No one told me how to be a Man

In this use of the word, Man, I’m not talking about simply growing up and adulting, though that is part of it. In this case, I’m talking about what it means to be a Man in this world, as opposed to what society told me I shouldn’t be. I was born in ’73 and so was right in the middle of the ’80s when puberty set in and had it’s way with me. That was the decade of Pop Music, hair bands, and of course AIDS. I grew up in the South (southern USA) and the long hair trend of pop culture for men was directly against the norms for the heterosexual mainstream I was surrounded by. Those around me were vocal about what wasn’t considered manly, but I was never told how to be a man.

This was true for me and I’d be interested in knowing if it was true for most others. In today’s world of the internet and instant answers (be they right or wrong), if you want to know something you can look it up! Social issues and gender roles are in the main stream vocabulary now and not just being yelled from soapboxes by ‘outsiders’.

In fact, if you Google “how to be a man” you’ll get articles and lists. How to act like a man, or things every man must be able to do. It used to be the only way you learned “how to be a man” was from other men, but it wasn’t like a class or a book that was handed out. You learned from trial and error, from disapproving stares or physical violence.  And the rules never seemed to make sense, especially since they were learned from observation and without explanation.The modern world is much better than it used to be, but it could still use some work. The media, men’s magazines and product manufacturers are out to make money, not to care about you.  Buy this car, drink this beer, and you will be manly.

I was lucky. I had a great father that was everything a father should be. He led by example and never seemed to show doubt in making a decision. He was my Superman and I’m forever grateful for that.  He didn’t realized that the things that he taught me that meant the most weren’t intentional lessons. It was a hundred different behaviors observed by a boy of how a man should be, how he treats others and how he moves through this world. Even in the public restroom.

I had an interesting conversation with a woman regarding the different rules for men vs women in public bathrooms. Did you know men aren’t supposed to talk in the bathroom? Unless it’s really necessary, talking is frowned upon and discouraged.  Now all the ‘unwritten’ rules of the men’s bathroom have actually begun to be written down. Google is your friend and you can look up and read all the weird things that guys both tolerate and perpetuate in regards to the bathroom. It is the underlying reasoning behind all this that is more important. The society of men we live in today actually frowns upon men having any kind of intimate emotional connection for fear that it is seen as homosexual or resembles anything a woman would do.

It’s really sad, if you think about it. To define your gender based on ignoring part of your self or restricting your behavior is nonsense. If you want to be a whole person then you need to give voice to all of yourself. All of your feelings, emotions, thoughts and desires need to be known to you. To bottle any part of it up, or ignore it, is to deny a fundamental truth. Life is just better when you are your authentic self.

For Me, being a man isn’t just an end point. It is a process and a journey. I thank my father and the men that came before me that did their best, both by teachings and examples. For me, Being a Man is about How you move through this world.

~Trevor Jones