Until I neared my 40th birthday, I never realized what not having healthy masculine role models was costing me and the women I loved.
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No one ever taught me how to be a Man. I love my two fathers, my dad and step-dad. I’m grateful to have both of these good men in my life from a young age. But it was my two mothers, my mom and step-mom, who have really been the strong leaders in my life. They held the two families together and made sure that I always knew everything would be ok. Although I wasn’t cognizant of it as a young boy and teenager, my dads were never fully present and mostly seemed to be hanging on to their strong women, my moms, for dear life. One was an alcoholic and the other primarily a fantasy with whom I interacted mostly by phone through the formative years of my life. I didn’t just grow up with disoriented fathers. I have been immersed in a world dominated by warped, immature expressions of masculinity:
- Constantly sexualizing women
- Ridiculing vulnerability
- Woman-magnet, gun-toting hero-worship
- Power-focused blame-game government politics
- Bullying from every angle
- A win-at-all-costs/winner-take-all competitive ethos
- Anti-feminine misogyny of infinite variety
Even the offensive words I learned to use as a young boy to assert dominance: pxssy, bitch, fag, crybaby, nancy-boy, coxksucker, motherfuxker. All these insults strike their blow by chopping at feminine expressions of life. We even throw around the word “douchebag.” As far as I understand, an actual douchebag helps keep a woman’s vagina clean and healthy. Why isn’t that reserved for the highest of praise rather than a tool for insult? Us and our misogynistic genital shame.
One consequence of this immature masculine ethos is that we don’t learn how to step up as mature masculine men in our intimate relationships with women. At 40, I’m only now discovering what this has cost me and the women I’ve tried to love for years. I’ve demeaned my female partners by treating them as emotionally-flawed versions of men. I’ve run away from them, fed up and disgusted, when they only needed me to stand fast and love them deeply. I’ve lied because I thought their weaker sensitivities couldn’t handle difficult truth. Little did I know, I was the one who couldn’t handle difficult truth. I’ve also used their bodies for my pleasure and then disappeared quick as I came, so to speak. I’ve failed my feminine partners in countless heartbreaking ways. I don’t mean details like paying for everything or being the one to get the car fixed or simply opening doors. I don’t believe in fixed and firm rules like this. I simply mean that no one ever taught me how to show up in my life and the lives of those around me, fully present, as a Man. I see so much of it now. My heart still breaks as I look back upon the wake of female wreckage I created in years past. Sure, they had their own growing up to do, too. Still, I see so clearly how I failed to show up for my intimate partners, over and over and over.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America — one out of every three — live in biological father-absent homes (the black father stereotype, by the way, is a myth, as black fathers are just as involved in their kids’ lives as fathers of other races). Western men are growing up more and more without healthy masculine role models. Our young boys today are in crisis. Boys successfully commit suicide at a higher rate than girls. They feel isolated and angry. They’re the only ones shooting up schools. We’re confused as ever, disoriented around the profound gifts at the core of our masculine/feminine natures. And we’re still infusing a new generation of boys and girls with stunted-growth versions of masculinity and femininity. Fortunately, we’re collectively growing more wise to this deception. Movements like Mankind Project, websites like The Good Men Project, inspiring online campaigns such as #LikeAGirl and the Dove Beauty Sketches, and more, are blowing up hurtful stereotypes by creating new conversations about what it means to be a healthy man and woman in the 21st century.
As I quickly round past my 40th birthday, the mature masculine Man in me is finally waking after decades of ignorance and pain. I feel like a giant in heart, vision, commitment, and appreciation for feminine wisdom everywhere. I’m very careful of my language, dropping any feminine-shaming slang from my vocabulary, except for douchebag, which I reserve for those doing only the highest work for humanity, like Ghandi … what an incredible douchebag!
Since no one taught me how to be a healthy mature man, I’ve had to teach myself. It hasn’t been easy, and it’s surely a work in progress. But I’m on a mission to claim a deeper wisdom that fully embraces the gifts of both masculine and feminine expressions of life.
For a healthy mature masculine man knows such wisdom is essential if our world is to ever truly thrive; which also goes for me and the woman I someday hope to fully love.
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