It’s startling to watch as an increasing percentage of men attempt to engage life without a sense of what it means to be men.
In many cultures, boys participate in highly intentional ceremonies that mark their transition into adulthood. But for most males in the U.S., it isn’t clear when they’re assumed to have become men. Is it when they’ve left high school? Reached drinking age? Earned a college degree? Become married? It must not be, because many men still don’t feel like men even after reaching these kinds of landmarks. In fact, even when they have kids of their own, men wonder how they got there and how to get on with life as fathers when they aren’t sure they’re fully grown up themselves.
Part of the dilemma is a lack of awareness of what it feels like to be a man. Nowhere have they been taught that there’s more to it than casual stereotypes. Men who rest on their physical prowess or their ability to initiate and take risks have difficulty translating their boldness to human relationships, and thus find themselves oddly lonely. Men who gravitate toward others and excel in relationship often shun their own physicality and find themselves deferring to others constantly–in an effort to be “nice.”
I don’t think that masculinity involves a choice between these two extremes. They both can exist in a single person, and each gives the other meaning. But embracing both usually means giving something up that seems very valuable. I’ll flesh this out more in a later post.