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“Acting like a f****t isn’t going to get you laid,” my coworker said to me, laughing.
A term sadly still heard in the hushed tones of insecure guys trying to put others down for normal behavior.
We were in the middle of a busy dinner rush at the restaurant where we both work when he said this to me then turned to walk back through the curtains dividing the dining room from the kitchen.
He walked back here just to tell me that.
Being too busy to care about anything he felt he had to say, I didn’t have time to do anything but shrug and say, “Never been a problem before,” before he disappeared back to his station in the front.
Even if I had the time to chastise him for his egregious use of the dated expletive, he’s not the type to listen. Plus, to him it wasn’t about how the sentiment was conveyed, only that I needed to know how I was acting. Which was apparently homosexual in some way. And to some guys that’s grounds for being socially stripped of your manhood. This obviously wasn’t a good strategy if I was trying to have sex with a heterosexual female. At least to him. In my mind, I was simply being myself.
At the time of this occurrence, I had been casually flirting with a new hostess that had been working with us a few weeks. We’d had a few interactions during that time, and she seemed to be into me regardless of the fact that I was apparently “acting gay.” But I guess being affable, empathetic, kind-hearted, and silly still wasn’t the way to go in my coworker’s eyes.
That was one of a handful of times that my natural behavior was noted as being too effeminate, but each time it’s happened I was left feeling confused as to the problem. And each time I was reminded of why I always feel so disconnected to other men when it comes to the pursuit of women.
Like I said to my coworker, I’ve never had much of a problem with getting a woman to be interested in me if that’s something I was actively seeking. My behavior or mannerisms never seemed to be a detriment to attracting the opposite sex.
If anything, women have always seemed to feel more comfortable and open around me than the other guys we’ve found ourselves around.
I’ve always taken that trust as an indicator that I was doing something right in how I carried myself, not as an opening in their defenses to exploit or manipulate in some way.
As I’ve gotten older and leaned more into expanding my sense of self, I’ve come to realize how beneficial it’s been for me to have always felt comfortable embracing the side of my personality that could be deemed “feminine.” Especially to other men.
The anger and hostility I see in men on a daily basis is nothing less than a clear indication of a body and soul so full of pent up emotion that it’s seeping through their pores in the form of sweaty aggression.
I see these men, these strangers and coworkers and friends, and can’t help but feel sorry for them.
I see the swirling combination of stifled expression, hostile upbringing, and a boy’s club culture that’s ever-present and slowly coalescing just under their skin. A skin they’ve battered and toughened through years of peer and familial pressures. A skin impenetrable to the necessary pinprick vital to draining that toxic brew like an angry cyst.
I already know that some men might read this and allow their blood to instantly boil simply at the use of the word “toxic.” If you happen to be one of these men reading this right now, let me ask you, what are you afraid of?
Does the idea of being wrong, of questioning yourself, of admitting you could be better really scare you so much that your automatic response is to get angry? Anger is a child of fear, so again, what are you scared of?
I can’t say I’m entirely ignorant of where these feelings come from, because I get it. I’m a guy, I’ve been there.
When you’re a young man growing up, the reinforcement you get that men need to be tough and unemotional is palpable.
Most average men can attest to seeing that state of mind and competitive nature among their own friends and classmates starting in their very early years.
I understand the sentiment behind the idea of being strong and resilient, especially as a youth. You want to be tough, you want to play rough, you don’t want to be the kid who cries when he scrapes his knee. You want to be unbreakable, unaffected by the dangers of the physical world. You want to be brave, to go first and be impressive, to set an example and be admired by your friends.
Little boys don’t know how to articulate these things in a way that allows for a healthy navigation of these desires, so they resort to what they know — physicality.
Because of this emphasis on the physicality of the natural world and their capacity to endure it, the focus of life is projected outward towards external forces. Playground status and the stories involved all stem from some sort of physical triumph. And this stays with men all their lives.
Meanwhile, their inner worlds remain neglected. Many men don’t receive physical affirmation of their feelings, so their feelings aren’t seen as nearly as important as physical prowess.
Within the framework of this kind of childhood, anything that has to do with something other than the tangible world is seen as inferior or useless. After all, there’s nothing impressive about an achievement you can’t see or touch or taste or hear or smell.
