: Some people get upset when they see that rule. You know, this
is not to say that somehow, you know, wheeled luggage isn’t manly or, you
know, you’ve got to be a tough guy. It’s really a rule to tell you, you
know, “if you can’t carry it yourself, you’re probably packing too much.”

Brett: Yeah.

Walker: It’s more of a call for, you know, minimalism and paring down
your life and your wardrobe rather than saying, “Hey, we all have to be
kind of macho tough guys.”

Brett: Yeah.

Walker: And that is kind of the point of the book. You know, a lot of
these rules are earnest, and some, but a lot of them are a little tongue-in-
cheek. The idea is not to say, “Hey, I wish we were all, you know, turn-of-
the century pugilists and everyone now is a, you know, a sensitive
ponytailed guy.” It’s not really that type of thing. It’s more just saying,
“Hey, you know what? If you pare down your life a little bit and if you
give yourself, in fact, less options, you’re going to have a form of
quality control.” You know, that’s really what the book is all about –
increasing the quality of your life and what’s around you instead of just
the quantity, you know.

Brett: Yeah. Definitely. Here is another one I like, “Don’t
personalize your license plates.”

Walker: Yeah. I mean, it’s already kind of personalized, isn’t it?

Brett: Yeah.

Walker: No two people have the same license plate. It’s kind of
redundant to put on there, you know . . .

Brett: Exactly.

Walker: . . . aviator pilot.

Brett: No, no. Exactly. Here’s another one. “The best thing you can
give your neighbors is a well-kept lawn.”

Walker: Yeah. Some of these rules are inspired, sometimes I’ll see a
photograph somewhere and I am sure you’ve seen that “Life” magazine finally
put all of their photos and outtakes up on the Web for use. You can just
spend days scrolling through that. You come across a great photograph, and
it might inspire a rule.

Brett: Mm-hmm.

Walker: That was one of them. The pictures of classic 50s suburbia with
men in their Bermuda shorts and a cold Schlitz pushing lawnmowers. I mean,
that is truly the best gift you can give your neighbors.

Brett: Definitely. Definitely. One rule I thought should have been in
there that my parents really harped this on me was, “Ask the girl who’s not
getting asked to dance to dance.” I don’t know.

Walker: That’s a good one.

Brett: Yeah. Yeah.

Walker: That’s a good one. The blog continues and I keep trying to add
rules because who knows, maybe there’ll be a second edition, but mostly
because I’ve got readers who like to tune in and I’m asking them to always
submit new rules. I love to hear other people’s stories. People give me
great rules all the time. Along that same vein, you know, I added one
recently that says, it was a first day of school rule. I said, you know,
“Eat lunch with the new kid.”

Brett: Yeah.

Walker: There’s just like some good throwback lessons there on just how
to be a nice person without just being a kind of Miss Manners type of . . .

Brett: Exactly. Being a well-rounded civil person.

Walker: Yeah.

Brett: So, you kind of mentioned a little bit how you came up with the
rules. Can you explain that more? You mentioned your dad handed some of
these rules. I mean, where else do you get inspiration for them?

Walker: Yeah. I mean the core, kind of the original group of rules,
there’s probably like 50 of them. They really were straight from my dad. He
wasn’t like a strict disciplinarian. He just had a really good sense of
what he said, what made a good man, and what a good man did and what a good
man didn’t do. You know, some were little things, and some were clich�d
sports idioms about keeping your head down and persevering and things like
that. Others were just kind of quirky to him. You know, the guy never wore
any socks. He never thought it was necessary. But at the same time, he was
usually the best dressed guy in the room.

So, he had this group of rules and those are the ones that started me off
with the list. Then I just kind of added to them using my own experiences.
You know, every day walking in New York and every little embarrassing
episode of your life you say, “God, I’m never going to do that again,” or
“I’m going to teach my kid to never make that mistake.” You just keep track
of those things and before you know it, you’ve got a rule for every walk of
life. I mean, every time you go in the airport don’t you think, “Jesus, I’m
never going to teach my kid to be like that person,” or something. So,
before I knew it. I was keeping track of all the things. Essentially it’s
like wanting to make the world a little better place, you know?

Brett: Yeah. Yeah. Kind of make up for the lack of civility . . .

Walker: Yeah.

Brett: . . . and good manners.

Walker: Sounds ambitious doesn’t it?

Brett: Yeah, it is, but I think you’re on to something here. You know,
I think there is definitely a desire for people to kind of counteract the
informalism that has kind of crept in to American society. I think a lot of
people are attracted to that.

Walker: Yeah, I agree. I mean, you know, I say something in the
introduction about at some point rules got this bad rap, you know. I mean,
in my opinion, rules are this really effective way to pass down
institutional knowledge, you know. I mean, if generations of people have
done something a certain way, and they’ve taught us to do it the right way,
the most effective way to pass it down is just make a rule about it, you
know. Don’t run a red light or whatever. Hey, that works and now we’re all
safe. Somewhere around I’d say, not to blame anybody, but the Woodstock
Generation, you know, all of a sudden rules became synonymous with “The
Man” and authority and it was looked at as a barrier to freedom,
individualism, and creativity, which is just not the case. I think they
kind of threw the baby out with the bathwater.

