When I was a kid back in the seventies and eighties, my old man did not have any compassion. Neither did my grandfather, and neither did any other man I ran across. Back then, you were either a man and did what real men did, or you were not. It was not a matter of real men not having any respect for you, but that they simply did not bother with you. Real men dealt with other real men, everyone else that just happened to be a male, well they just fit in where ever they could.
The irony of this is that my peers were anything but real men. Sure we were adolescents, but are you not supposed to show the traits of a real man as a young man growing into the maturity of someone that is more seasoned? This thing about kids being “emo”tional goes back a lot farther than the last decade with the hipsters and all of the weird kids that do not fit in. Young people have always been emotional, and young men, have always tried to fit in where they could. Some could be hard and did not have to show their feelings, and people respected that. Other young men had to be emotional if they wanted anyone to pay attention to them, because they would fade into obscurity.
The nineties was a generation that asked for men to show who they truly were inside. I never understood it because I always put my feelings out there, or at least I thought that I did. The truth of the matter is that it is not a matter of whether or not you show your feelings, but who you show your feelings too. A lot of women still think that you are a punk, or soft, and they get bored and take their interests elsewhere to find a man that can make them feel like a real woman. It is that simple. So a young man, well a man period, has to learn who he can show his emotions to and who he cannot.
At the same time a man has to be honest with himself about how he feels and needs to stop making himself uncomfortable in order to get a woman that is not truly for him in the first place. What I have found, is that you can be cool, calm, and collected, until you kiss that girl, until you two have sex, until she calls herself your girlfriend, until she tells you that she loves you, until she gets pregnant, until you marry her; until you reach any turning point where you try to process what has happened, and you are overwhelmed, and you are not so sure about yourself, and you turn into a punk again.
Women are simply stronger than men when it comes to managing their emotions. A woman can exhibit every emotion she is capable of, and can stay in control, and it doesn’t mean anything and a man tries to juggle a few different emotions and all of his feelings fall to the floor and bounce off of the concrete and it means everything. So I think back to the indifference of the men I knew back in the seventies and eighties, and I think about how it is today, when masculinity is everything and men care entirely too much. Are we real men, is it our decisions that make us real men, our responsibilities that we can handle, or how we show our emotions and how we can use those emotions to our advantage, which is something that women seem to be very good at doing.
I always knew that I was not going to be the typical man or that man’s man or anything remotely close to that as a kid. I was weird, eccentric, different, unconventional, and had thoughts and opinions about stuff that real men would rather keep to themselves. I think I was okay with that. I also knew that I would not have a lot of friends, or at least that is what I thought. But I grew up and I was okay and passed all of those milestones and ended up with more friends than I thought that I would have and was understood clearly, because as different as I thought that I was, there were men and women out there that put me to shame.
So as cool and self-aggrandizing and as self-righteous as my open letters to men often are, I am having different thoughts. Because it is not easy to do the right thing, it is not easy to handle your responsibilities and it is not easy exhibiting the behavior that a real man is supposed to exhibit. It sounds easy, and it is cool to hear yourself talk but at the end of the day it is behavior that is easier to give than it is to implement. You think you are okay, and then life throws you a curve ball and you realize that you are not okay.
I found out that real men have real addictions, real dependencies and real problems. Real men fall for fake women, regardless of what they like to tell everyone and how they try to impress people. Real men may not even be interested in or attracted to the opposite sex, which is an eye opener for some, but for others something you could have told us years ago. Real men are often effeminate, and do not fit the stereotypical view that people hold of a real man.
So instead of being the jerk that my old man was perhaps I should have a little bit of compassion. Perhaps I should care, as strange, uncomfortable, and “gay” as that may seem; you know, because you aren’t supposed to care about other men. Finally, perhaps I should be forthcoming with my own indifference towards my own feelings. It is better that men and women are just left to be who they truly are, instead of trying to conform to societal norms. That is about as real as it gets …