Don’t worry, guys. I know I’m generalizing. But come on, you know what I’m talking about. Do I really need to throw a #NotAllMen in here for you to feel as if I’m not personally attacking you? It should go without saying that it’s not everyone, but if you happen to be feeling something deep down when you read these things, maybe there’s more truth to it than you’re willing to admit.
Fast forward to adulthood, where the soil of your emotional garden is cracked and dry and covered in weeds. It’s unsightly, and whenever you look at it, it fills you with annoyance and a simmering rage that it’s not thriving like your neighbors.
Why should they be happy and not me? We have the same size garden, why doesn’t mine look like theirs??
That barren patch of dust and rock eventually fades into the back of your mind like a forgotten closet, accumulating cobwebs and weighing on your psyche.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t struggle with this too, and I know there’s plenty of women that can relate as well. Men and women alike neglect important issues regarding their emotional stability all the time in a myriad of ways.
I’m still well within the process of tilling the dead soil of my own garden, but I have seen a sprout or two in recent years, so I must be doing something right.
I will say this: I never really had a stereotypically “strong” male influence in my life growing up. I’ll give that fact some credit for how I am now, but only a little.
My father is a pretty mild-mannered guy. Outside of the marital spats between him and my mother, and the expected yelling over neglected chores, he never gave off the energy of a “man’s man.” He was definitely the man of the house, and we always followed his lead and respected his authority in the way any kid would listen to their dad, but I wouldn’t say he was overtly “masculine.”
Like I said, I give that early influence some credit for my more chilled-out nature as a grown adult, but only some.
The fact is, the idea of “being a man” or being a “strong, respected leader” was never shoved down my throat. But, in the same way, neither was being more emotional and receptive. I had to learn most of these things on my own and in my own way. I never had strong influences on either side of the gendered coin, so perhaps my proverbial “blank slate” made it easier for me to tap into both.
I’m sure plenty, if not most, men would tell you something different.
Whether through a domineering father putting the weight of the world on their shoulders as a child, or the lack of male influence causing them to seek representations of how men should act through popular media, these kinds of men have usually grown up with a very antagonistic approach to the world. That they are separate from it and must assert their dominance over it and the other people in it.
Because power and respect are what they’re told makes a man. Emotion and vulnerability are weaknesses, and weakness is nothing to respect.
I’m not here just to say something like, “Come on, guys. Open up! It’s okay to cry!”
Nothing so shallow.
It isn’t about something as simple as opening up about your emotions. It’s about understanding the fundamental nature of your reality.
To understand that all things exist in an inherent dualism. That life itself is made up of both masculine and feminine qualities, and to reject either side as a man or a woman is to reject an entire half of your existence as a human.
The feeling of vulnerability that comes from opening yourself up to other people and to the world is the same feeling you get when you truly understand that you are a part of nature, not outside of it. Yet, many men feel the need to assert their control over their environment out of the sense that they are not only separate from it, but superior to it.
When you see the world this way, other people resemble anything else in the inferior world around you — something to dominate and control.
Since now you see the world as inferior to you — subconsciously or not — and you want to control the world by putting it in some kind of order that pleases you personally, anything outside of your special orderly vision of how the world should operate is deemed chaotic and unruly. This includes people, women especially, and any traits in other men that resemble the chaotic qualities displayed in such women.
Essentially, what I see in men when they reject natural inclinations towards expression, emotion, vulnerability, or even childlike-wonder and joy, is a rejection of nature itself. They’re dismissing naturally “chaotic” behavior in favor of the more manageable and orderly stoicism that comes with suppressing what comes about naturally.
Not that this sort of mentality is all bad. Having a stoic control over your emotions is a great way to filter out the unimportant barrage of impulses you feel on a daily basis. Still, that being said, everything in moderation.
When I look back on all the times I’ve gotten comments about how I naturally act, I see an unwillingness in those men to see past their conqueror conditioning and simply admit their human nature, vulnerabilities and all.
One thing I’ve never understood about these kinds of guys, is that they respect famous men who act of their own accord and don’t listen to what anyone else says about how they should live. They revere men who do what they want no matter what. Even if those men are acting effeminate or outside of the normal male status quo. And yet when it comes to the men in their personal life acting how they want and being themselves no matter what, they’re put down as an odd man out. Shouldn’t my confidence in being my silly weirdo self be seen as an attribute to praise? Something to respect because I’m not following the “rules of manhood?”
