Growing up a bright-eyed boy in a gendered world, I was taught early and often that being a guy meant a few things that were non-negotiable. Sadly, some of those rules caused me to miss hobbies, habits, and friendships that could have really shaped my life for the better.
When I was six years old, I attended a summer camp that was half gymnastics and half arts-and-crafts. I spent the mornings bouncing and flipping, then decompressed by making bracelets in the afternoon. I loved both activities wholeheartedly, and I leapt into each day with brio. Or rather I did until a boy from school told me I was going to a girls’ camp. I never returned.
By telling young boys that they should not do “girly things,” we not only strip them of potentially impactful past-times; we are teaching them that these traditionally feminine activities are not worth pursuing, which implicitly diminishes the value of all things associated with femininity. There has been an inspiring parenting push in recent years to allow young boys to paint their nails, wear dresses, and do other traditionally feminine things. This will ultimately lead to a culture where men are able to embrace their feminine and express themselves more fully. But what about today’s grown men, who could still benefit from a little tender love and care?
Even in adulthood, it is not too late to begin exploring things that were always off-limits throughout our upbringing. This revelation has introduced me to such novel delights as knitting, facemasks, and even the occasional skirt (call it a kilt if it makes you feel more comfortable). By opening ourselves to a more feminine influence, we are creating opportunities for learning and expression that were never possible during our strictly gendered youth.
I strongly encourage all men, regardless of age, to take a tip from your sister, girlfriend, co-worker, or daughter. Learn what they do to relax, treat themselves, or spruce things up. You might just find your new favorite thing.
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