What does that mean?
I mean…..what does that even mean?
Being a man, being masculine, it seems at first to be easily defined.
But where did these definitions come from? We get our definition of masculinity and what it means to be a man from many places, mostly what society has dictated. From marketing and advertising and what they deem the right definition to sell whatever products are going to make us feel ‘more like a man!’ We also get these definitions from more realistic examples such as our fathers and their fathers and/or others we look to as role models for who we think we should be as men.
The Marlboro Man
The corporate CEO
The Dad coaching little league
The husband paying the bills, fixing the sink, building a barn & assembling toys
Hairy-chested, axe-wielding, camping-loving, power tool-owning, provider for his family… Now that’s a man!!!
Well sure. But is he less of a man if he cries at a funeral, or when witnessing his kids’ accomplishments, or when he breaks up with the man of his dreams?
Who’s definition are we upholding? How do we compare ourselves to the man (or men) we think we are to the roles society defines for us and the patterns of behavior that come with those roles?
Real men don’t cry.
Real men don’t eat quiche.
Wait I love quiche!
I fixed the sink last week.
I never built a barn though, but I did paint a toy box and stain some shelves for my kids when they were little.
Okay I don’t fish. But I do know how because my dad taught me. Well he taught me how to put a worm on a hook and which lure to use and to row the boat slow and how to take the fish off the hook. That last part never mattered though I’m 53 and I’ve never caught a fish though I’ve tried. I used to try anyway.
I also had tears running down my face as I read the essay my son wrote for his college applications.
I have hair on my chest. That means I’m masc for sure.
Then I shaved it off. Sometimes I do that. But… I still know how to fix the toilet even though my chest is smooth so…is that a true barometer? Is there a barometer?
Women know a real man when they see one. They want a strong presence, a take charge kinda guy. Not some sensitive ponytail guy.
But maybe sensitive ponytail guy is meeting the needs of his woman better than the Marlboro man she just broke up with.
When Marlboro man learns to open up and share his feelings with his new circuit party boyfriend is he thought of as less masculine? Less of a man? He’s still got that full chest of hair though? And he rides a horse for crying out loud!
But now he can also articulate that he’s okay splitting the check or taking turns and doesn’t have to be the sole provider. But that he’s still not comfortable moving into the penthouse and driving one of the cars that his boyfriend’s parents bought him. It’s okay to want to be self-reliant. But it also doesn’t make trust-fund boyfriend less of a man because he comes from a well-off family.
How do we feel about trust fund boyfriend?
Instantly we judged him.
You know you did, I know you rolled your eyes when you read that just admit it. But that’s all we know about the boyfriend. Maybe he’s taking advantage of his parents’ generosity to do good in the world, or seek a fulfilling albeit less profitable career? Or maybe he’s working on his masters and doesn’t have to worry about student loans. Wouldn’t that be nice?
It all could be perfectly respectable. But we instantly judge him and part of that judgment includes a view of his masculinity. He’s gotta be less of a man living of daddy’s wallet (or mommy’s pocketbook, we don’t know).
What if we are wrong.
What if the roles are reversed and the Marlboro man is the one from the wealthy family and his sensitive ponytail boyfriend is paying his own way, or at least where he can afford to.
Do we even believe this? Of course not. Shame on us.
Let’s say it is true. There it is then, that glimmer of respect, the idea that he’s more of a man now because ‘a real man pays his own way!’
When I married the mother of my kids she eventually made more than I did. I didn’t care. We did what we always did. We pooled our money and paid our bills. At some point that situation reversed but that didn’t make me feel like more of a man. We still just pooled our money and paid our bills. It didn’t matter, we were a team, a family, united in debt.
I had a really flexible schedule and worked from home a lot when my boys were little. I got them up in the morning, fed and dressed and dropped them at daycare. I picked them up and took them to the playground and made them snacks. I did their laundry, cleaned the house, paid the bills, fixed the sink and had coffee with the other moms. I changed more diapers than she did. Maybe, I don’t know I didn’t keep score I just did what needed to get done around the house and when she got home from work, she did too. It was a marriage, a partnership. Not a dictatorship or a job she paid me for.
None of that stuff had any affect my masculinity.
What it did was allow me to bond with my boys in the most amazing way by giving them the one thing I had of great value to them. My time.
In that time, I taught them to fish. They don’t like it either. But we camp, and we play sports and we hike and ride bikes and do yardwork. But they also do their own laundry and help with the housework. And we sing a lot. And we dance and we watch iCarly. These three man sitting on the couch watching a tv show about a high school girl and her friends and their web show. We’re eating the quiche I made for dinner. They’ll be fine.
There’s so much to discover about who you are, and why you are the man you are, and how to improve on yourself. To live a fuller, truer life of intention gratitude & strength with a solid sense of self.
Let’s delve into this mystery of being a man and all that it means because masculinity isn’t just black and white, there’s gotta be at least what? 50 Shades…