I have two boys & a man that I live with. I get a lot of hugs. They give each other a lot of hugs. Hugs and holding hands, sitting close enough to touch, with no sense of self-consciousness. It was probably a year ago that I noticed one of my boys stiffen, when I tried to hug him around other kids, and refuse to sit on my lap when others were around. This week he told his brother, “I’ll give you all the hugs you want at home, but not at school.”
There’s no rule that you are not allowed to hug your brother at school, but somehow, there is.
I talk to all kinds of people in my counselling office. Many of them are men. One of the things I’ve noticed is the seemingly universal lack of supportive emotional connection between men, even highly sensitive men. I also notice the desire for this. “I can’t talk to any of my friends about ______,” (insert issue here – etc. marital distress, anxiety, depression, pornography, addictions, grief, parenting issues, etc.) They wish there was another man they could talk to. Those who’ve gotten up the nerve to see a counsellor or are in such crisis that they end up at the hospital, where I also work, almost never have any other male to talk with or to find emotional support from. Many have women in their lives that they find supportive, but not men.
There’s a book that I read a while ago, by a cis-gendered woman (a person who identifies as the gender that they were assigned at birth, so, not transgendered), who decided to live as a man for a year. The author describes herself as a fairly masculine woman and speaks about how often she was mistaken as a boy, as a child. She didn’t think this would be too far of a stretch for her. She expected to feel empowered, and did, at times, but was surprised by the feeling that she was living in an emotional box. She was taken aback by the intense ‘policing of expression’ that she experienced by other men who were quick to set her straight as soon as she became too expressive. At the end of the year she went into a severe depression and checked herself into a hospital.
Check it out here:
In a recent post, My Journey with Homophobia, I was searching for an image of two men to put in the featured image. I wasn’t looking, in particular, for men kissing, I just searched for two men. I could not find one image that portrayed anything near gentle affection, only men shaking hands, arm wrestling or drinking beers and leaning away from each other. I thought, “Is this as close as men are allowed to get?”
This week I came across a song by Andy Grammar, called “A Friend Like You,” at the end of the Captain Underpants movie that my boys were watching. I couldn’t believe I was getting choked up at the end of Captain Underpants! But it was beautiful “Dude I love you. Man, I love you. Bro I love you…” I was impressed. This was not a common expression of love targeted at pre-teen boys. More please.
In a very long article I recently came across regarding men and nurturing, the author takes a comprehensive look at how we got to a place where it’s not okay for any male to show physical or emotional affection to another man, regardless of their age or sexual orientation. She speaks in detail about the theory of attachment, and how childhood experiences and culture influence our ability to form supportive, healthy relationships with others, and ourselves. She describes the outcomes, for men, in particularly, when these childhood attachment needs are not met and the extreme outcomes where rape becomes acceptable in a culture.
Fortunately, she also talks about how this can be changed, and puts out a loud call for nurturing men to talk to other men about this. To reach out, invite a conversation, offer support, physical and emotional.
She invited readers to use her article as a starting point for a conversation. So here it is.
I invite you, men to reach out to other men and boys in your life and talk about thoughts and feelings, maybe show them this article and offer affection. We all need men to be well. This is your work to do.
*Please note: I have signed on as an affiliate sales person for McNally Robinson which means that if you click on the above link, and decide to purchase the book I’ve recommended, I will receive an affiliate’s fee. I only recommend books I have read and believe to be worth recommending.
Check out Depression Vs Grief – When You’re Down
Check out Mental Illness – A Relationship Story