When I was younger I always figured I was a “different” type of male. I was calm, slow to judge, played trumpet in the middle school band, and didn’t enjoy “manly things” like my friends did. I was also super awkward with girls (as every 12 year old is) and became some sort of “hopeless romantic.”
Eventually as I got older my confidence and hubris grew and I ditched band and played soccer and tennis in high school. Still not the “manliest” sports but I was gaining leadership positions in them and other areas. College happened and I started playing dodge ball and now had so much confidence that I began to act selfishly in relationships. I thought I was the boss of everything. I thought I was the best looking, the most athletic, the coolest, the person who should be in charge, all because I’m the most confident…only the last one was actually true.
I eventually hit bottom.
The girl who was the main part of my life throughout most of college left me for not being sensitive enough, a friend died in Afghanistan, my best friend cut off communication with me (though this was mostly in part because of a dominate and manipulative girlfriend) and to top it all off the family dog died. This was all in the span of 8 months. I knew a readjustment in how I ran my life was in order to deal with these losses because I was losing it.
I transitioned from a shy awkward nerd to an arrogant asshole in 8 years. 2 years later I’ve learned and changed my arrogance level to what my boss has called “an aura of calm confidence,” which I’m content with but looking at these different stages of my life it begs the question: Which was the most “masculine” part? What does it mean to be a man?
I conducted an interesting bible study with teenage males over the summer at the camp a worked at. It was all guys and I deemed it a “guyble study.” I asked them how they would describe a male: They gave me positive attributes such as “strong, providing, athletic, funny, charming and other positive characteristics” Then I asked how society would describe guys. The boys then gave me answers such as “dumb, violent, crazy, lazy, only wanting sex, and other negative ones.
This was a group of only males, who thought of their gender as great but thought that society viewed them negatively. Why is that? How did guys get such a bad rap? Men are destroyers sure, but we’re also creators. The same male hands that wage war, also create cities. The same male hands that can shoot a child also can save it in an emergency room. It seems we epitomize much of the best and worst of society. (Not saying women aren’t in great positions but this is a post about men.) Why does society only see the negatives? I agree with the guys’ adjectives on men and what they believe society thinks. So again. Is the epitomized male a lazy sex crazed hairy fat dude who is violent? I hope not.
I was told recently that this from a woman at my church that her husband and father were “men’s men” because they were vehemently conservative, tough, and (though she didn’t say it explicitly) insensitive. I only saw the husband once but he is not involved with the church, he was an overweight man with a camo hat and didn’t say a word to me when we met…Is that what all young men should aspire to be? If we want to represent our gender should we just be insensitive and tough on those we love because we’re men and that’s what we just do?
Should we do the opposite and start taking on feminizing attributes to the point where the only difference between men and women is anatomy?
I say no to both. I think that there are only a few characteristics that COULD describe men and the rest are not important.
#1. Men should provide. They don’t have to be the bread winner and I’m not saying women shouldn’t work but it’s clear men were made to work. Being lazy and not contributing to your loved ones is unmanly.
#2. Men should have passion. I don’t care if it’s WWII military history, fine wine, trains or whatever. There should be something that drives a man to get up every morning and want to kick ass at something. Even if his job sucks there should be something that gets him through the tough day or week.
#3. Men should have confidence. I’m not talking about confidence in general, though that definitely doesn’t hurt. But having confidence in some skill or niche. Knowledge in some area leads to this confidence. Maybe cars aren’t your thing, that’s fine but if you have enough knowledge to talk about biology then have confidence there.
#4.. Men should be indifferent to petty issues. Indifference is not apathy. If a speaker on education reform is talking and you don’t know a thing about the education system… DO NOT OFFER AN OPINION. I’m not saying don’t care about it because it is an important issue but don’t get wrapped up in loving or hating something you didn’t know existed 10 minutes ago. If you want to get wrapped up into it then learn more and then refer to #3.
#5. Men should hold several core values. These can be the previous 4 suggestions or maybe some other things. It’s up to you. Stand for SOMETHING. If you don’t stand for anything then people can stand on you.
However, the most important thing is don’t let anyone define what a man is for you. The things I listed are my own hair ball SUGGESTIONS. They are not by any means my “rules” or (god forbid) “truths” of manliness. These are things that could possibly make a good woman too.
Clearly we are at some crisis of what being a man really means, this is just my penny and calling it two cents.