I’ve been thinking about masculinity today. The kind of man I am, the sort of man I’m becoming and the type of man I want to be. Today is about not being sure of what I am or becoming or wanting to be.
Honestly, a while ago I wanted to be a slightly tamer version of the cultural idea of masculinity; plays sport, never crosses my legs, slightly aggressive, hang out with a bunch of guys and make jokes about anything. I guess I saw that there was freedom there. That there was self confidence and acceptance there.
To some degree I made it and didn’t feel like I was pretending to be someone else. For example at my student teacher placement school we are encouraged to go and observe other teachers. There was this good looking and toned PE teacher there who was about my age. I was actually scared to ask to go watch his class. Scared that I would be found out as an effeminate boy in a man’s body, perhaps. But in my last week I thought, ‘this is silly,’ go do something potentially uncomfortable, and it wasn’t uncomfortable at all. He was, of course, a nice guy (I’m finding 95 per cent are). And as the Year 7 girls played badminton with varying degrees of success we stood side-by-side with minimal eye contact, though close, and talked about how successful the girls football team was. I was kind of excited. I’m a man; standing like a man; talking with a man; not making eye contact like a man; talking about things like a man. It made me smile inside: ‘Chris, you did it brother.’ (Obviously, being myself, I’m not actually my brother, but I think it gives my internal dialogue a nice masculine touch).
Then I was unexcited because I’m pretty sure I wasn’t meant to be putting my hope and happiness in whether I could talk to an attractive, masculine 26-year-old guy and not get found out.
When I finished up my semester 1 student teacher placement last Friday, one of my mentor teachers said to me ‘we need more gentle male teachers like you’.
I can’t remember the last time someone called me gentle/sensitive/etc. (I’m sure people thought it, but I haven’t heard those words out loud from someone in person in a year or more).
It wasn’t a surprise she said it. I have been awesome with the girls in her class. But I kind of went, ‘hmmmmm Chris, it turns out you’re still Chris. The Chris I thought we were trying to get away from is still here; other people can still see him. Chris, is this bad?’
There’s this guy at uni who I thought might be gay. He had all the sensitive boy signs: extended eye contact, being vulnerable, sharing past sporting pain, apologising for obscure things five days after they happened, remembering small details about other people etc. The funny thing is this made him more attractive to me.
I was attracted to his sensitivity and his care and the fact he remembered that I don’t like standing in the doorway of trains five days after I told him that or that he commented I like printing things in double columns two months after he last saw it, and that he stopped doing ballet because he was teased but now regrets it and says so. (No, I do not have an infatuation with this guy, but it’s taking me a while to get a certain kind of attraction towards him out of my system. Six weeks of, most likely, not seeing him has arrived just in time).
‘Chris, this guy is so sweet. I love that he is all those sensitive things.’
And then I think, well, maybe I should embrace my sensitive side and be like him. Then I kind of forget what the point of trying to become a culturally masculine man was. Maybe it was to prove to myself I could be a man. That I had it in me. And now I have proved it to myself; maybe it’s time to forget trying to be that kind of person and work on the sweeter side of me.
‘Also, dude, maybe you shouldn’t be so intense in finding guys to be role models. Maybe be more yourself.’
Myself…I think that was the problem in the first place…