The Leo Burnett advertising agency, which created the iconic macho cowboy, said a new study it conducted found that half the men in most parts of the world don’t know what is expected of them in society and three-quarters of them think images of men in advertising are out of touch with reality.

Most ads have lumped men into one of two groups — the soft, caring type known as “metrosexuals,” who are comfortable with facial peels and pink shirts, or the stereotypical “retrosexuals,” who remain oafishly addicted to beer and sports.

“As the world is drifting toward a more feminine perspective, many of the social constructs men have taken for granted are undergoing significant shifts or being outright dismantled,” said Tom Bernardin, chairman and chief executive of Leo Burnett Worldwide.

“It’s a confusing time, not just for men, but for marketers as well as they try to target and depict men meaningfully,” he said this week during a presentation in the south of France where the ad industry is gathered for its annual conference.

Leo Burnett’s survey of 2,000 men in 13 countries found that 60 percent see themselves as either power seekers who crave professional advancement or family men – termed by Burnett as patriarchs – who believe having children and being a father are the most important things. The other 40 percent defined themselves more readily in the metrosexual versus retrosexual debate.

“The last thing we want is to look back in 10 years and find that we have unwittingly created the same cliches that female advertising is riddled with,” Bernardin said.

You know who’s to blame for a lot of this? Women.

That’s right. I said it. Women. I’m not talking about some feminist agenda to emasculate males or break patterns in our patriarchal society. I’m talking about women we’d actually date. They’re the ones who dictate things. They are the ones who make lists of what they’d like their ideal men to be like, and willing sheep that a lot of us are, we try and conform to that list: modern, sensitive, caring, attentive. Though it didn’t take me too long, in that relationship laboratory we call high school, to figure out that sensitive guys made great friends.

On the other hand, we have what society has historically dictated as the prototypical male image, typified by the Marlboro Man: rugged, individualistic, remote, but tough. If not the Marlboro Man, the Eternal Frat Boy, the bad boy who the ladies looked past the sensitive guys in order to date. The Neanderthal.

So with these two poles pulling at your typical male, no wonder he has been reduced to either a state of confusion or a state of caricature.

Well, I refuse to be trapped by your definitions of maleness. I walk the line. I may even walk alone.

I don’t try too hard to be manly. Being a man shouldn’t be so hard. I don’t pound beer until I puke as an idea of having a good time. I don’t go to sports bars and engage in seeing how many chicken wings I can eat. I like sports, but sports are not my life. I also like the occasional art film. I’m man enough to admit that I enjoy the occasional me day: there’s nothing wrong with being pampered by a mani and a pedi.

I love spending time with my kids, talking to my kids, and raising my kids. In other words, I love being a father. I don’t leave all the housework or cooking to my wife. On rare occasions, I can talk about my feelings. I can at least feign that I’m not only paying attention but even actually interested in what my wife’s saying. Almost all of the time.

I don’t need tattoos, big guns, or bigger trucks to define me as a man. I am secure with myself.

Hmm, maybe I’m not as alone as I thought. Maybe I’ve been brainwashed by the women in my life. Or I simply have no interest in conquering, hunting, or gathering or whatever the modern equivalents are. I don’t care how you define manhood. Real men don’t have to try.

Though you’ll never see me wearing pink.

Comment on this bit of rantus interruptus anyway you want (I don’t know where you’re reading it from) but if you want to guarantee me seeing it, do so at my message board.