Brett: Yeah.

Walker: Before you knew it, you’ve got a generation of men wearing
sneakers and T-shirts to the office and having haircuts like they did when
they were 12, you know.

Brett: Yeah. Yeah.

Walker: So, I am all for freedom and living your life however you want,
but it wasn’t a great model for young kids, because when they don’t see any
differentiation between their parents and them, where is the inspiration to
achieve more than they achieved, to grow up?

Brett: Yeah. Definitely. So, you mentioned, Walker, that some people
didn’t like the no wheelie luggage rule. Were there any other rules that
caused some controversy or that people just, you know, you got emails
saying, “I can’t believe you put that in. That’s stupid,” and whatever.

Walker: Yeah. It’s funny. I mean, you know, it’s a really subjective
list. You know, I am an East Coast city kind. So when I wrote that, “If you
are tempted to wear a cowboy hat, resist.” Yeah, I caught a little flak
from some of the westerners from Colorado and Texas. I think in the next
edition, we’ll make a caveat that says, “Unless you actually own a horse.”
You know, then we can satisfy the Texans. You know, it’s funny when people
feel like they are getting criticized for their personal style, it can get
a little touchy. I have a thing against facial hair. My dad always taught
me that men with facial hair have something to hide. At the same time, I’ve
kind of come around a little bit thanks to Art of Manliness on a good,
clean mustache.

Brett: There you go.

Walker: You know, so, I’m coming around a little bit on that one. It’s
funny when you get emails from people, I seem to get a lot of emails from
California. A lot of guys in California saying, “What do you mean I can’t
wear sandals, jog shirtless, and grow a goatee?” I just let them be. Not
everybody’s going to want to follow these rules.

Brett: Yeah. Exactly. We get that a lot, too, on our site. In fact,
yesterday we did a post of how to get a “Mad Men” haircut. You know, with
the part and the . . .

Walker: I saw it. As a matter of fact, just yesterday. I went across
the street to my mom and pop pharmacy and bought a tube of Brylcreem.

Brett: Oh, yeah. Have you used it yet?

Walker: Yeah. I used it last night.

Brett: What do you think?

Walker: It’s not bad. I think you probably have to throw a lot more in
than I did. I was a little gun-shy.

Brett: Yeah. I don’t think that the phrase, “a little dab will do
you,” is actually . . .

Walker: No, I think it’s about a softball sized dab will probably do
you.

Brett: Yeah, exactly. See, when we did that post, we got a lot of
complaints. Some emails from people saying, “What are you talking about,
you know, that my hair that I’ve had since high school is not manly or
ridiculous.” A lot of the stuff we do is subjective. People get kind of
affronted. Especially with our site, since it is called The Art of
Manliness. When we say something is not manly, then people get really upset
because they do that thing.

Walker: Yeah. Also, what I am sure you’ve experienced a little bit is
there is still a very strong voice, especially in like college-age kids,
against traditional gender roles, as people like to say. You know, because
people worked really hard to kind of loosen the restrictions of what it
means to be a man and a woman and a girl and a boy. All for the good. I
mean, I am not disagreeing with it. I think this book and a little bit of
what Art of Manliness is doing, it’s not trying to revolt against the
progress that people have made in equality and all of those things. It is
just an idea of getting back to some level of quality control.

Brett: Yeah.

Walker: I see it in earlier generations. I am not saying that
everything that is old is good. I am saying that we might want to look back
into our recent past for ideas on how to have higher quality goods and
higher quality of life rather than always trying to reinvent ourselves and
come up with something new. Three-quarters of the stuff we are trying to do
has already been done and done better.

Brett: Yup.

Walker: Just look back a little bit and figure it out.

Brett: Yeah, exactly. That’s what we do with the site. Go back into
history and take the good and apply it with the things we’ve learned today
and the progress we’ve made. Yeah, I think you’re actually right. You know,
not everything old is good, but there’s a lot of good stuff there.

Walker: Right.

Brett: Okay. So, one of the things that you have on your site and also
in your book is a list of music called “Required Listening for Boys.” I’ve
got to say, it’s been fun listening to your list on your website. What are
some of the songs you have on your list and why did you pick them?

