Keep your feelings inside. No one wants to hear it.
I would often end my day behind my closed bedroom door – a little music to soothe the soul or join me in my angst and pain, an imaginary friend to talk to, a pillow to hide my face in BUT no one to talk too. At least I felt that way. No one told me that my feelings were okay and from what I could tell, it just wasn’t the manly thing to do. No one offered to be a mentor or guide and so I retreated or kept it bottled up deep inside.
You like art? You’re a freak.
There were a few of us in art class who could paint, draw, or sculpt real well. We would imagine and create and when our projects were complete, we would feel a momentary flutter of self-worth and sweet happiness. Our short-lived feelings of accomplishment would soon be met with stares from the other boys. They’d shake their heads, whisper to each other and walk away. The teachers and a couple girls would notice and that was cool, but why did our artistic triumphs often feel like effeminate travesties?
Don’t hug your friend. People may think something.
They were my buddies. We loved to hang out, share and confide in each other. We would enjoy a quick physical spar but when we needed a shoulder to cry on, an embrace to comfort, or a goodbye to be remembered, we would retreat from the two arms clasped thing. Moms were for hugging, although there came a day and time when even that felt awkward. And a hug from an older guy? Although it may have been strengthening and life building, it was just creepy or so we felt, or were told, or maybe no one ever really cared that deeply?
You want to wear what? Jewelry is for girls.
I know some of it may have been my religion but I always felt that jewelry was for girls. I would admire the arm and ankle bracelets, earrings, and necklaces but knew it just wasn’t the “macho” thing to do. “Wear a wristwatch and a tie” is what we learned along the way. I remember wearing my neon rubber bracelets around my ankle a couple times (beneath my socks so no one would know). Although they were hidden from everyone else, I knew and they made me feel good about myself. Why did I have to keep my outward ornaments hidden? There were names I never wanted to be called.
Sex is dirty. Don’t talk about it.
Boy oh boy, do I wish there would’ve been someone in my life to tell me about God’s beautiful gift of sex. I liked girls, in fact things felt “all funny” whenever certain girls would pass my way or say my name. Like any boy, I was curious and I wanted to know BUT there was no one to talk too – no one to answer the questions I had on my mind. And if there was? I’m not sure I would have shared those thoughts because I was taught sex was dirty. Maybe real men just ignore it? I couldn’t and the public library is not the best place to learn about God’s wonderful design and one of man’s greatest pleasures.
In some form and in some way, we have all learned some cruel lies about our masculinity. My essay wasn’t shared to endear some unfelt empathy but is more like a heralded call – a challenge to all the men and fathers out there to be real and vulnerable and teach our boys that:
- Men have feelings too and there’s someone who’d love to listen.
- If you’re an artist, don’t be ashamed. Some of the world’s greatest masterpieces were created by men.
- It’s okay to hug your friends and no matter how old you get, my arms are ready to show you I care.
- Jewelry is just one way to creatively express who you are. Don’t wear the adornments to gain attention, but your always welcome to show a little uniqueness or pizzazz.
- Sex is a beautiful gift from God. Pull up a chair son, let’s talk. I’d rather you hear it from me.