I love you man (?)

*a mid-twenty something-year-old me and some of my friends out at a bar one night in 2013*

“Can we take a picture together?” -Me

“What the hell why would you say that? Are you gay?” – A guy I was out with a few years ago.

Now that that’s out of the way let’s talk about feelings and emotion. I’ve already touched on toxic masculinity, but this post is going to hit on that and something else near and dear to me as well: male feels.

The aforementioned story would help set the scene for how the modern man tries to navigate the waters of “being manly” in our society. I guess somewhere along the way, being a man means that you cannot show any type of female qualities. It means being cold-hearted, short-tempered and calculated in thoughts. It means having, displaying and brandishing power (money, strength, women, trophies) at your will. Being a man is constant vigilance so to ensure that you’re reputation as a man is never being questioned by those you come in contact with in everyday life. Being a man is about dismissing anything that is seen as weak (feminine) and disassociating yourself from the “lesser sex” as possible. Being a man is for sure not hating all things that can be confused with being gay (no homo). More than anything; being a man is about taking what you think is yours by, any means.

It honestly hurts to know that so many people base your manliness on “what you can do” rather than who you are. It also seems that the worse false accusation to some males seems to be being called “gay” for something that they think say and do. Now I’m not perfect nor will I ever claim to be so. When I was younger I would subject myself and my friends into making sure we were what we thought, what a man was to be. I threw around gay jokes all the time and didn’t think twice about it. If someone accused me of being gay, I was very indignant about said accusations! I am a manly man! How the hell can I be mistaken for gay! Until a few years ago, I finally realized how toxic, hurtful and downright inaccurate those thoughts and actions were. It must be stressful wondering if everything you do, think, say is man enough for people you’re trying to approve even though you really shouldn’t need their approval. There are literally dozens of things worse to be accused of rather than being gay. And if someone asks me if I am gay, the easiest thing to do is just say “no” and carry on with life. Because being gay or feminine is not the worst thing that can happen to anyone. Feminine/gay is not a synonym for “weak” and I challenge all men who think this way to tell me why they are right! If that is the cost that is charged to being a man in our society, it is too much for me. If this strikes a nerve with you, you may want to stop reading now because it’s only going to get worse.

Guys can we be honest for a moment: life is hard enough without this bullshit self-imposed “man laws” that really nobody is going to raise a big deal about. Your own anxiety as being seen as weak is a prison you put yourself into by your own meaningless standards. For instance; a number of weeks ago I saw this bit of a caption on Facebook from a mutual friend:

“The hardest thing one man can say to another man is ‘I love you’…”

And the quote went on from there. I  was struck dumbfounded looking at that and couldn’t help myself but thinking these two things:

  1. If you have known this man for well over 20 years, wouldn’t you think that there would be some feelings of appreciation that would naturally grow between to friends?
  2. Do we realize that “love” is more than just romantic feelings?

I’m not saying go up to a total stranger and say “I love you”, that would be inappropriate. But to a close friend you’ve known half your life? A mentor who has helped you in trying times? A constant rock of support, advice, and encouragement? Over a 20 year period? Hell yes, I’m telling that man I love him! And you shouldn’t be afraid to either. As mentioned: love means more than just the eros or romantic love you feel towards a partner. The love between family/friends, Philos, at the core is an appreciation of or a bonding with. In football, players and I grew together and form a brotherhood that kept us strong through the entire season. A number of college boys will pledge fraternities, which are literally brotherhood based social clubs. Hell in the musical “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” one of the final company numbers is called “The Brotherhood of Man” where J. Pierrepont Finch talks about how all people are better when we work together and use our gifts and talents for the benefit of all.

Why do we strive to make life that much harder when we have to follow these stupid ass “man laws”? Are we slaves to our own misguided perceptions of what it means to be a man? Are we willing to subject our selves to the constant scrutiny of individuals who really shouldn’t matter to our well being?

Does it really matter if someone thinks that what you do is not “man enough?” Let me show you how ridiculous these ideas are as I list things I have associated myself with throughout my life that apparently aren’t manly enough to some people:

  • musical theatre
  • being emotional
  • hanging out with my brothers
  • forensics
  • debate
  • choir
  • writing
  • reading Harry Potter
  • wrestling
  • yoga
  • running
  • taking pictures
  • cooking
  • matching my clothes
  • wearing pink
  • having a collection of stickers
  • having a collection of Harry Potter memorabilia
  • having a clean room
  • cleaning my face
  • clipping my nails
  • the way I talk
  • the way I dress
  • being a preschool teacher
  • seeing a therapist (boy this one really sucks)
  • having male role models
  • being “starstruck”
  • stretching

As frustrating as it is, I stay myself because I know that only I can determine my value as a man. You can only determine your value as a man. No matter what you do, say, think or feel: there is nothing in this universe that can give you the sense of being a man other than being yourself. If you enjoy traditionally “manly” activities; that is fine! If you find joy in non-traditional manly activities that is wonderful as well. If you’re an amalgamation, be the best you can be!

I’ll end with this anecdote: a few days before I wrote this I sent a snapchat out to a few people and the comment was this “I guess I’m gonna be thicc the rest of my life” One of those people was my college roommate, a nurse practitioner (a traditionally female-dominated field) who is married and has a son. The response I got from him was so beautiful I almost cried. This is what he said this:

“Same here man but just remember that Winnie the Pooh only wore a crop top and ate his food. He loved himself and so can you. That’s what we as men should do for one another. We inspire and encourage each other so u can love thyself”

Amen my brother!

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