If you’re not feeling very secure in your masculinity today and would like to find out how to become a better man, keep on reading. I’ll let you in on all the secrets. Yes, I know that I’m just a woman who could never understand such important endeavors, but you’re going to have to trust that I have this down to a science. Because I do.

Step One: Locating any fears you may have that are associated with entering manhood. Perhaps a major fear you have is Masculine Failure, the fear that you won’t be as good of a man as you hope to be or as good as everyone is expecting you to be. Perhaps your fear even stretches toward failure as a human being. Think about it. Okay. Have you got it yet? Good.

Now squash that fear with the sole of your boot. You should know this by now: Fear is for sissies. Don’t be such a coward. Step up to the plate. Do you wanna be a man or a little girl when you grow up? Men don’t have fears.

Step Two: Attaining the characteristics of a real man. Real masculinity is mainly reliant on how much athletic ability you’ve got; actually, the more of this you have, the more valued as a man — and a person in general — you will be in your community. Other characteristics that determine how much of a man you are include how economically successful you are and how many sexual conquests you’ve made in the last week or so.

Also, do you have feelings? Emotions, perchance? Any empathy for others or forms of self-expression? Yeah, you’re gonna wanna repress all of that. Alexithymia, or the inability to put feelings into words, is what you’re going for here. Most men develop some form of this early on in life, as well as an inability to gauge how others feel, so you’re gonna want to conform to this standard. How else are you going to participate in conversations about how dang confusing women are?

Step Three: Using other resources. Some of the characteristics in step two can be difficult to obtain or taxing to follow through with, so don’t be afraid to use other resources. For instance, because you are now emotionally void, you can’t be springing up meaningful relationships with others. It just looks bad.

With that in mind, you should think about using a woman to validate yourself as a man (You know, the whole sexual conquest thing? Try “no strings attached;” I’ve heard it works out really well!). Substance abuse is another great outlet for the pressure you’re under: if you’re feeling frustrated with your masculinity (or lack thereof), try drinking a lot and smoking whatever you can get your hands on.

The Final Step: Recall your childhood. Recall lazy Sunday mornings and the heat of the afternoon on a sunny, summer day. Recall sticky ice cream goodness and popsicles dripping down your chin, chasing your brothers and sisters and friends around the backyard. Recall barbeques and biking and baseball. Four square and finger painting and cupcakes on your birthday.

Recall when it was more important to “Be A Man” than any of that stuff.

Toxic masculinity is such a messed-up mindset; it leads to so many issues later in life. For example, not being able to gauge how other people feel very reasonably leads to bullying. Do you think that someone who understands what it feels like to be pushed around is going to do that to someone else?

Similarly, lacking meaningful relationships with others can lead to disorders like depression and substance addiction because of the isolation. And the lack of control that you feel when you’re not able to live up to the impossible societal standards of men leads to violence against women and children, as a way to assert control over someone or something.

I interviewed some people, and it’s disheartening to find out how much guys miss out on because it doesn’t fit their definition of a man. An overwhelming majority said they couldn’t listen to popular music, participate in musicals or plays, or submit written works of their own because women had a monopoly on those activities. Some even said that cleaning and cutting nails was seen as too feminine, as was taking care of other personal hygiene issues.

That’s why this is an “us” problem. All of us. Whatever affects one gender affects the other just as much.

So, what does it mean to be a man? Well, I’ve never had to become one, so I can’t speak from a personal point of view. But, in my experience, the solution to any dilemma almost always happens to be the one we give the least amount of thought to. Maybe the thing that makes us most human should be the thing we focus on; maybe in asking yourself what kind of man you want to be, you should also ask what kind of partner, what kind of brother, what kind of son, what kind of father you are. Then, I think, you’ll have an answer for yourself.

anievtm@miamioh.edu

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