Connecting to Masculinity
Men and masculinity were always a mystery to me.
Until the age of 8 I lived with my grandparents, and while my grandfather was sweet and loving with me, and masculine, he was not emotionally available. Old school. Merchant marine. We watched Westerns on the black & white TV.
I lived with my father on and off for a total of about six year, but it was hard to connect with him—his relationship with my mother was strained, he remarried, he was always hustling for money. He displayed masculinity but I could see a softer side underneath, I just wasn’t sure how to navigate it.
With no brothers to help guide my understanding of how boys became men, I had a lot of holes in my education, many of which were filled by books, TV, and movies. Not the most realistic portrayals of masculinity.
So when I found Paul my education began. He is masculine, strong, and powerful, yet insightful, empathetic, and patient.
When we had a son I finally got the rest of the picture.
Boys are so full of energy when they are young. They are like little tornadoes each day (I often envied my friends who had girls who would play quietly in their room). But that energy hides a deeper layer that I had not fully seen before. Boys are incredibly sensitive. Ergo, men are incredibly sensitive. The levels of empathy, feeling, and vulnerability I have witnessed in my two guys has been revelatory. I honor it and view men differently now.
And yet, our society makes it hard to cherish and nurture that side of our boys. Our son is not athletically inclined and when you are looking for after-school activities for such a kid, it’s a challenge. There were all sorts of girl power options that would have been great, except they were for girls only. Meanwhile, if you didn’t play softball or soccer or basketball you were kind of out of luck. Swimming and karate (for the discipline) sufficed for a while, but eventually they wanted him to get competitive and he didn’t want that. So that was the end of that.
As Jesse heads to a college that is very proud of its athletics, I hope he finds a tribe that celebrates young men who have other interests. I hope he can continue to be sensitive and empathetic without ridicule. I hope he finds mental, emotional, and physical outlets that support who he is, not what society wants him to be.
Discovering the truth about men has been an eye-opening and joyful journey for me. They’re so much better than I had even hoped!