Walker: I’ve tried to give my own little very biased 20th century
popular music short course or something. My theory here is that if my kid
can master Woody Guthrie, a little Elvis, a little Ramones, then he can
pretty much bring home whatever noise he wants to listen to. You know, when
he turns 16, I am not going to be able to stop him. If screech metal
happens to be hip that day, I may be enduring some painful stuff. As long
as I feel like he has given Dylan and Springsteen their due and a little
Smith and a little this and there, then he’s got every right to go listen
to whatever he wants to. That’s kind of what my dad always did for me, you
know. He was an Elvis man. He loved Frank. He loved Nat King Cole. That’s
what I listened to when I was a kid. My mom turned me on to Stax records
and soul music. Between those two, I got this bass. When I was coming home
with the Ramones or the Sex Pistols or, you know, early discord record
music, my dad didn’t understand it, but he let me listen to it because he
knew that I had gotten there on my own.

Brett: Yeah.

Walker: It’s my own personal greatest hits.

Brett: Very nice. Now, would you, what about movies? Are there any
movies that you would include on a required viewing list for boys?

Walker: You know, I thought about putting in a required viewing list
because I love movies. I worship them. It’s almost, it’s one of those
things that it is so hard to pick your favorite movie. The list was getting
longer and longer and longer. It was also sounding a little bit too much
like AFI’s greatest movies. I figured there are enough good movie critics
out there, he can find his own list. Some of my favorites, surely, “Annie
Hall” is still one of my favorite movies. I love Wes Anderson movies. I
love “Armageddon.” I love a good John Wayne movie. My interests are all
over the place. I like what most people like.

Brett: Yeah.

Walker: You like good stories. I am a big fan of crime novels and crime
fiction. I love mysteries. I love movies like “Sunset Boulevard.” Those are
my favorite types of movies. I am not a movie snob particularly. As long as
it is under 150 minutes and has a good looking lead, I’m in.

Brett: Very nice. Very nice. Now, I am sure you’ve gotten requests to
do, or maybe I’m wrong, to do a book called “Rules for My Unborn Daughter.”
If so, what sort of rules would you include in it?

Walker: God, it’s, you know, people ask me that and I have such a hard
time getting, I was like, “Yeah, it sounds like a great idea.” Except I can
only think of one rule and it’s pretty much, “Never leave the house.” I
think we could come up with some. As a matter of fact, I just wrote a few
for a magazine down in Charleston. I think a few on the list were like,
“Always keep champagne in the fridge and ice cream in the freezer.”

Brett: Very nice.

Walker: That’s sounds like something a girl would like.

Brett: Yeah.

Walker: “No vans in the driveway.” Other things of that . . . Oh, how
about, “When you’re on a first date, order the steak.

Brett: There you go.

Walker: Yeah.

Brett: There you go. Watch your date’s eyes get really big, you know.

Walker: Right. So, we could probably come up with some. Who knows, if
this book sells, then I will surely get to work on that one, no doubt.

Brett: Awesome. All right. Walker, both of our sites and our books, we
kind of talked about this a little bit already, they both kind of have that
vintage and traditional feeling. Kind of harken back to the old days a bit.
I’ve noticed there is kind of a trend of men going back to that. Why do you
think men these days are attracted to this traditional manliness
masculinity?

Walker: Again, I think it has something to do with a yearning for
quality. It’s a quality. It’s a quality that I think a lot of discerning
men today saw in their father’s generation or maybe even their
grandfather’s generation. A time when, you know, the majority of your
household goods were made in America.

Brett: Yeah.

Walker: Or you needed two suits because they lasted you ten years. Or 3
pairs of shoes as opposed to 25 different types of running shoes, you know.
So, maybe it is just a sign of the times. We’ve come out of this kind of
period of luxury and excess, and maybe people are feeling like, “I don’t
enjoy the disposable culture as much. I think I want something that is
going to last a little bit.” So, I think it is natural for us to look back
to a period in our culture when things did last a little longer. To me,
it’s like right around the ”30s, 40s and ’50s seem like the cool period
when America was really peaking and creating really great products. For me,
like when I was designing the book, I always loved the look of old ’50s
textbooks and schoolbooks.

Brett: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Walker: You know, the kind of book that you put up on your shelf and
you don’t mind it sitting there forever. I looked at the tables and I saw a
lot of the books today and, you know, not just being paperback but with
modern contemporary graphics and things, it actually really dates it after
a couple of years. I wanted something that looked like it had been there
forever. I also wanted something small enough to fit in a blazer pocket,
which was the only other requirement I had for the book designer. That
worked out.

Brett: Very nice. Well, our guest today was Walker Lamond. He is the
author of the book, “Rules for My Unborn Son.” Walker, thank you for your
time. It’s been a pleasure.

Walker: Thank you, Brett. I really appreciate it. Thanks so much for
your site. I love it.

Brett: Thank you. That wraps up another edition of The Art of
Manliness podcast. For more manly tips and advice make sure to check back
at The Art of Manliness website at ArtofManliness.com. Remember, we’ve got
a book on sale, too. It’s “The Art of Manliness: Classic Skills and Manners
for the Modern Man.” You can find it at Amazon.com or any other major book
store. For more information about the book, check out the website at
ArtofManliness.com/TheBook. Until next week, stay manly.

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