With You

June 14, 2017 at 10:26 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

Today I’d like to talk about toxic masculinity. If you’re not familiar, toxic masculinity is a term that describes a whole range of what Wikipedia describes as “socially destructive behavior[s] among men”. In general, toxic masculinity is the idea that the way that we conceptualize masculinity in the U.S. is problematic at best.  It’s harmful to the men who perpetuate these ideas, the women who are treated as less than, and society as a whole.

Stu and I wrote a song about it!

For as long as I can remember, being called a girl was an insult, or at least teasing. Feminine qualities were not desirable, this much was clear. Unfortunately for me, at least as it relates to this conception, is that for as long as I can remember I have had plenty of stereotypical feminine qualities. When I was younger I did my best to suppress things like feeling emotional, crying, and any nurturing instincts I might have. I built walls. When I cried after we lost in the first round of Washington’s football state playoffs my senior year of high school, it was the first time I could remember crying since another kid broke my glasses in third grade. I’m sure I must have teared up at points in the interim, but going nearly a decade without a significant cry doesn’t seem healthy. I did my best to bottle up my emotional side.

I’m so thankful that one thing I did hang on to was my participation in the arts. Theatre is all about tearing down our walls. One of the reasons I wasn’t a better actor was probably because I didn’t do the real work of identifying where my trouble spots were. However, it gave me a line into and contact with people who were putting in the work of self-realization. Music has also helped keep me grounded in a more emotionally inclusive space, because it’s hard not to get emotional when you’re singing – or at least, it’s not hard for me. I’ve always been a person who feels things strongly and deeply. I’ve been fortunate to have things that have connected me to my emotions, even when I pushed back against my feelings.

Over the last several years I came to realize that not crying was the manifestation of some part of me buying into these toxic masculine notions – that crying was somehow a revelation of weakness. That notion is, of course, a bunch of bullshit. So I started practicing crying. At first, nothing happened. I would feel emotional, but I literally could not cry. I would be alone watching a movie, something sad or heartfelt would happen, tears would form behind my eyes, but nothing. It’s like when your sphincter clenches involuntarily. So I would practice letting go. Not holding it all in. Breathing into my emotions, into my feelings, into not hanging on my feelings but letting them come up naturally. Now I cry at everything, and I still kind of get embarrassed! When I say everything, I kind of mean it. I teared up during this trailer for Ferdinand the Bull. I mean, come on, he just wants to be himself. *sniff*

This is a mild example, but these things run deep. Toxic masculinity is correlated with increased rates of depression, stress, and substance abuse. It perpetuates misogyny and homophobia. It says that men have to be one way, when the reality is that men can be anything they want to be. We don’t have to trap ourselves in boxes and expectations.

This brings me to With You. It’s about the lack of intimate relationships that men often have with other men. It’s difficult to be close with someone if you can’t ever reveal your emotions. We have to work to be better, every day, to talk with our friends. Tell them we love them. Not pass on these kinds of toxic worldviews to our children. We have a long way to go, but I know where I can start.

 

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Octubre

October 6, 2013 at 8:08 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

I had big plans for the beginning of October. Closed out September in a great way with Vandal homecoming, where we picked up our first (likely our only) win of the season, saw a lot of friends old and new, and filled my heart with a swell of joy that I assumed would carry me into a great first couple weeks. 

Then, of course, life threw a curveball at me in the way of getting sicker than I’ve been in quite some time. I missed a little bit of work, and even when I didn’t I basically was sleeping at all hours trying to get healthy. My plans of beginning to train for the Vancouver USA Marathon, writing every day, and being productive in multiple facets went right to hell.

Fortunately I am starting to feel closer to normal, and so I would like to put this challenge out to myself for the world to see: I will write every day for the next two months (or, barring a post on a particular day, post an equal number of times to the days between now and December 1). It’s not an unreasonable goal by any stretch, it just takes commitment. 500 words is generally less than a half hour, assuming that I have a good starting point. So, dear world, if you don’t have anything better to do buckle up, because I will hopefully get better with practice.

The Part in Which I Actually Write Something

I saw an acquaintance from high school yesterday at Safeway. This is a person I like and have positive feelings about, but was never particularly close to. We’re not even friends on facebook (I checked. Of course I checked). In any case, we’re passing each other in the store and say hello, and it appears to me as though she’s slowing down, so I slow down and ask her some variation on that generic “How are things?”

It occurs to me that while I actually am interested in what may or may not be going on in her life, I have had this conversation (many times) where I actually didn’t really care that much but was just asking to be nice. Most of the time I really do care (or else why ask), but I realized that she may not care what I’m doing, or want to have a conversation. She told me how she was working and going to school, which is great. I think that’s where a lot of us are at right now. I did notice a bit of defensiveness in her tone, like maybe she felt she had something to prove. I understand that. I constantly feel like I need to be able to tell people that I am out changing the world, doing something fantastic, when in reality most of us are just settling into our lives or struggling to figure out how to begin the settling process. I would say for myself that I’m somewhere in between those two options. She seemed like she was in a hurry to leave, so we went our separate ways after a brief conversation.

What really struck me was how there seemed to be an undercurrent of “don’t judge me for not having things all figured out” on both sides, really. It’s a theme I’ve noticed in a lot of conversations I have had with people in the last couple years. There are a few of us who can say that we are pretty sure that we’re right where we want to be, but it seems that for the overwhelming majority we are confused, going back to school, working at jobs that are perhaps below our capacities, or some combination of all three. OR, we’re taking a path that is not traditional, or we’ve found something that makes us happy but that you can’t quantify in a way that is simple to phrase in normative societal terms. 

It doesn’t much matter to me what you’re doing, or how you’re doing it. I just hope that you’re finding some measure of happiness as we travel along in this journey together. We put the most perfect versions of ourselves out there on the web most of the time. It’s a scrubbed up and sanitized version of our lives. My life is messy. I can only imagine what other people are dealing with. 

I guess the point is to be nicer to one another, to judge less, love more. It’s really easy to say, but harder to put into practice at times. One thing I can say with relative certainty is the people I knew in high school who I have reconnected with or seen again, they’ve gotten nicer. I think as life has gone on and we’ve seen it unfold, as we’ve experienced pain and heartache and loss, it has let us become nicer people. I don’t see the jadedness as much as I see the empathy. The former is out there, to be sure, but it gives me hope for the future, that maybe we’ll all stick together and make this thing a better tomorrow. 

Good luck to all, and if you’re so inclined drop me a line. I would love to hear what you’ve been up to. 

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