A Study of Stale Men

Humor Columnist Emily Sumlin presents her in-depth, on-site findings of the most odious nature


Despite the jokes, we must pity the Stale Man, for the only thing keeping him from breaking out of his shell, is well… himself.

Emily Sumlin | Cavalier Daily

Now, I’m not normally one to do this. I know that everyone who is about to say anything mildly controversial normally says that but I’m, like, for real. I consider U.Va. to be a school of academic prowess with a strong emphasis on research (come at me brochure-writers of the world). So now, to the U.Va. populace, I now present my in-depth, on-site findings of the most odious nature. I risked life, limb and my own attention span for this data, traveling overseas and somehow still encountering the bland species of my homeland I had desperately been trying to escape. In a different time, I could have written about silly summer escapades or 10 trendy tips to avoid existential despair, but I chose to write about this. Because it needed addressing. So enjoy, get fussy, or just don’t worry about it. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you… the Stale Man. 

To clarify, not all men are stale. This is not an all-encompassing definition. But I have encountered so many with the personality of a wet Triscuit that I can no longer be silent. The Stale Man is often easy to spot. His personality is as khaki as his pants. The colors of his shirts are as monotone as his voice. His slang is as outdated as his jokes about “The Office.” It’s been off the air for five years now Stale Man, you no longer have your finger on the pulse of modern civilization. The Stale Man could be in Spain and he would still have the cultural depravity to order a hamburger, and be shocked when the waiter did not accommodate him in the native language of his choice. He is, in short, the worst. 

And in truth, he is not a man yet. A man would not rock an unruly summer swoosh until his mother forces him to get a haircut, only then to return with a military buzz so severe you’d expect him to be shipping out on the next barge to Siam. A man would not be so overly generous with the facial hair he has given his Bitmoji, putting a full beard where only patchy peach fuzz remains. They are boys masquerading as men, by which I mean they are old enough to drive but too young to rent a car. Seriously, look it up it’s like 25. Regardless, all stale men maintain the paradoxical balance of being both extremely insecure and extremely braggadocious. If you spend extended time with one of these creatures you’ll hear thrilling tales of the almost all-star baseball season, ruined by a boo-boo on his elbow. Perhaps he’ll lament not going to prom with the total babe who had been obsessed with him since seventh grade. If only Kevin R. hadn’t asked her first. The Stale Man can often be found describing a 10th grade class where he was a constant prankster, being both sassy AND smart-assy all in one 50-minute block. But don’t worry! He could get away with it because “my teacher like freakin’ loved me.” That was a great story, Stale Man. Remind me when I need some devil-may-care bad boy to ride off into the sunset with. I’ll keep you in mind.  

However, it is not hard to see through the bravado the Stale Man uses as his defensive technique. Deep down inside his musty soul shines a glint of a personality, but it requires a thorough excavation to unearth it. The Stale Man fears this glint, afraid of any definitive quality that could separate him from the status quo. He is fearful of being ostracized, set apart or ridiculed by the voices in his head that convince him that individuality is synonymous with deformity. Despite the jokes, we must pity the Stale Man, for the only thing keeping him from breaking out of his shell, is well… himself. But being a stale man is not a life sentence. Everyone has the capability to change, even someone who’s really devoted to sending a Snap on their story to individual people. So every time he wears a shirt not emblazoned with his school’s logo or goes without saying “lit” for 30 minutes you may begin to hope for more from this stale, stale man. But then you’ll ask him his favorite song and he’ll say, “I don’t know…Rap?” and you will fall once again into despair. 

Trust in his timing, this a journey through the polo section of Vineyard Vines that he must make alone. When you see him buying jeans at Old Navy, bragging about drinking black coffee at your local café or god forbid — trying to talk to you through your earbuds on public transportation — just remember he’s got a long way to go. And to all the Stale Men out there who fear it can’t be helped I’ll say this: change is only one un-popped collar away.

Emily Sumlin is a Humor Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at humor@cavalierdaily.com

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