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So, you want to be a man?

Nice to see you growing up young man, you have a few big steps in front of you: to be a man, the biggest decision is what type of man you want to be. By and large you will be welcomed into any of the ‘man clubs’ around, if you are willing to pay the price of admission, and the good news is that you can change this affiliation at any time.

The tricky part is that there are so many types of manhood, but not many of them are real, or to use a jargon term of our time, they would not be considered ‘sustainable’.

Which brings us to the bad news. There can be a lot of 'scaffolding' that surrounds the decision about what kind of man you would like to be. We establish roles, behaviours, dress codes, language, and beliefs about ourselves and others. All of this can take time to dismantle should you want to change. The result is that we can feel trapped by our choices and feel like it is too hard, but the reality is that it is never too late.

Here are just a few versions of manhood I have seen:

There’s the version that comes from a bottle

Alcohol is indeed a comforting balm that can lubricate social interaction and liven up a party, but just because it’s a common and at times a highly peer-pressured version of manhood, there are some real questions worth asking before you sign up for this club.

If you have ever stood looking at a man struggling to stand, slurring his words, whilst vehemently claiming he is not drunk, you get a sense of how hollow this version of manhood can be. From this empty place men drop into fits of rage, sexual assault, vomiting, arrogance, aggression, self-abuse and even suicide. Sure, from the inside the alcohol helps you feel the confidence is real, but for others looking on there is just a sad person without enough self-control or self-awareness to know which way is up.

Yes, there are those that ‘drink responsibly’, but how much responsibility is there in consuming something that you need to moderate to ensure you don’t end up poisoning yourself?

There’s the version that comes from a barbell

Looking after your fitness is important, but if you think manhood is being the physically strongest person in the room, you might want to look at how battles of strength have played out in society across history. King vs. King, country vs. country, millions of lives lost through the pursuit of physical superiority.

Physical strength and fitness is important to support your body remaining productive and yes, the playground and industry can feel like a battleground at times, but if physical strength is your backstop, it’s possible that you are more scared by the world than you might admit.

If you're feeling so threatened by others that you need to ‘bulk up’, it might be worth looking at the people you are hanging around with.

There’s the version that comes from sexual conquests

If the number of times you can ejaculate in an evening is your measure of the quality of a relationship, or the number of women you can bed is a sign of your manhood, it’s possible you’ve been watching too much porn.

In truth, your relationships will bring you more insight and opportunities to find out more about your vulnerabilities. These are not to be pushed away because they sit at the heart of understanding that you are far more sensitive than society gives you credit for and those initial relationships are a chance to explore and become more comfortable with this deeper aspect of yourself.

But if you treat people like they are simply an erotic stimulant and a receptacle for the outcome of that stimulation, then you’ve missed the point of relationships.

There’s the version that comes from intellectual might

So, you want to be the smartest person in the room? Amazing, but how will you use that brain of yours – will it help people? Will it isolate people? Will it make people feel less than you?

It’s good to know your stuff and to be good at what you do, but the human mind has gotten us into wars, corruption, slavery and abuse of all kinds, just as much as it has produced cures for illness and disease.

There is more to life than collecting knowledge.

There are many other 'man clubs', but there is also an alternative to them all, which is to explore being a Universal Man.

These are men willing to look at who they truly are, willing to consider their tenderness as a strength, willing to consider that words like beautiful and delicate might also apply to them, without any sense of diminishment. They are able to share without needing to get into emotion, but don’t avoid what they feel at the same time.

They love the gorgeousness, stillness and grace of women without turning it into sexual stimulation. They are willing to lay down competition, protection and intellectual arrogance.

They are the true gentle-men, willing to contemplate the possibility that they are equally divine, sensitive, strong, intuitive, expressive, creative, productive, humorous, playful and delightful as each other (man or woman).

The Universal Man is not perfect by any stretch, but lives within every man.


Filed under

Self-awarenessBody imageAcceptanceRaising childrenChildrenConfidenceBullyingBehaviourTendernessAlcohol

  • Thumb small joel levin

    By Joel Levin

    People and groups is where it is at for me, they way we work together (or not), it’s what I do for a living and what I do for a hobby, in essence it’s my everyday.

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    Photography: Matt Paul