Saturday, December 15, 2012

on boys and love and the power of ourselves

Back in my other life I worked as a children's bookseller. I was good. Very good. I knew my books and loved being around them. In the young adult section we had quite a few books for girls that dealt with feelings and emotions. Actually, we carried a lot of titles published to ideally 'help' girls and young women muddle through the muck that is junior high, high school, body image, and bullying. We had one title for boys. One.

I remember thinking that if only we raised our boys to be comfortable with their emotions, to be comfortable enough to be sad or to cry or to simply be sensitive or even themselves we might not need all the books we had for girls. I was in my mid-twenties and boy, was I naive.


I  do believe that if we could redefine what true masculinity is to allow our boys and young men to be firmly safe in their skin, to know without a doubt that they are boy enough, man enough no matter how "sensitive" they may be they would be stronger. We would all be stronger. Humans tend to be afraid of what they do not know or what they perceive goes against what is socially acceptable as defined by their peers and family; as influenced by television and films, and now our vast network of social media sites. All those influences tell us that a masculine man is strong, physically strong...ripped is the word we use today, handsome in a Hollywood way, a vocal and loyal sports fan...he sets cars on fire, chest bumps other fans, destroys property and picks fights with whomever is in their way all in the name of sports. Speaking of fights, a true man is an ass kicker, has a hot wife and drives an expensive car. A true man does not garden or use a crockpot, does not enjoy grocery shopping or brewing the perfect cup of tea. No, a true man only cooks exotic foods in his sparse and steel kitchen and drinks alcohol. A lot of alcohol.

Television, film and more importantly video games portray masculinity as aggressive. Aggressive, masculine men are powerful. Powerful men have the world at their fingertips. Powerful men are revered. Powerful men are not bullied. Powerful men do the bullying. And hey, it's okay because that is how it works...according to our media.

But this is wrong. So very wrong.

The most wonderful and astounding thing about people is that we are so very different in our abilities. We learn from each other, we lean on each other, we help, we buoy, and we make the world stronger. We also refuse to learn, we stand alone, we scoff, we bully,  and we make the world a sadder place. The power we have within ourselves to hurt frightens me.  The power within ourselves to help and heal is astounding. So astounding. A person who feels alone might carry a smile from a stranger for days and feel less so.  We are all on this planet together. We all have hearts that beat. We are humankind. It shouldn't be difficult to care. It shouldn't be difficult to love. Yet for some reason it is.

To cast judgment, to scoff, to ridicule a person because of who they are is a manifestation of  self-loathing or fear. I'm not speaking of dislike. Dislike happens and if all you do is think you would rather not associate with that person than you are not doing anything wrong. But, if you choose to entangle yourself in a hate-mongering campaign simply because said person drives a car you don't like, is not as tall as you or maybe taller, grows their own food, reads the bible, doesn't read the bible, makes minimum wage, has a stock portfolio or some other thing that you deem unacceptable then you need some reflection, you need to figure out how to like yourself, you need to be called out, you need to be stopped, you need to be loved.

Life is hard. Really hard. Life is especially difficult for our young men working on their ideal self on who they are. How can anyone be their true selves when their talents or desires are ridiculed? Life is also hard for our young women trying to make their way as well. I know I am leaning to the love, love, love mantra and I know that all of our children are important (girls as well as boys) but I want to really focus and put out there that our boys need our love and support no matter where their interests lie. Boys need to learn that to be manly, to be truly masculine is to be yourself. To have confidence in your abilities, to be proud of your quirks or your intellect. Stand up for yourself, stand up for others.

True men love.


  1. This post really hits home with me. Well said . . . as a mother of two sons (now adults) - I have thought this same thing so many times while they were growing up. Especially during their jr. high and high school years. I tried so hard to raise my sons to be comfortable with their emotions and with themselves and who they were. Our society does not make that easy. I remember thinking how hard it was for them during some of those years - because they would be ridiculed (even by their friends) - if they cried or were sensitive about something. I could go on and on about this - like I said - this one hits home with me. Thanks for this post and putting it out there.

    1. We are so lucky to have parents like you, Clare who DO raise their chidlren to be honestly themselves. I like to imagine the ripple effect and if enough of us can encourage acceptance then it will pay forward in ways we cannot measure.

  2. Dearest darlingest,

    I read this to Alexander just now, and he looked up at the end and said I. LOVE. THAT.
    So true, and seriously, one of the best things you have written, ever.
    I have so much hope for the swath of MANkind stretching from age 30 to age 10. I am grateful for the very existence of Joseph Gordon Levitt, and The Big Bang Theory, and all the artists and crafty guys out there in the blogosphere.
    And I am so so SO grateful to have you helping shape and support the sensitive young man growing up in our house.

    all OUR love, forever,

  3. Anonymous11:21 AM

    Beautiful words, Jek.

  4. yes! ♥


  5. Yes! Yes! Yes!
    I am raising a boy and it is my goal that should I teach him nothing else, he will know this: That he is enough. That his feelings are valid. And that there are people (so so many people) who love him JUST THE WAY HE IS.
    It helps that his dad doesn't fall into the macho-man stereotype, and that we both agree that there are no "boy things" and "girl things". There's just things.

  6. Anonymous10:24 AM

    I'm standing up, cheering loudly!!