Years ago, I found myself at Kate’s ten-year high school reunion. As I surveyed the room of her former classmates, I noticed a dichotomy in the trajectories that the males and females had taken. By and large, the women had kept themselves up; they still seemed vibrant, engaged, and in shape, even if they had had a few kids by that time. The years had not been as kind to the majority of dudes, however. Many were already overweight, out-of-shape, and looking pretty schlubby and dead behind the eyes.
It was then that a moniker for the condition that seemed to be besetting these men came to my mind: Soft Suburban Dad Syndrome.
In the years since, I’ve noticed SSDS manifest itself in plenty of my peers, and from time to time, unfortunately, in myself as well. Soft Suburban Dad Syndrome develops in the decades after a man graduates from college, gets married, has kids, establishes his career, and, whether or not he literally settles down in the suburbs, moves further and further into the outskirts of a dynamic and adventurous life. With the passage of time, and the eroding of youth, the masses of men fairly give up on life and lose their edge.
Marriage, family, white collar work, suburbia, and adulthood in general don’t invariably lead to a degradation in virility, vitality, and manliness. But unless an intentional, active effort is made to cultivate a countervailing force, such responsibilities and routines tend to lead to a busyness, inertia, stagnation, and malaise that can enervate one’s interests, mollify one’s penchant for challenge and growth, and extinguish the fire in the belly.
The components of that countervailing force have been thoroughly explained in AoM’s most classic and epic article: Semper Virilis: A Roadmap to Manhood in the 21st Century. But a helpful first step to following that roadmap is disganosing whether you’re suffering from Soft Suburban Dad Syndrome yourself, and which symptoms you most need to address. So below we offer 50 questions for self-examination, organized into the different areas of life where SSDS can crop up. Read; reflect; figure out where you want to push back on the domesticating defaults many guys sink into as they transition from young buck to mature man; and decide how you might change in order to maintain your strength — physical, mental, and social — into old age.
Literal softness constitutes the very tangible epicenter of Soft Suburban Dad Syndrome. As the post-college years go by, men often become more and more sedentary. Testosterone, muscle, and energy go down, while body fat goes up. This can turn into a negative cycle, where the more obese you become, the less you want to move, and the less you move, the more weight you gain.
Maintaining your physical prowess is more than a matter of health; strength and toughness (two qualities which are both vital, and not identical) affects every other aspect of your life as well, from your confidence and how you show up at work and in relationships, to what activities and interests you’re capable of pursuing, to the maintenance of your psychological well-being. As such, getting and staying in good physical condition represents the very foundation of fighting SSDS and leading a vital, fulfilling life.
1. Do you do at least 60 minutes of physical activity every 24 hours, or are you sedentary for 96% of each day?
2. Have you gotten your testosterone tested — and is it at a healthy level?
3. Is your waist bigger than 40 inches?
4. Can you hold a squat for 30 seconds?
5. Can you hang from a bar for 30 seconds?
6. Can you do at least five pull-ups?
7. Can you pick up your body weight and carry it for distance?
8. Can you standing long jump your own height?
9. Can you bench press your bodyweight?
10. Can you deadlift 150% of your bodyweight?
11. Can you get off the ground without using your hands?
12. What is the ratio between the time you spend watching other men play sports and the time you spend playing sports yourself?
13. When was the last time you pushed yourself so hard you couldn’t help but put your hands on your knees?
14. When was the last time you did a flat-out sprint?
15. When was the last time you crawled on the ground?
16. When was the last time you jumped