Why are we as men letting everyone else define what sort of men we are?
I have a friend of mine, Being Caballero, who has made it his passion to study all things gentleman across both time and country. He asked for my take on something the other day; is there anything modern about the modern gentleman? He has quotes from 1000’s of years ago of Romans and Greeks conversing about the demise of the modern man so he wondered if the “New” man even exists. It’s actually something I have been thinking about for a while, hovering around my mind, waiting for a time when I was ready to work out who the person I should be and the person I am started to merge. So I asked him who was asking the question, who wants to know if someone is a modern gentleman. Who wants to know because as far as I can tell it’s the expectations, the needs and wants of others, that drive the definition of manhood and not our own internal needs, wants and desires?
So is it you that is asking the question? Am I a modern gentleman? When you construct your yardstick to determine if you fill the mold of a modern gentleman what are you trying fill? Are you trying to be strong, fit, healthy, brave, an alpha male with a touch of compassion, someone who leads by example but understands not everyone can follow, and whatever else you have on this list that makes a modern gentleman? Do you want to be strong, fit and healthy because it helps you with your life, because it helps you achieve your dreams and goals? Or do you want to be these things because that is what you think others expect a man to be, that you can’t be a man if you aren’t these things? Do you want to be an alpha male, a leader, because you can’t achieve your passions without those that follow? Or do you want to be these things because the alpha male, the leader gets the best of everything, that to succeed with a woman then that’s who you have to be?
Think carefully when answering those questions. If the answer is you are doing it because this is what you need in your life then there is a good chance it isn’t connected to your manhood, no, it’s connected to your core self, your true self. If you find you are doing it to fit in, to look good in the eyes of others, because this is what you think they expect of a man, then yes what you’re are doing is connected to your manhood. But it isn’t your definition of a man; it’s the definition that you think others require a man to be.
What if it is someone else asking this question, where are the modern men, why have they failed us, why are the men these days not as good as the men who have gone before. I’m a man but I worked out a little while ago that I’m not responsible for other people’s expectations. I never agreed to be the man who saves Samaritans while holding the door open for women. I never agreed to a heck of a lot of things society expects of men, and most men, they never agreed either. Society is very lucky that most men willingly take up those expectations – the provider, the workhorse, the hero, the protector and such. These roles are largely invisible but in the past those roles were at least respected. Now we have expectations without respect and strangely men aren’t bothering to meet those expectations anymore. It’s almost as if they don’t want to meet expectations that aren’t respected, that being lauded as a stupid, rapist, Neanderthal, sexist man doesn’t seem to encourage them at all.
Has the modern man disappeared, is he failing, or is the respect for the things he does no longer there? If you are asking this question, are men really men, then think carefully. When was the last time that you were grateful for the garbage men, when were you appreciative of the men who die at 20 times the rate of women doing some of the most dangerous jobs society has. When were you understanding of the work your father/husband/son/friend does for those around him, or had you only noticed the things he didn’t do? Have modern men stopped doing, or has everyone else stopped seeing? If the same question has been asked for 3000 years then I suspect the eyes of hindsight have better vision than the eyes facing the present.
So to the men reading this, how do you escape modern manhood to become a man? I found my own path but it’s not a path many will likely take. I don’t try to be a man. I try to be good because I believe you get out what you put in and someone has to start. I try to be strong so I can carry my kids on my shoulders. I try to be fit so I can dance and bush-walk, things which I enjoy. I try to be a leader because there is so much wonder I want to show people. I try to be brave because I don’t want fear to hold me back. I study because one day I have places I want to be. I write because it’s my release valve. I no longer care if those things meet the definition of manhood; I do them because they are important to me.
Yet escaping the trap of doing something purely to become a man has a price. I’m weird, people don’t particularly understand my motivations, I don’t always do what they expect and socially that has a cost. People want you to fit in, to conform, but that mold doesn’t fit me and I find it uncomfortable. I try and do what’s best for me and mine now, I don’t always succeed, sometimes it is easier to let society pick your path, but mostly I try to do things that are right for me. It’s taken me a while and it hasn’t been an easy path but the mold of modern man almost strangled me. So am I a man, well I escaped, I no longer worry about whether I’m a modern man, I just try and be me and find the things that work in my life. This is the sort of man I want to be.
In a strange twist of serendipity this video came across my Facebook feed as I was editing this article. Listen to what she wants from men. To find a man who changes tires, light bulbs and oil. Why, why does she need a man with those skills, these are things she can learn for herself. A man who isn’t scared of the dark, I’ve yet to meet a man who doesn’t have fears, or does she mean a man who doesn’t show his fear, keeps it bottled up, someone who would die on his white horse before he would fall off? Men with jobs or who don’t use their parent’s credit card. Does she mean a job that pays more than hers because she won’t date down? In all that she asks for boys to become men not once does she pause to wonder what do these “boys” want. What do these “boys” need? I wonder if these “boys” have stopped listening to the endless list of expectations too.
Photo: Getty Images
*A minstrel was a medieval European bard who performed songs whose lyrics told stories of distant places or of existing or imaginary historical events. Although minstrels created their own tales, often they would memorize and embellish the works of others. The Modern Minstrel observes the world around him and shares it with us as lyrical story. This series was inspired by Luke Davis, whose eye for story and ear for lyrical prose are featured here.
Also by Luke Davis
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