Five Trends or Behaviours I Would Love to see North American Men Adopt
People travel for many reasons: culture, food, history, art, to relax or sight-see, to lose or find themselves, to volunteer or participate in specific events. I travel in recent years to distract myself from a broken heart. I have found the challenge of immersing myself in another culture, being distracted by everything being foreign to me, and travelling alone giving me plenty of time to think, a fantastic antidote for the narrow-minded mentality a heartache can create. The last break-up sent me to Spain for one month. It was my first trip to Europe.
One month alone gives you a lot of opportunity to observe the locals. As Thomas Jefferson said, “One travels more usefully when alone, because he reflects more.” I am most curious about couples, or men. On beaches, the subway, at airports, in restaurants, or just walking around the cities, I observed hundreds of hours of human behaviour, from hundreds of different people. I was also blessed to spend one week volunteering in Spain, in an intensive language training course, with seven Spanish men. I was able to spend many hours one-on-one talking with them, and even more hours watching them interact with other men, women, and in groups.
From this, I bring home five observations of how the Spanish men are doing it right. I have found five behaviours or trends that I would love to see my local man embrace.
1) Body Acceptance
I saw it all on the European beaches. Cheekies and thongs were the norm for the female swimsuit, and I saw plenty of Speedos or tight short shorts on the men. I saw Moms in thongs pushing strollers and Grannies in bikinis. It didn’t seem to matter the age or size of the woman, she was on the beach loving the sun, sand and surf. I saw more breasts in every shape, size, colour and age than I have collectively seen over the course of my life.
What I didn’t see were rude stares, hands cupped to hide whispers, giggles between mean girls, guys catcalling, or men ogling woman. There seemed to be much more body acceptance of all the different shapes and sizes we come in, from both sexes. The most refreshing observation was that the men didn’t gawk at the women. I watched them closely on the beach, and they were either incredibly subtle, or, my guess is, because they are constantly exposed to the female form from a young age, they don’t need to stare and gawk. They have seen it a thousand times before and they know they are going to see it tomorrow when they go back to the beach.
I think if I tried to go topless on a beach in North America all the phones would come out and hundreds of photos of my breasts would be on the internet within minutes, most replete with trollish comments. Recently a Canadian woman went topless on a beach and the police tried to arrest her; she had to point out to them that it was not illegal to be topless.
I appreciate the taut and unblemished skin of youth as much as the next person; however, I accept that aging is normal and not something to shame another for. In North America we are a youth obsessed, and fake beauty obsessed, culture. We shun the badges of experience that some wear on their shell, ironically ignorant to the fact that we too will age. There is no amount of money, tanning, waxing, exercise, Botox, chemical peels, diets, plastic surgery or facials that can permanently delay the march of time. The Spaniards seem to embrace the female at every age, or the Spanish woman simply don’t give a f**k. Not sure which way it goes, but either way, I think it’s fantastic.
It was also frankly refreshing not to see a single pair of breast implants for one month.
2) Female Breast Acceptance
The breast tolerance I have mentioned above extended to breast feeding. There is a current backlash in North America against the ridiculous notion that breast feeding is an act of witchcraft that should only be performed during a full-moon under the shroud of darkness in complete privacy. In contrast, I watched a woman get onto the Metro in Spain with babe attached to tit, in full view. I don’t know how she had the strength or balance to move about while feeding and holding her baby with one arm. It was an impressive feat and no one turned a head or blinked an eye.
The fact that there has to be a social justice movement called #FreetheNipple in North America is ludicrous. I cannot even guess what our fellow man and woman thinks of our culture when they come here from Europe. What I don’t understand about our Puritanical views of the female breast is that a lot of us are European descendants, and not far removed generationally from living on European soil. How did our culture even manage to perverse a shared gender body part in as little time as we did?
3) The Man Purse
The Murse, Sling-bag, Letter-Carrier Bag, or whatever you want to call it is just plain sensible. Woman don’t just use purses as fashion accessories, we use a purse because it contains all our essential items in one place, and it’s portable! What’s not to like about convenience and ease? My ex and my son regularly lose their keys, wallet or cell phones, while in comparison I have lost those items zero times. A pouch in some configuration that can be sealed with said important items inside is far harder to misplace that a small object that can slip between sofa cushions or fall under the bed. Most of the sling bags I saw were classy and understated, made of brown or black leather, and not too big, although I saw the occasional man with a more colourful and stylized version.
4) The Double Kiss
Oh the non-sexual affection I got from the men in the course, how I will miss it. In one week I got more non-sexual touch than I have had in the last two years outside of my relationship. The physical connection was comforting and not the least bit creepy. I found the casual touch to the arm when talking, or grabbing someone’s hand when you are excited about the conversation to be a bonding experience that increased presence between the two people. Both men and woman in Spain will greet or bid you farewell with a kiss to each cheek, usually while touching your arm or shoulder. There was also hugging, and more traditional hand shaking between men. I saw waiters touch male customers on the shoulder, sort of like an affectionate pat. While there was definitely less male to male physical contact, affection and touch between both same sex and opposite sex far surpassed the level of touch in North America.
5) Stylish Hair
The Italians might have the fashion, the English the manners, and the French the art of seduction, but the Spanish men have the most stylish hair. Whether long, medium length, or on the shorter side, style and care abounded. It was obvious that the Spanish men take more interest and pride in their locks than a lot of their North American counterparts. The norm I see in North America is the baseball cap, or the buzz cut. The norm in Spain was longer hair for men, even if it was kept on the shorter side by their standards. My favourite style, which seemed to be dominantly worn by the under 30 crowd, was the shaved sides and back, with long hair on the top pulled back tightly into a small knot at the crown, or a bunching of the hair in a loose bun. This style seemed to most commonly accompanied by neatly groomed facial hair. And it was sexy as heck. It was easy to imagine myself running my hands through it.
I have hope that this trend is surfacing in North America. On my flight home to Vancouver, BC, I saw two men with long hair pulled back into a ponytail. Then, when I was out grocery shopping in my little town, a young man at the produce stand had a thick french braid on the top of his skull, with the shaved sides and back. The reminder of the Spanish men here on Canadian soil made me happy.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, whether it is male or female beauty, but to me, beauty is so much more than the tapestry of flesh and accessories. Beauty is your caring soul shining through in how you treat others, beauty is embracing your own style, beauty is in your quiet confidence, and beauty is the sum of all things that make you, you.
“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.” – Anais Nin
Photo:Flickr/ vanessa_hutd – Resized.