I recently was privileged to read The Art of Masculinity by Lasara Allen and was left feeling a bit confused by what I read. It seems, to me, that women themselves aren’t even sure what it is they want in a man. The article left me saying to myself, “yeah, that’s what you say you want, but what you do is completely different.”
Now, let me first disclaim that I am generalizing here. When I say “women” I am speaking of my own experience with the women I have known or do currently know. When I say “men” I am speaking of myself and most of the men I know. This is not, of course, a scientific dissertation based on known widespread data.
First, let me say that I see “masculinity” as Yin to “femininity’s” Yang. The two only truly exist for each other. I would doubt that any men I know would consider me anything less than a “man’s man”. I am physically strong, not easily frightened, mentally sharp and a rather big guy for someone who has never taken a steroid. I can swing a sledge hammer and wield a pen with equal aplomb. I’ve been in my share of fights in my youth, been an athlete, and can be rather intimidating if I choose to be. I fight fires and perform rescue work with a shear intensity given to me by God and experience. These are things that men (and some women) would consider “manly” to say the least which would seem to make me quite adept at the “Art of Masculinity” to them.
In the case of my relationships with women, let me suggest to you, the reader, that masculinity is, in itself, a direct relationship with femininity. It seems women are describing this “masculinity” through their own feminine perspective and until women themselves can define what the feminine perspective is we men will always be confused about what it is we are supposed to do to please our partners. Our mothers couldn’t even truly teach us what masculinity is because they had no real idea what femininity was. To their part, our father-figures (for those of us who had such a beast) basically just shrugged their shoulders in quiet surrender to their utter confusion.
The First Myth – The Lost Art of Strength?
Um, excuse me. As an adult I’ve never been confused for a sniveling wimp and doubt I ever will be. However, women somehow believe our sharing control with them as a loss of strength. The issue I have with the “boat drifting off course” analogy is that a woman’s idea of “off course” and ours is sometimes completely different. If I see my woman is having a hard time, I will attempt to help and if she doesn’t want or need it I will step back. My role is not to lord over her like some Master because she is incapable, it is to be her partner and be there when she needs me to be.
[Hint: This may involve the Lost Art of Communication, which we will explore later]
It also fails to recognize that there are many boats in the water in a real relationship. I pilot some, and she pilots others while yet others we pilot together. If I see her struggling, I will try to step in and expect the same from her. Yet, how many times have we men (and you women) have stepped in to help only to get a swift (and proverbial) kick in the pants for the attempt? It’s a tricky course that usually involves an apology, and sometimes great make-up sex after the fact. I can say that I’ll if great make-up sex is part of the equation I may step on my woman’s toes from time to time just to get there.
Yes, I am kidding. Kind of. :-)
I will say that I have never been asked to make a decision where I wasn’t willing. Yet, I often will want, and demand, my woman’s input. I am not her daddy just as she is not my mommy. We are partners in the experience, and I want a partner, not some sniveling noodle afraid to tell me what she thinks, when she thinks it, and how it is being thought. It’s how trust is fostered between a man and a woman, and it is how the threads of a relationship are exercised. It’s not about roles being played in household, it’s about being an active and trusted partner in the relationship with your man. So, if I happen to say, “No honey, it’s okay. You decide.” it is because I mean it. I want you to decide.
If this understanding creates a thought that somehow I am afraid of “being a man” allow me to say one thing. When you need a strong, capable man you will find few others stronger. Yes, I would die for the woman I love. I’ve said this to someone I care for very much once and I meant it with every fiber of my existence, “I may be non-violent in a Gandhi kind of way, but I will kill a motherfucker who messes with you.”
In other words, I see strength as being able to be a thoughtful, considerate, caring, passionate, and loving partner while still being able to do what is necessary to make sure you are cared for, comfortable and safe. I can, and do, help everyone I can in a loving and compassionate way but no one would ever mess with or try to harm my woman. Then non-violence would dissipate into a swift non-proverbial kick in the ass.
Strength also means I trust her with my life. That takes great strength for most of us. As the article correctly points out, we men have trust issues for the most part. Now, while the article wants to blame the non-existent male figures in our lives, allow me to suggest even for a moment that simply is not close to absolute truth. Instead, let me suggest that the women in our lives up to this relationship have done a lot of fucked-up things and taught us that women were not be to trusted. Sure, we don’t trust men because we realize from our experience that most men would fuck a fence post if it had a hole in it, but we also don’t trust women. Either we have seen them tear the heart out of strong men who dared put faith in them or we have experienced it (and, for some us unlucky types, we have experienced both).
We are used to being self-reliant because we were taught that we were the only ones we could trust. So, we want to trust you with our lives, and if this means that we may, from time to time, suggest that it’s okay for our women to make a decision it is an exercise of a trust that may have taken us a long time to foster. Enjoy it ladies, it is your man being vulnerable and proving to himself that his trust is well-placed even if it is tantamount to our putting out toes in the pool before jumping in. It’s not about you “taking responsibility” for everything, it is about our intense desire to trust you.
