One day, during my sophomore year of high school, two kids that I hung out with got into a feud over something stupid. I was told that the bigger kid was going to fight the skinny kid so I we all met up outside the cafeteria. The skinny kid was obviously afraid, so he sat down on the stairs and refused to get up and fight. He was called every name in the book by the big kid and all the boys watching.
I froze in that moment, not knowing whether I should stand up for the skinny kid or jump in on the hazing. Within a few seconds, it was too late. The big kid walked up and sucker punched the skinny kid. He broke his nose in one punch. Blood and tears poured out over the kid’s face, shirt, and out onto the floor.
For a moment, time stood still and no one knew what to do. The skinny kid hid his face and quickly ambled towards the office. I mean, what else could he have done?
The big kid got suspended for a few days and the skinny kid got labeled a “rat” for the rest of the year. He showed up to school the next day, with two black eyes and a splint over his nose. I felt so bad for him, but I didn’t say anything. We still saw each other in shared friend groups and I witnessed how emotionless teenage boys can be, as they continued to prod him for his inability to defend himself.
I also knew what it was like to be them because I was one, too. I was always a little bit smaller than the rest of the boys, so I knew what I had to do. I fought my way out of getting bullied on many occasions and I even instigated some fights to proactively assert myself as a non-p$#%&!. I knew that, if I didn’t fight back at every turn, I was at risk of getting verbally or physically assaulted.
All of this was basically brushed over in my culture and upbringing with the phrase “Boys will be boys.” Looking back, there was always this sense that I had to be a certain way in order to earn respect from my peers and to impress the girls.
I’d like to say that we all grew up and learned to handle our emotions, but we didn’t. The markers we use have just changed forms. Instead of physically asserting ourselves, it’s now mostly done with money, possessions, and control.
Why do you think some men work countless hours and sleep with as many women as possible, while other men fall into disrepair, drinking, getting fat, and hating themselves? It’s two sides of the same coin.
And, of course there are the men in-between, who may not have polarized, but who are still unhappy. They work a job that pays the bills, they watch a lot of TV, and they try to pretend that they’re proud of their “dad bod”.
So, what’s it like to be a Man in the year 2019? Well, for those that buy into the system and continue their patterns without questioning, it’s anywhere from fine to numb to unbearable. Men may still hold much of the power over women, but we also kill ourselves and abuse substances at much high rates. There’s a reason for that.
I’m not comparing our experience to women’s experience because I don’t know what it’s like. This is just for the men.
If you don’t wake up, get some help, do some inner-work, and change your relationship with yourself, you’re going to suffer, bro!
Believe me! I know!
I suffered under this regime for most of my life and now I’m doing the work. I’m looking into my childhood, I’m crying, I’m talking about feelings with my partner, I’m taking care of myself, I’m voicing my needs, I’m facing my unhealthy behaviors, I’m asking for help, and I am past the point of no-return.
And now, I help men and women change the way that they relate to each other and themselves. And, I do that by changing the way that I relate to you and myself.
Men, we can do better and we must do better. All this war, fighting, controlling, faking, and aggression is not going to get us what we want.