Introducing The Sterling Institute Men’s Weekend
January 17, 2009 207 Comments
I think I’ve found the grown-up version of Calvin and Hobbes’ secret club, G.R.O.S.S. (Get Rid of Slimy girlS): it is called The Sterling Institute Men’s Weekend. It seems to share genes with Robert Bly’s Mythopoetic Men’s Movement, but it has certain things that make it all its own animal.
First, it’s Purpose:
To engage in the process of locating the source of your power and discovering and dissolving the barriers between you and manifesting that power so that you experience total freedom as only a man can and with that freedom be the man you always wanted to be.
I found out about “the Institute” from an old friend, “Sam,” who has always embodied for me what “mild-mannered” means. He’s Clark Kent without Superman: gentle, generous, helpful, polite, goofy—maybe a little easy to take advantage of. As of his 27th birthday he has never—with one recent exception—had a girlfriend, though he’s worshipped certain people from afar, even buying one woman plane tickets home for Christmas so she could be with her family. (This while the woman dated someone else.)
Something was off as chatted. I asked him what was new, and he proceeded to tell me—via online chatting—about something that changed his life. He asked if I had ever wished for some higher purpose. Uh-oh, I thought.
It turns out he’s taken to driving two hours each way on Tuesday evenings after work to volunteer at “the Institute.” He sounds like he’s in a cult. He tells me that friendships are merely ways of modeling the person you really want to be with, and what if he smoked pot all day and played video games, would I want to be with someone like that?
Stymied, I visited the website to see what had happened to poor Sam. Why was he talking about cavemen hunting deer? Why did he keep telling me that women are infinitely superior than men—because they “create life and infuse it into anything and everything they do,” so that even when women fix cars they bring their “whole selves” to the project, and why did he insist, bizarrely, that “without women, men would run out of things to do”?
The Weekend clarifies the conflict between modern society’s expectations and our ancient masculine biological and emotional foundation. Participants learn to integrate, rather than reject, their masculine instincts, resulting in success, power, and contentment. The Weekend has a profound and far-reaching effect on men of all ages and backgrounds. For many, it has been a defining moment in their lives.
Who leads it, you ask? One A. Justin Sterling, an “acknowledged relationship expert” whose “expertise and familiarity with the innermost thoughts of women, [sic] has given him the insight and perspective to teach men to be better relationship partners by being more masculine, more honorable, and more disciplined.”
I, for one, would like nothing more than to meet A. Justin Sterling and learn about the innermost thoughts of women. I propose therefore, that you and I dress up as men (surely there are appropriate wigs) and infiltrate one of these weekends.
Men who are not ready for a long-term relationship will find good advice on how to manage their emotional well-being in romantic endeavors, while men who are considering marriage and family will find much needed guidance on self-preparation, choosing the right mate, and staying on the path to a thriving marriage.
Perhaps most hilariously, we are reminded that The Men’s Weekend Is Fun:
The Sterling Men’s Weekend is a chance to let your flag fly, whatever it might be and enjoy the acceptance and camaraderie of men. There are no political correctness police here, and good-natured vulgarity is suitable for the occasion.
Here is the thing: I think I am being courted by this friend under the Sterling-approved Caveman model of Relations Between the Sexes. On the one hand, I cheer for him—he needed something like this, I think, to usher him out of Doormathood. On the other hand, it troubles me that he has taken this so to heart, ascribes his whole life’s direction to it. He believes he knows exactly What Women Want (in a nutshell, someone with Drive and Energy who will provide for them and their children. They don’t have to a Basketball Player or anything. What matters is the Drive. A sense of Purpose). When I told him these ideas were the sort that make women like me run screaming in the opposite direction, he suggested I try the Sterling Women’s Institute.
I declare the birth of an Experiment. I’m going to see if, in future conversations, I can’t deprogram him a bit while leaving the broad strokes—the confidence, the newfound “power” that apparently accompanies his newly-discovered masculinity—intact. Do you think this is possible? And what do you think of A. Sterling himself?