Despite modern, progressive viewpoints regarding the construct of masculinity here in America; society at large is sometimes guilty of perpetuating and reinforcing stereotypes that it seemingly discourages. It is an interesting bit of hypocrisy. I found it particularly amusing when popular men’s magazines – looking at you GQ – had the temerity to lecture men about the perceived current disrepair of manhood while completely ignoring their culpability and literary sins regarding the topic. It wasn’t long ago that men’s fashion didn’t fawn over the wildly popular show Mad Men and its resident alpha male Don Draper. Mad Men – toxic masculinity personified but stylishly portrayed with critical acclaim. From the appearance of the latest GQ offerings, I surmise that it isn’t trendy anymore. Oh, how soon they forget. Now, I won’t pretend there aren’t bad actors out there that don’t represent the best of the male population. They are great in number. Yet those men have become the archetype for all things toxic, negative, and dysfunctional about men as a whole. Lost in the shuffle of a culture war (waged across social media, television, publications, etc.) revolving around gender roles and expectations; we are ignorant of a sect of regular gentlemen that is perhaps more indicative of manhood than what is portrayed in the mainstream – invisible to the general public.
Sandwiched between two conflicting arguments stands an average gentleman just trying to make the best of life. He hears the competing perspectives, but he cannot relate. It is foreign to him. What are they? Well, he cannot cry because he would be considered weak. And he cannot become frustrated because his exasperation may lead to anger, which may lead to a violent conclusion which men are intimately tied. He cannot be fearful or anxious because that may reflect indecision, and a man should be resolute and certain. Male fragility is not an option. And so we are presented with a how-to guide regarding an evolved masculinity for the modern man. Everyone has an opinion on the matter. Nevertheless, to be quite frank, a gentleman does not need to be more feminine to fulfill his potential as a man. And a gentleman does not have to blanket himself in a facade of machismo to be fully considered a man. It’s all opinion. It’s an attempt to fix what people deemed to be broken. The truth is, the only thing a gentleman requires is the freedom to be human – free of preconditioned judgment and inequitable expectations.
To be sure, emotions are not black & white, no, they are perplexing shades of complicated gray. The current pandemic will definitely tap into every one of those shades. A gentleman must understand that his emotions cannot be dictated by other people. Because the same individual that espouses platitudes about self-esteem and mental health across social media will be the same individual that casts belittling judgment. A gentleman must understand that his emotions are his own and they are valid. Your standing as a man is not predicated on the opinionated whims of the fickle public. Yes, this Fear. Anxiety. Frustration. And yes, a gentleman may be moved to tears. A gentleman should never attempt to meet expectations set forth by an individual that cannot satisfy those same expectations themselves. Reject labels forced upon you that betray your well-being. It can become mentally and emotionally draining. Allow yourself a healthy, confident embrace of your inner emotions; remain true and honest to your identity to achieve a better you.