Though PAPER's September fashion issue is devoted to celebrating women (and those famous for celebrating women), I thought it would only be fair to let the boys have the floor; to give their two cents on the subject of gender. The very first person who came to mind was longtime friend Glenn O'Brien, whose hilarious tome How to Be a Man
(Rizzoli) came out this past spring and gives invaluable advice to men -- how to fight, drink, host a party, have sex and even wear a bathing suit.Not only does O'Brien -- a former PAPER columnist, editorial director of Interview
and current GQ
"Style Guy" -- have a take on the male species like no one else, but his 11-year-old son Oscar seems to be following in dad's footsteps of confident, opinionated commentary on how things should and should not be. I thought it would be fun to listen in as Oscar asked his dad a few questions on the subject of manhood, the differences between the sexes, first girlfriends and, of course, the importance of good looks and table manners.
Oscar O'Brien: How to be a man? I bet it happens gradually.
Glenn O'Brien: I remember I woke up one day and had a hair on my chest. I knew it was a big moment and that things were going to be different from then on.
OO: When was that?
GO: I was 13.
OO: I'm 11. I've already got hair on my chest.
GO: I mean a dark hair. Not like your blonde peach fuzz. Also, when I was 13, I started to get a little mustache. my hairs on my lip started going from blonde to being dark. And then, when my mother started to tell me I should get a job, I knew I must be a man.
OO: What was your first job?
GO: When I was 16, I packed groceries on the weekends. then I was a busboy and had to wear a pirate costume because it was a nautical-themed restaurant.
OO: When did you stop listening to your parents?
GO: I always listened to them, but I was the mature one in the family, even as a child, so they would ask me advice. But they didn't always follow it. My mother said, "Should I get a divorce?" I said "Yes" but she didn't do it.
OO: When did you start acting manly?
GO: I wanted to be grown-up so I did some manly things fairly young. When I was 10, I knew how people like Bennett Cerf and Kitty Carlisle hung out at El Morocco and the Stork Club. One day when I went to New York with my parents I had them pull up to the stork Club and I said, "Wait here." I went inside, presented myself to the maître d', and told him, "I've heard so much about this place, I wanted to see it for myself." He was so amused that he took me around and introduced me to every table.
OO: So how do you "be a man?"
GO: You have to read my whole book -- it's got 52 chapters.
OO: Why did you write it?
GO: I thought women would be interested in a book called How to Be a Man because they'd think it had secrets in it that they didn't know.
OO: What kind of secrets?
GO: Women always want to know what men are thinking. And the ways that men are different from women. Women know they're different but they're never exactly sure how.
OO: Why do you think women are so different? Other than their chromosomes.
GO: I think they are raised differently. People take more care with their girls because they're more worried about them. They think boys can handle themselves more easily. But I don't think it's true. Girls are tougher than boys.
OO: How are girls tougher?
GO: Well at your age they're bigger and stronger! Who cries more at school, boys or girls?
OO: It's always a tie!
GO: Do they cry about the same type of things?
OO: Yes. Pain.
GO: Not humiliation or embarrassment?
OO: No, just physical pain.
GO: Are boys or girls more confident? When I go to a school performance, the girls are all out there singing loudly in front and the boys are all hiding behind somebody and moving their lips. Do you think that's true?
OO: Yes. I've been in those situations.
GO: Are your friends mostly boys or girls?
OO: Boys. Because I don't think females enjoy video games as much. Do you have any advice about girls for me?
GO: Don't rush into anything. Wait till the right one comes along. It's better to have no girlfriend than the wrong girlfriend.
OO: How do you know when you have a wrong girlfriend?
GO: If she makes you more unhappy than happy. Do you have a girlfriend?
OO: I used to.
GO: Did you break up? Did you have a fight?
OO: Yes, we did.
GO: Whose fault was it?
OO: It was both of our faults.
GO: Good answer. It doesn't have to be somebody's fault.
OO: When did you start liking girls?
GO: In kindergarten. I had a girlfriend. Her name was Joyce. And my first kiss I was in the third grade on the school bus, Jane McDonough. She was real cute. But all my friends made fun of me.
OO: Were you nice or mean to girls?
GO: I always thought it was cool to be friends with girls so I was nice. You recently said you like French girls.
OO: It depends on how they were raised, their personality and how they look.
GO: What's most important?
OO: How they were raised.
GO: So you like good manners?
OO: It can change someone's personality completely.
GO: What are the most important manners you think a person should have?
OO: Table manners. They shouldn't shove their face into food. And as far as personality goes, we have to relate on at least two things.
GO: Two things in common?
OO: Exactly. Or we'll just have nothing to talk about and nothing to do. So how did you end up with mom?
GO: Well, she was beautiful and smart and nice.
OO: Makes sense.
GO: What do you think about going to a school that has uniforms?
OO: It takes away all the creativity.
GO: You've been known to stretch the dress code at school. I have seen you sneak in your own cashmere sweater instead of your official sweater.
OO: I do enjoy having a good appearance. I don't think it is embarrassing to dress up.
GO: One of the things we have in common, right? We want to look good.
OO: I was sort of trained by you and mom to dress like that.
GO: How do you choose what to wear?
OO: It depends on three things: where I'm going, what I'm doing and my mood. I know what I like. So do you have advice for me?
GO: The advice I would give you is to pay attention. If you pay attention you won't lose so many things. And I think it's also important to tell the truth.
OO: I do that.
The only excuse for not telling the truth is not wanting to hurt someone's feelings. You can sometimes twist it a little bit -- for world peace.More from Glenn and Oscar's chat with PAPER here.