Look at classic rockstars wearing makeup and feminine clothing and writing love songs. They were worshipped as gods, but your friend decides to emulate that style and you’re calling them a queer? Was it the amount of women those rockstars slept with that countered their feminine qualities? After all, those guys on stage were fashionable, creative, and danced around on stage singing about their emotions. Where is your manly disdain?
They were as chaotic as it gets, but they also knew who they were and had a purpose in life. Was there ever a better example of a man embracing both his feminine and masculine side? Jagger? Bowie, anyone?
Perhaps it’s just the male artist in general that understands the necessity of this balance. You can’t create quality art or music without tapping into the abstract chaos lurking just outside of our senses. You have to set aside your emotional apprehension if you’re ever going to open yourself up enough to let the light of creation in.
Embracing your Feminine
My coworker was giving me a hard time for “acting gay” because instead of pursuing the woman I was speaking to with a cool head and single-minded demeanor, I was being expressive in my mannerisms, receptive to how she communicated, and playful. I didn’t take it seriously and there was nothing calculated about how I acted.
I didn’t take our interactions as a “challenge” or “quest for the Holy Tail.” I didn’t let the potential for a physical encounter drown out the opportunity to connect with the human in front of me. I didn’t turn the girl into a stretch of land to conquer or a trophy to be won and forgotten on the shelves of my primal mind. I just wanted to have fun, make jokes, and flirt with a cute girl. I had no ulterior motive and she seemed to like that just fine. Most of the women I’ve ever talked to or dated have preferred it, actually. The hostess and I had actually planned on going out, but extenuating circumstances in her personal life nipped that in the bud and I’m not one to gossip.
The point of all of this is that, as a man, embracing your feminine side will take nothing away from your masculine nature that you hold onto so tightly. In fact, it will free it from being squeezed to death. You’ll be letting it breathe and grow into something more expansive and powerful.
It’s an easy formula to understand once you see it.
Nature itself is inherently feminine. Nature is the chaotic source of all things and the giver of life. There’s a reason we call it “Mother Nature,” yes?
Some people think we need to move beyond gendering the natural world, as patriarchal ideology subjugates both women and nature as inferior and controllable. I don’t agree. Just because we give ourselves the illusion of control by building strong infrastructures, we still exist at the whims of nature. This perspective also doesn’t take into account the fact that just because the men of the past have chosen to try and dominate the natural world doesn’t mean that how we’re supposed to be living.
It’s been suggested and makes complete sense to me that people who lived in hunter-gatherer societies were happier and healthier all around. So saying that we should stop gendering nature because nature is something men subjugate in the same way they do women, well, that doesn’t mean that’s what’s in nature’s best interest, only the interest of a few obsessive and insecure men. That’s saying that we should strip the world of its maternal labels because men haven’t respected those same qualities in the women that nature is associated with. But changing how we address the nature that birthed us doesn’t take away from the truth of it.
And the truth is still there. That we are children of the natural world. We were literally pieced together by ancient star dust from the dawn of time and sprung out of the dirt of this planet like an alien bacteria. We developed consciousness in such a way that allows us to be aware that any of this is even happening.
Our knowledge of our mortality not only guides our behavior but keeps us fearful of the unpredictable nature of our environment. This fear of the chaos of nature causes us to seek order and stability in which to feel safe.
When we let this need for order get out of hand, we close ourselves off to the benefits of chaos and the surprising evolutionary changes that come with it.
Men will chastise other men for acting outside of the predictable patterns they’ve set for themselves because it goes against the status quo of stability and order.
Seeing others acting chaotically or unpredictably makes them uncomfortable because it’s reminiscent of the natural world they know they cannot control.
They’ve forgotten that they are children of chaos. That they are not separate from their Mother — they are made of her.
Embracing your feminine as a man is essentially the same as saying “embrace your nature.” Because although structure and stability are beneficial for daily living, you are a creature of the natural world. You are full of chaotic potential and untapped expression. Expectation and preconceptions about how a man should act are holding you back from your full potential as a human being.
You have a living dualism within you, and once you can understand that neither side is better than the other, that they are reliant on each other and need to be tended to with equal care, you can finally let your guard down.
You can finally un-puff your chest, let go of unwarranted anger, and relax into the strength of your masculine nature as well as the open connectivity of your feminine. There is more power in your dualism than you could ever hope to attain from living so one-dimensionally.
Stop suppressing yourself and live as the multi-faceted being you were always meant to be.