My Own Type of Masculine
Originally Published: November 5, 2015
Revised: October 21, 2016
Guys are supposed to be muscular and unemotional with the charisma of a fairy-tale prince charming. At least, that’s what I’ve been told. To be masculine, a man needs to be dominant, powerful and in control: the love child of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Leonardo DiCaprio and Fight Club’s Tyler Durden.
I’m 5’ 6”. I will never be The Rock. I will never be as good of an actor as Leonardo DiCaprio, and I don’t think I’ll become a fighting figment of someone’s insomnia-driven psyche. I’m a regular old dude, and that’s OK.
I have realized that masculinity is not something that someone achieves by following others. Each person’s masculinity is as unique as his fingerprints. If everyone had the same narrow set of characteristics, the world would be pretty bland.
Masculinity is something that is different for each one of us, and what it means is unique to each person
Real Guys Play Football
It’s really easy to do what you think you should do in order to be viewed as “a man.” In the first two years of high school, I did contact sports, such as football and wrestling. It was fun, but I never truly had a passion for it. I stuck with the sports because it satisfied my desire to be accepted by other dudes. I felt like I needed to be part of this unspoken clique of guys so that other people would associate me with them. I wanted other people to see me like they saw all the other guys—a force to be reckoned with, not just another outlier void of all masculine energy.
The testosterone-driven conversations I had with these guys typically revolved around girls and sex and more sports. And there’s nothing wrong with it, but it made me too afraid to speak out and introduce a new topic. I was scared that if I asked them if they saw the last Harry Potter movie or listened to the new Lana Del Rey album, they would make fun of me for liking “girly” things. I felt pressured to talk about things that they were talking about and could only imagine negative scenarios if I strayed away from what the group was talking about. I didn’t like feeling this way; it wasn’t an environment that allowed me to be myself freely.
I realized that I didn’t need to be surrounded by guys playing sports to feel good about myself, which helped me develop my own sense of masculinity. At some point, I just hated the thought of going to practice. I didn’t want to spend hours in the beating sun, practicing an assortment of plays that I wouldn’t even perform outside of practice. I rarely ever stepped foot on the field, and all I really did for the team was consume space. They didn’t need me on the team, and I was OK with that. Why did it matter? It didn’t. I decided football just wasn’t for me, and I quit.
I didn’t rejoin the football team, and none of my former teammates ever badgered me about it. They didn’t miss me, but they didn’t make fun of me for it either. I always assumed that leaving the team would mean that I quit, that I wasn’t committed enough and that I was less of a man. But the guys still said “hey” in the halls. We still cracked jokes and shook hands with each other; they still viewed me as just another dude, as an equal.
How I Define Masculinity
For the last two years of high school, I’ve been running my debate team, and it really helped me develop my character and learn what I like. The team required constant care, and I loved helping them. I would conduct practices, attend league meetings, go to tournaments, encourage my teammates and critique their work and skill. I took pride in my status as a leader. I cared about my team. This wasn’t like football because my athleticism didn’t matter. I was using my mind, and I was doing things that I wanted to do. My energy was going towards something I felt passionate about, and I didn’t feel like less of a man because of it. The Rock lifts weights, and I flip notebook pages. And that’s OK.
Currently, I associate masculinity with comfort and confidence in my preferences and with a desire to learn new things. New things like knitting, for example. Knitting is cool, OK? Why wouldn’t you want to learn how to make your own scarf? I went out of my way to buy a spool of yarn and some knitting needles, and I made the coolest scarf ever. I didn’t enjoy the long process of knitting, but I did like learning and I did like the end product of a homemade scarf. And I feel no less masculine! In fact, I feel even more masculine because I acted upon the impulse to make a scarf, committed myself to completing it, and proudly tell others that I know how to knit.
The Answer Comes From Within
Contrary to what you might hear from some people, there is no code for masculinity. Plenty of people will tell you that to be a man you need to go to the gym or learn how to change a tire or know the sport of football or baseball or basketball or hockey or lacrosse or soccer or tennis or cricket or swimming or cycling or fishing or quidditch. But whoever tells you that is full of bologna and just wants you to believe in what they believe in. Thinking in absolutes creates limits, as if there is only one way to “be a man.” These limits are counterproductive and shouldn’t determine what you do to feel like a man. Regardless of how you identify or your sexual orientation, there isn’t an instruction manual that can tell you how to be a man—what to say, how to act and where to spend your time. The answers come from within you.
Masculinity is something that is different for each one of us, and what it means is unique to each person. Dwayne Johnson is a man, and he can probably bench press entire fire trucks. Leonardo DiCaprio is suave enough to steal a bride from her own wedding. Tyler Durden gets into bare knuckle fist fights. I can’t and don’t want to do any of these things. I’m my own type of masculine and that’s OK.
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