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.
Are men really men anymore? It’s a simple question that arrives unquestionably with a complex answer – if indeed there is an answer at all. I’m writing about this subject as I recently read Why Men Aren’t Really Men Anymore and the counter article A Response To “Why Men Aren’t Really Men Anymore”. So, I have decided to toss a couple of cents into the conversation. I am not a psychologist, so I cannot expertly analyze what and what does not make a man nowadays. Therefore, I will simply put forth, at least in my head, what a man should be. I won’t compile a laundry list right now, so perhaps I will present a different concept every now and again. So, what are some of the traits and characteristics that make a man…a man? Let’s begin begin with just one.
A man, or maybe even more specifically – a gentleman, should feel empathy and sympathy. A gentleman exudes the necessary strength when he understands that his partner requires the appropriate emotional and mental support. The comprehension of another person’s feelings and viewpoint is not foreign to him. He retains the capacity to deftly identify and recognize an individual’s emotional state. He doesn’t try to fix anything. He simply attempts to understand, to relate, to listen. Case in point: Late last year, there was a death on my wife’s side of the family, and as her husband, I had to be her rock. As the funeral home was preparing the casket to be lowered into the ground, my wife noticed a few smudges on the exterior, most likely from the hands of the pallbearers. Nonetheless, it bothered her.
Given I had experienced the death of a grandparent myself, I completely understood how the smallest thing could be magnified exponentially. It didn’t matter what I thought. It didn’t matter what the person next to my wife thought. The only thing that mattered was the smudge. Quietly, I removed my cotton handkerchief from my jacket, excused myself from my wife’s side, and I began to wipe away the errant fingerprints from the casket. Being a man…you simply do what needs to be done. Period. That day was about support. It was about understanding my wife’s grief and doing what I could to lightly assuage her pain, even if it was only wiping away a smudge. That day I was her husband. I was her comforter. I was her man.