Laurie Petrou gives a list of 10 things she thinks her sons (and young men everywhere) should know.
I remember reading a fantastic letter to Dan Savage in Savage Love years ago, wherein a pimply and skinny teen asked Dan for some advice on getting laid and getting a girlfriend. Dan’s advice has stuck with me ever since. Dan basically said, and I’m paraphrasing: you’re not going to get laid any time soon. In the meantime, get interesting; become the most awesome guy you can be, so that eventually, someone will love you AND want to jump your bones.
I have two young sons and scores of young men in my life. I often think of them, of their futures, of the different stages at which they all stand, in relation to their long lives. Of all the things they have yet to experience. I have many hopes for them: that they will be gentle, that they will be leaders – not necessarily in their chosen fields, but in humanity; that they will stand up for others, that they will make change and do good in the world; that they will have scores of experiences and become kick-ass dads along the way. And so, here is my advice to the young men in my life:
1. Share. Share your toys, share your food, share your wealth, share your ideas. The world is a much warmer place when we open up what we have to others. Don’t be a hog.
2. Turn it off. Turn off your ipod, your iphone, your ipad, your laptop, your tv, and whatever screen/distraction is making the person in your life say, “Are you listening to me?” Read. Write. Draw. Doodle. Learn how to use some tools, whether it’s Lego or a saw. Lift up your head, see what’s around you and make something. Be creative.
3. Get Outside. Find out about your environment. Walk around your neighbourhood, listen to the local birds, play a sport, go for a hike, a walk, a bike ride. Find a place that does outdoor yoga. Meet your neighbours. Bring the elderly ones something a few times a year: fruit, breads, your company.
4. Listen. Listen to your siblings, listen to your friends. Listen to your parents, too: don’t just wait for them to stop talking. When you meet someone who you really, really like, listen to him or her. They will find out about you in time; this is your chance to learn about others. Listen to all kinds of music: you are young at a time when all genres are at your fingertips. You may want to get a turntable also: there is just something about vinyl.
5. Develop a style. Don’t worry about wearing what everyone else wears. Find your thing. Change it up. Experiment. No matter what, we’ll all laugh at the pictures later, so have fun with it. Easy on the Ed Hardy, though, please.
6. You are not entitled. You are not entitled to touch anyone, to feel superior to anyone, to get jobs or praise that you have not earned through trust and merit. You are, by the nature of your gender, privileged. Don’t add entitlement to that as well.
7. Be humble. Your time will come. Many of your peers have been told that they are the most special person on Earth. Stand out in your humility. Credit others. Downplay your successes. Learn from your mistakes. Own up to your choices. Apologize.
8. Read. This bears repeating. Read the news, read award-winning fiction, read travel books, books about politics and music and international diplomacy. Just read. A beautiful book will have a much longer impact than those texts you just read.
9. Be gentle, be aware, be a leader, be the one who says, stop. In the wake of another example of the total disregard of a young woman at a college, it is more important than ever to coach our youth to stand up for others, and to recognize the inequalities and injustices around them. Do not be a bystander. Make change. Lead with humanity and kindness.
10. Become involved. Whether it’s in theatre or sports, local politics or an international charity, become involved. Join a band; make a documentary; write an article for The Good Men Project; try out mountain biking and make a spectacular and muddy wipe-out. Life is for living.
My wish for all of you is that you will become interesting men, and that someone will find you lovely, lovable and loving. And who knows? Maybe then they will want to jump your interesting bones.
photo by imoldman / flickr