Real men

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Our topic today is masculinity. Now, this isn’t a subject I have ever written about before but I saw a Tweet earlier, Retweeted by CALM (the mental health charity otherwise known as the Campaign Against Living Miserably), from the deodorant company Lynx as part of their new advertising campaign, which asks the question ‘Is It OK For Guys…’ to do various things, listing various questions that folk Google, as in ‘is it okay for guys to be the little spoon?’ (Whatever gets you through the day.) Another is ‘is it okay for guys to have taller girlfriends?’ (Who gives a stuff as long as you are happy?) The point of this advertising campaign is to raise a discussion about what constitutes masculine behaviour and make the point that people should be who they want to be. I wouldn’t raise an argument on that score. As a public service, I would like to answer some of the suggested questions on the Lynx For Men website. I should point out that I do not in any way endorse Lynx (indeed I don’t use their product) but I like this campaign. So, here we go!

Is it okay for guys to be skinny?

Now, this one does affect me. Despite not being the most diet-conscious of guys, I am quite skinny. It’s genetic. That doesn’t give me too much pause, except perhaps when standing next to bulkier guys with muscles and that. I do use the gym a couple of times a week – a recent innovation which I surprisingly enjoy a lot – and I feel physically better for it (and maybe even look a tiny bit better). For a long time, I have been self-conscious about my appearance but I am learning slowly but surely not to care. In short, I think that as long as people are healthy, it’s all good.

Is it okay for guys to wear pink?

Yes. Pink was historically considered a masculine colour and it is a pleasant colour. Again, whatever gets folk through the shift. I’ve been told red suits me as a colour and I have a long-sleeved T-shirt which could be considered pastel red, even pink in the right light. I don’t massively like pink as a colour but that’s a style choice, not because I consider pink overly feminine.

Is it okay for guys not to like sport?

Sure. I like sport. I love football. But I know quite a few guys who can’t abide sport. That’s fine. They have other interests and things that make them interesting, perhaps more so than those of us who spend sizeable amount of times watching 22 men run about a field or even worse 30.

Is it okay for guys to be depressed?

Undoubtedly yes. Depression doesn’t respect gender just as it doesn’t any other factor like wealth, sunshine or anything else. Samaritans and Breathing Space are incredibly valuable services.

Is it okay for guys to be friends with women?

I think so. Women tend to be more understanding and patient than men a lot of times, even with dolts like me.

Is it okay for guys to wear skinny jeans?

It depends on your comfort. I had a pair of skinny jeans a few years ago and they were so uncomfortable I swore off them for life, particularly after a day trip I took to Orkney. It was a brilliant day but the chafing just isn’t worth the style points. In any case, I looked a choob in them.

Is it okay for guys to cry?

Absolutely. I don’t cry very often but I have done, many, many times. I cry when I see a particularly affecting news story. When Hibs won the Cup last year, I cried rather than invading the park. I cried watching the Cup Final DVD the first time. I cried when I got offered my job. It makes you more of a human being because it shows you care.

Is it okay for guys to hug?

It doesn’t stop football players or sportspeople of most sorts. Like most things, it depends on the situation. But generally speaking, yes.

Is it okay for guys to do yoga?

I know at least one who does and it helps them deal with a physical job better.

Is it okay for guys to experiment with other guys?

Whatever works. Sexuality isn’t fixed or certain for a lot of people. People should feel comfortable in who they are, even if they aren’t sure quite what that is yet.

Is it okay for guys to be nurses?

Yes. Personally, if I was ill, my only concern would be getting better, not the gender of the person treating me.

Is it okay for guys to pee sitting down?

Not to be too graphic, I pee standing up, but whatever works.

Is it okay for guys to say I miss you?

Of course. Honesty goes a long way and if you care about someone, it just underlines it.

So, what makes a real man? From experience, it comes down to decency. A real man treats people with respect regardless who they are. They listen, they care. They go about with honesty. It’s not about bravado. It isn’t about the size of their appendage or their bank balance, about pecs or chin dimples. A person’s worth shouldn’t be measured by just their appearance or their IQ score. It is about character.

I am not the most ‘masculine’ of men. I don’t live up to a lot of stereotypes. So what? If I suddenly tried to be someone else, I wouldn’t recognise myself. I try to be pleasant to everyone whenever and wherever possible. That’s all that counts. I care only to be happy and to help others along the road, irrespective of gender or any other factor. I don’t intend to think too much about being masculine. I care only to live life to the fullest. Like a real man.

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