I stumbled across a blog the other day called the Art of Manliness. The posts give tangible weight to the idea of being a man in today's society.
Somehow, the blog is able to portray that true manliness really is an art that one learns to develop through intentional cultivation, rather than just birthright. The notes are not sung in deep baritones of dominance, aggression or schoolboy bathroom humor, either.
Instead, the blog presents ideas and tips that are straightforward and practical, even downright dignified at times. The mood is upbeat and informative, often exploring "how to" topics that one can sometimes put into play in real life the very day they are read. With
features that vary from learning how to shave like one's grandfather, to the steps to starting a farm, to developing a sense of honor and calling in one's life, its posts calmly defy the cultural notion that men are simple creatures.
I decided to subscribe.
I know it sounds strange to picture a woman skimming casually through a blog about men, but really, it's quite typical of us. We women are curious creatures. Just recently, I enjoyed a women's gathering that featured a panel of men who sat before us simply to answer questions about men.
These brave male souls shared personal reflections and experiences and thoughtfully tried to answer questions that might normally only be posed to the Almighty himself in the privacy of one's heart. The questions included:
• "Why do men cheat and lie?"
• "What makes men feel disrespected?"
• "Why do men seem to prefer younger women?"
• "Why don't men ask certain women out more?"
• "Who were your female role models?"
Later, some of us women shared how much had been learned in those couple of hours -- about men's insecurities and fears, their various attachment styles, their difficulties in expressing with clarity what exactly offends them (but how they will often show it in their withdrawal), and their deep capacities to love.
The general sense was that somehow many of us women had not known these nuances about men before, and learning about them seemed to bring calm to what has sometimes felt like a storm of confusion in relating to the opposite sex.
Learning to affirm and appreciate the genders definitely takes intentionality. Men are often considered to be less complex than women, but this may or may not be true. Today's world has much more varied expressions of sexuality, gender norms and relational expectations than a couple of generations past. Everyone's got a bit of advice, but sometimes you just need to hear some things straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak.
Now, to put it to practice ...
Tabi Upton is a therapist and free lance writer. Contact her at tabiupton @bellsouth.net.
Tabi Upton, MA-LPC is a therapist at New Beginnings Counseling Center.