2) A vertical meter divided into five sections, labeled, in descending order: ALL MAN, BIG MAN, HALF MAN, LITTLE MAN, and NO MAN. Each label has a light next to it.
3) A horizontal meter divided into six sections, labeled, in descending order: A) FUCK YEAH, B) HELL YEAH, C) YEAH, D) NO, E) HELL NO, and F) FUCK NO. Each label has a button under it.
You are here for the Man Exam.
The first section is multiple choice.
The rules are simple. A question will appear on the screen and you must answer it by pressing one of the buttons below the horizontal meter to indicate your response. As you answer more questions, the rating on the vertical meter adjusts according to your progress. Right now, it rates you as “Half Man.”
The exam begins now.
Question One: Are you strong?
Naturally, you go with option A, Fuck Yeah. Of course you’re strong. What hope do you have of outmanning the Man Exam if you aren’t strong? If ever there were a single word to describe the epitome of what it means to me a man, across all time, across all cultures, it would undisputedly be strong. Physically? You have a fucking purple belt in judo. You once did eighty-eight push ups without stopping to rest even once. Mentally? You once sat through an entire season of Grey’s Anatomy without once pointing out how improbable it is for a bomb to end up inside someone’s body because your girlfriend thought that part was so fucking cool. In terms of courage? Last week you found a black widow in your house and would have killed the fucker had it not been gone by the time you got back with the flyswatter.
So yeah, you’re pretty strong. You hit the Fuck Yeah button.
The screen turns red. Wrong answer, it says. The correct answer was C) Yeah. In this context, the cockiness necessary to declare Fuck Yeah is decidedly unmanly, while the confidence exuded by a simple Yeah is such that no one would dare doubt the truth in your statement. Well, nobody with an ounce of Man in them anyway.
Your eyes are drawn to movement on the vertical meter. The light next to Half Man goes out. The light next to Little Man goes on.
Question Two: Do you get bitches?
Your first instinct is Fuck Yeah, but your finger stops just short of the button. If overbragging about the moderate-to-high number of consecutive push ups you can do is unmanly, the overbragging about the six women you slept with plus the one that almost happened but then she fell off the bed and broke her femur and had to go to the hospital but it still fucking counts because she totally would have otherwise must be the most unmanly sign of unmanliness that ever befell the unmanly man. So you go for C) Yeah. Keep it casual. Boom.
Turns out if you just say Yeah when asked about your sex life, it sounds dubious, sounds like you said it as a reflex just because it was the first thing other than the sad truth that came to mind. Fuck Yeah, on the other hand, is unquestionable. Hell Yeah would be pretty manly too, but not Fuck Yeah manly, not by a long shot.
The Little Man light doesn’t shut off completely, but it starts blinking. Careful, bro. Precipice.
Question Three: How do you feel about facial hair?
You rub the two-day stubble that follows your jawline. Usually you shave every other day, sometimes you wait three, four tops. How do your really feel about facial hair? Somewhere between Yeah and No. But something tells you that neither is the answer the Man Machine is looking for and you can’t exactly afford any more slip ups. Hell No and Fuck No seem equally unlikely. So that leaves you with a fifty-fifty chance.
You hazard Hell Yeah.
Hell Yeah is right.
The Little Man light stops blinking. Close call.
The questions keep coming and you field them as best you can. Are you tall? Do you make sure to include mass amounts of protein in your diet? What are your thoughts about cunnilingus? You get some right and others wrong and some are kind of right even though another answer would have been better. After forty-nine grueling questions, the light on the Man Meter rests steadily at Half Man, right where it started.
The last question is simply the word, Sandals?
You go with Hell No, which is partially right. No would have also been acceptable. Fuck No is wrong, but only because of surfers.
As a result, the light moves up to Big Man, but is blinking. The screen fades to black and offers a message in white letters:
This concludes the multiple choice section. Please stand by for the essay portion.
The loading screen has a jacked arm curling a barbell. It gets in fourteen reps before the screen switches to the next section.
First prompt: Describe your workout routine.
Damn. I mean, yeah, you’ve worked out before, but not in a capacity that could reasonably be considered a “routine.” The eighty-eight push up thing, that was twelve years ago, a phenomenon that never repeated itself and now that you think about it may have involved a small amount of cocaine. These days you could probably manage about twenty on a good day. You can’t bench press your own weight. You aren’t flexible. You don’t even know your average mile time because you can’t even remember the last time you finished one. So yeah. This is a hard question.
You do your best anyway, writing on the touchscreen about the judo classes you haven’t been to in almost a year, about the fact that you have a home gym and a local membership, about how leg day is your favorite day because calves are so underrated and people always focus on upper body strength only to end up looking like Johnny Bravo. Eventually you end up with something loosely resembling what a Big Man might write and lightly tap the SUBMIT icon.
And just like that, you’re at Little Man again.
Shit. Did it know you were lying? Are they watching you? Can they tell that no way in hell can you possibly do all the stuff you just wrote about and still have a body like the one they’re looking at?
Whatever. You still have two prompts left.
The second one reads: Describe your ideal woman.
Probably a trick question, but you don’t have a ton of choices. You can answer honestly, in which case you’d be describing someone who enjoyed algebra homework in high school, dresses in cosplay four-to-six times a month, and knows her way around an Xbox, or you can cater to what you think is the common denominator: large breasts, flat stomach, huge ass. The kind of face that you’d think was beautiful if your eyes ever got around to noticing it.
Or you could do both.
And then some.
You set to work.
Angelina Jolie’s lips. Scarlet Johansson’s nose. The eyes of that girl on the front of National Geographic that one time. Jessica Alba’s shoulders. Kelly Brook’s everything else.
You find white women attractive, but you don’t want to sound like a supremacist, so you put that she’s black. No, too obvious. Half black, half Asian. No, trying too hard. Half Jamaican and half Chinese. A little Ecuadorean for good measure.
You write all that stuff about cosplay and Xbox, plus you make her a teacher. A chemistry teacher. No, a chemistry professor. Who wears lab coats and miniskirts.
Raven-black hair. Glasses. Knowledgeable about politics. Part time model. Good with kids but doesn’t want any of her own, wouldn’t dare bring a new life into this screwed up world lest she lose focus on fixing all of its problems single- handedly. Maybe that’s laying it on too thick, but you don’t care. You’re in the zone. They asked for ideal and that’s what you’re giving them. Someone too perfect to possibly exist, ever.
You name her Belladonna.
Sorry, Little Man. The machine isn’t buying it. In the next second the Little Man light is blinking dangerously. One more slip up and the last of your manhood will be compromised.
What the fuck? There is not indication of why Belladonna didn’t make the cut. In fact, now that you think about it, this entire goddamn test seems extremely fucking arbitrary. Who the fuck are they to tell you who your ideal woman is, to tell you your workout routine is inadequate. There are plenty of guys who would happily marry Belladonna and she would be the best thing to ever happen in there entire goddamn lives. And it’s common knowledge that working out too much is actually kind of prissy. I mean, how manly can you really be if you’re spending more time in the gym than you are taking names in underground fight clubs or hunting wild boars? Not that you’ve ever done either of those things, but the point is, worrying about your looks that much is one of the least manly things you can think of. In fact, there are a whole lot of fucking holes in this fucking test. You’re not even sure why you agreed to take it in the first place.
Final prompt: Describe the manliest thing you can think of in as manly of detail as possible.
Fuck this shit. You don’t even care about this exam anymore. Why should you give a fuck what a goddamn computer thinks is manly? Why should you give a fuck what anyone thinks is manly? You don’t. Not at all. And that’s what you write. Verbatim.