I am a firm believer that masculinity is a feminist issue. You might think it’s not but the ideals and ideas that men are brought up with affect women so much as daughters, sisters, partners and friends to these men. As a son, how your father treats your mother and sisters often affects how you will treat women, and as daughters, how we are treated by our fathers often affect our future relationships with men.
In some societies masculinity can be enhanced not only by the car, job and social status but also the number of women one can juggle at the same time. It isn’t a pretty look at things, but it is an idea that has been passed down through the generations, perhaps not so much in spoken terms, but in the respect that is given to these men. My father was such a man, and I’ve been one of those women. Now I don’t see myself as a victim of a patriarchal society but I must admit that my views were influenced by what I saw around me. The idea that a man would mess up and that it was a woman’s job to forgive, stay and carry on as if all was dandy was deeply rooted in my mind. If a woman messed up however (talked back/put on weight/worked too much) it would be valid grounds for a man to walk out or find someone else, this not just as a partner, but as a daughter as well.
These views, coupled with the behaviour I saw from my father and my experiences with relationships had done my head in. So, I threw in the towel. Of course I got into these types of relationships because I thought that they were what relationships were meant to be like. Nobody was to blame but myself. The situations you find yourself in are situations that you think you should be in. To stay, go, or re-evaluate your views on things is your choice.
To be honest, I wasn’t into re-evaluating anything. I just wanted to throw in the towel, practice yoga, sit at home with my cat, watch chick-flicks and reruns of Will and Grace, write and have nothing else to do with the dating scene. Read: I was a big chicken who blamed men for all the problems of the world and thought that the only way to be safe was to be alone.
Of course, what happens when you step away from things is you get to really look at them. So much of modern dating is based on that first impression, the initial spark. Taking a time out means ignoring any sparks that might come about, and being able to look at the person causing these sparks. Some days, you meet a new friend, while other days, it’s just like a match that struck once and blew out. What happens when you put your own spark out is that the people who come into your lives are allowed to just enter without any ulterior intentions.
Somehow in my desire to have nothing to do with men, I met men. Really met them. Yes, most of them are gay. My dear friend Ingrid even jokes that if I’m all over a guy and I say that I love him, chances are he’s gay. Gay, straight, slightly bent, don’t have the necessary parts, if you want to be, then you’re a man.
Beautiful people appeared – fathers, brothers, sons, husbands, lovers and friends, all trying their best to find a way. We say men play games, but we do too. We’ve all fallen victim of social ideals of playing it cool and we’ve been hurt before so we play it safe. Bloody rules about women not being the first to text or call, or not texting for three days after a date and not replying because it might make you seem too keen. What on earth? It’s driving us into thought instead of emotion. Sure, some concentrate so much on not getting hurt that they hurt other people, but there are people who are just built more resilient than others. Men, women – so many still have the courage to put themselves out there again and again, to communicate even when they don’t know how and to love even through the toughest times.
I met good men. Great men. Men who try their best to take care of the families they love, who take the time to sit alone getting to know themselves, and stand comfortable in their own skin. They speak to women like equals instead of possessions and every day they make me laugh and smile. There have been conversations that have sparked ideas, after which I have gone home and had a lot to think about and there have been some who have made me step out of my complicated thought processes and made things really simple.
Most of all, I have learned that not all men will either walk away or make it about them when you are upset or distressed or had a little cry. There are some who stay close enough and when you’re done with your own process, just take you in their arms and hold you for as long as you need.
So, as much as an exploration, this is also a ‘thank you’ to the men I’ve met in the last couple of years. I know I have days when I am less than charming and can be a bit unfair at the male population, but thanks for being there for me through these trying years. Sometimes I think we have complicated things so much with our thought processes that we have to separate things into these long winded categories, break it down into tables of what is what and create pie charts to the point where we don’t know which end us up with our emotions, and we can’t just be. The truth is, we are all constantly relearning new ways of being and we should all give ourselves some credit for trying. As you question your masculinity, sometimes I question my femininity, but that is fine as our roles are continuously changing.
Perhaps it is this community that we are in, that allows us without judgement to continually explore has something to do with it, but in all my life, the people who I’ve met in the last couple of years have been most exceptional and I am thankful for you all. And maybe it isn’t that complicated after all.