Calm, Cool and Committed

Three Moms and a Dude

Real Men

on July 30, 2012

A few days ago I got a call from a male coworker; I’ll call him J. I wasn’t expecting J’s call, but it was a welcome interruption to my gathering things to take to the dry cleaner. J and I talked for a few minutes about summer break and grad classes, and then I finally asked the question: “So what’s up J?” Translation: why are you calling me? J’s response was simple: “I just wanted to say hi and see how your summer was going.”

Freeze.

Now ordinarily there would be an awkward moment here because J’s response goes against all things masculine in America. Guys do not call each other “just to say hi and see how your summer is going.” Guys call each other for a specific purpose (dude, what time is the barbeque?), and then they get the hell off the phone. When a guy says something like “I just wanted to say hi and see how your summer was going,” the other guy panics. Suddenly thoughts of unstable boundaries run through his mind: Does this mean that my friend cares about me? Can guys care about each other? Is he gay now? Does he think I’m gay? Who exactly is Rupaul? How should I respond to this?

When J told me why he had called, there was no awkward moment. There was no panic or shattering of masculine fortresses. I just said, “That’s awesome man; thanks for callin’.” J is an exceptional man, and I think it’s great that he cares about me.

The problem is that most men are not naturally vulnerable, and yes, this is a problem. Sure, men are vulnerable with their women – baby you know I love you- but the idea of sharing his emotions with another man is not a viable option to the average dude. Throughout the course of American history masculinity has been defined by its refusal to acknowledge, experience, and God forbid, talk about emotions. In America a “real man” watches and talks about sports; a real men does yard work; a real man has it all together, and he doesn’t need anyone’s help. The problem with this approach is that it can lead to a “real man” who can’t communicate with his wife, can’t have a man-to-man conversation with any depth, and doesn’t know how to healthily process what he is feeling. Yeah, he’ll get promoted at work because he knows how to wear the corporate face for the higher ups – but everyone else thinks he’s a schmuck.

Is this honestly what the real man has become? If so, then I’m in trouble because I have a different approach. I’m not great at sports; I hate yard work; I don’t have it all together, and most days, I need help. And I don’t mean that I need help figuring out how to start my damn chainsaw, I need help figuring out how to communicate better with my wife; I need help processing the fact that my boss has never offered me any kind of affirmation; I need help learning how to deal with friendships that seems one-sided. Even with all of these emotions, can’t I still be a real man?

I love my wife, and I revel in saying it to her every day. But I also love my buddies like J – the guys with whom I play golf and eat pizza and watch the new Batman movie – and I’d like to start seizing the opportunities to say it to them as well. For the record, I am not saying that feelings should be the only topic of conversation when a few guys get together to play poker and smoke cigars. Timing does play a role here, lest there should be some campy conversations: Full house, boys! Wow Frank, I’m so proud of you…a full house…I love you.

I’m not saying that my version of masculinity is the perfect one for every guy, for every friendship, or that it’s necessarily the solution to the problem. But I do hope that it’s a step in the right direction. In the meantime, I’m going to call one of my “real man” friends just to say hi and to see how his summer is going.

-thedude

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One response to “Real Men

  1. Mea says:

    Nice! I also wish men would be more transparent and authentic!

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