I just wrote about masks several days ago and this morning I read about a Kickstarter campaign for a documentary on how we’re failing our boys. I find this documentary fascinating because I have yet to see a good definition of what masculinity is. Yet, I’ve experienced when I’ve fallen short of that definition throughout my life.
We hide behind a mask of supposed masculinity lest anyone find out about our anxieties. We stay stoic and unemotional lest anyone see our vulnerability. (Then we wonder why others find us unapproachable.)
I can’t define what masculinity is either. Yes, I can offer examples and there are those in my life who I believe are good models for masculinity. The common thread I see in these models is a paradox of masculinity.
The first paradox is to be strong yet vulnerable. There’s much to admire about strength. It took many lessons for me to understand that I can be vulnerable and strong at the same time. We need more models of this.
Another paradox is to be fierce yet compassionate. Fierceness is about staying determined and focused toward my goals. Fierceness doesn’t mean climbing over everyone else in order to get to my goals. We can be both focused and compassionate but there are so few models on how to behave in this way. I’m still learning.
Masculinity is about being stable yet emotional. I know I’ve often thought these these two concepts were mutually exclusive – nothing is further from the truth. Stability and courage go hand in hand with fright and anxiety. I’m learning, sometimes with great challenges, that it’s possible to be both strong and stable for myself and for others while also accepting my own fear and anxiety.
Finally, men are primal yet tender. Yes, we can express ourselves in a raw primal way. At the same time we can be tender, caring and affectionate. Testosterone is a powerful drug. It can, and often does, make us crazy, angry, and very very horny. At the same time, we can learn to balance those primal feelings with tenderness.
I believe that these are some key lessons in masculinity.