Chivalry is Not Dead Until You Kill It
I was once taught by a well-meaning female friend that chivalry was not dead, it had just been redefined. Chivalry was no longer (apparently) about showing off your manliness by opening a door for a woman, it was about being strong enough to allow her to do it for you or, more importantly, for herself. Look, if we are going to define our relationships (and what masculinity is) by whether or not I rush to open a door for my woman we are doomed. I will do it whenever I can, but don’t put my credence in my manhood on whether or not I keep my “batting average” in this regard high.
I will always give my woman my coat if she is cold, and would rather be soaked to the bone and freezing if it means seeing her dry and warm. That’s me. I would want to fix her broken window or take her car to get an oil change too. I want to pay for dinner when we are on a date, but understand that some women want to share the cost. I would suggest to any woman who would challenge me here that it is much harder for someone like me to share the bill (I pay for the movies, her for the popcorn) than it is to pay for the whole thing. Yet, part of my chivalrous nature also means trying hard not to interfere with my woman being herself, and if that means paying for some of the date than so be it.
I would also suggest that most would not be very happy with the results of saying anything inappropriate about my woman. It is my nature to not accept such behavior in idiots, er I mean people, and it is very hard for me to overcome the anger generated by such stupidity, er I mean activity. In fact, I have never had that happen to me even though I am sure I’ve been with women who certainly deserved it. I can honestly say I have never had a man or woman speak poorly of any woman I have been with as long as I’ve been with them.
I can also say quite honestly that I don’t know any man who would accept that behavior from others.
I can also say with some concrete certainty that I would give my life to save my woman. This isn’t male chest-pounding from me. See, as a firefighter I have put my life in jeopardy for far less than the person I love so I can say with a very deep conviction that I would die for my woman regardless of the circumstance. I know I could just close my eyes, see her smile and take whatever harm would come my way for her. I may have a tear in my eye in doing it, but I that is just the love I have in me coming out at it’s moment of clarity.
Oppps, did I just say something that would put my manhood in question? Sorry, I do that quite a bit because putting myself in harms way also means putting myself out there for her to see. Harm doesn’t just mean taking a bullet for her, it also means risking her judgement by pulling out parts of me only she will see. To me, that is far more risky of an endeavor than taking a bullet because it is far more likely to result in harm to me. I open myself to her, fully and completely, and sometimes at my own peril.
The Lost Art of Romance
Since I am replying to the article cited, I must answer this even though I agree with it completely. I have to say this though, and ladies please listen to this point.
We men certainly have not been taught by our fathers the fine art of romance. We also have not been taught this by our mothers (wouldn’t it be creepy if we were?). We need some help here. Tell us what you want, tell us what you need. We will respond because we honestly do love you. Give us time to develop perfect timing and understanding. Give us ideas as we won’t need constant reminding. Do this early in in our relationship if you can and reap the rewards forever. “You reap what you sow” is a very true axiom here. I want to make you happy, I want to make you feel wanted and needed and everything else you want. Not because you want it, but because I want to give it to you.
Yes, the surprise here is that most of us men want to make their women happy. This does not mean giving away our masculinity, it means expanding it to include your femininity. It means being strong and chivalrous and romantic because we love you and no one else. That leads me to the point I’d like to interject…
…The Art of Communication
I could easily believe that I could have started with this section and not had to write the rest of it. Still, what would have been the fun in that?
Women, you confuse the living piss out of us men. You will tell us everything in the The Art of Masculinity and then tell us that you don’t want us responsible for your happiness. You will share with us all the masculine things you need from us and then not allow us to exercise that masculinity. You will tell us how you love our exposing our vulnerability while not exposing an ounce of your own. You will tell us how you want us to take the lead and then tell us how you don’t want to need us at all.
And you will reject us for being who we are and then tell us how “unmasculine” we are for being someone else. Amazing dynamic this relationship thing provides!
In other words, you often act like our mothers and then tell us you don’t want to be our mommies. Guess what ladies, we don’t want our mommies, but if you are going to act like them we can’t help but slip into that role. Love us, dammit, and let us love you. Need us and let us need you. Stop working so hard to prove you are strong by forcing us out. We know you are strong, for some that is why we love you. You can stop proving it by stripping away our masculinity, making us question our value, and then informing us of our failure for following your lead.
The best relationships I have ever seen come from two people who want to need, depend and trust one another. Anything else is just bullshit and an excuse for failure. If you want to be loved, than fucking accept love. If you don’t, then stop whining about how men aren’t masculine and want to be mothered. We love you, and if you don’t love us back we will fail you because you have helped us there. We will take over the boat and you may not like where we take it. This is not a threat, it is an observation and something that can be proven over and over again.
[I remove male assholes who just can’t help being assholes from this equation. I am talking about real men here. Assholes will take the ship where you don’t want it because they have no idea how to drive.]
And please, for the life of me, stop telling me how I can reclaim my masculinity while you are telling me how horrible my masculinity is. Allow me to accept you even if I take issue with you from time to time. Allow me to know you in ways no other human can. Don’t talk about love, BE LOVE. Don’t talk about wanting a man, let the man in your life BE THE MAN. Stop wasting life on fear and start spending it in Love. You’ll be surprised what you find.
For me, well I am a rock. I am a strong, warrior type who loves strong, warrior women. I just don’t need strong, warrior women who treat me like the enemy. My woman must talk to me and, more importantly, show me things. She can’t leave me to guessing. Talk is cheap, it’s in the actions we find truth.