I don’t know much about Doris Day. My parents were too young to appreciate her, and my grandmother enlightened me to actresses like Barbra Streisand, Judy Garland, and Audrey Hepburn. I had to do some Googling to find out more about her, and I took some time to listen to the prompt song, A Guy is A Guy. Honestly, it made my stomach turn! I know that it is a depiction from a bygone era, but it sounded really awful! My interpretation could be way off, but she kissed the guy so she had to marry him?!? It makes my skin crawl that her parents were perfectly okay with marrying her off to a total stranger. There seems to be an element of non-consent going on here too. I’m glad that time period has passed and that we are well on our way to forming new ideas about female sexuality, even if we still have a long way to go.
I didn’t really want to write a post about female sexuality or choice or consent even though all of those topics are important to me and relevant in today’s society. Instead, I was inspired by Purple Sole’s post, What it Means to Be a Guy and his take on modern masculinity. I think if you were to ask most people who are attracted to men, a manly man is a desired trait, but what does it mean to be manly? I think that definition has changed; it certainly has for me.
I think my husband is very masculine, but that doesn’t mean he’s gruff or insensitive or that he can’t show emotion. He is strong, you should see him chop wood! He’s also vulnerable and can talk about his feelings. Last night as I was falling asleep, I started a list of qualities that I find attractive in him as well as other men or women. These are qualities that anyone can possess and are admirable whether you’re male, female, or non-binary, but I think they are certainly necessary to make any man a good man.
I think a man needs to be kind, to other humans, to animals, to those in need, to those who are thriving. It is even possible to be kind to your surroundings, to the planet, to your shared spaces, to the belongings of others. It’s not hard to offer a smile to the person ringing up your groceries, it feels good to ask people how they are and to wish them a good day. My man has shown me that it’s easy to open doors for people, and my heart soars when I see him go out of his way to grab a door for someone with hands full of groceries or a sleeping baby. I want to burst when he pulls over to the side of the road to pick up a turtle and bring it safely to the other side. I am proud that he finds no qualms taking time out of his evening to fix our neighbor’s mailbox without being asked. Every day, my husband shows me what it means to be kind. That’s what he did for me.
Being manly doesn’t mean that you can’t show your feelings. I think a lot of men believe that strength means they have to hide when they are hurting or failing, but I think it shows true strength to admit when you need help. Help might come in the form of a conversation, medication, therapy, or partner support. He isn’t the most elaborative when it comes to his feelings, but he still opens up to me. He lets me know when he isn’t feeling well physically, when he needs some alone time, or when he’s feeling downright gloomy. He’s shown me that he’s willing to ask for help, that he is able to open up and cry with me, and that he is there when I need that same kind of comfort and support. That’s what he did for me.
I don’t know what it is about so many older American men, but they just don’t seem comfortable touching other men and this baffles me. I sometimes wonder if spray on sunscreen was invented because of this very reason! Hugging, friendly kisses and holding hands are often off-limits in guy on guy interactions, and these are things that I do with my girlfriends without a second thought. I am glad that it has become less of an issue in younger generations, and I’m happy that my husband is comfortable enough with himself that he is able to show affection with his own friends just as he does to me. I’m happy to say that I’ve heard him tell his friends that he loves them, seen him kiss them on the cheek and embrace them in a big long hug. He’s shown me that men are able to show affection to their male friends and not worry about what other’s may think. That’s what he did for me.
Our society used to place the duties of caring for the household solely on women, and I am certainly glad that our way of life has shifted away from this because it’s downright ridiculous. I’m not going to delve into what I think about gender roles here, but I will say that I think it’s manly to do what you like to do, even if it’s not a hobby that is considered “manly”. If you like to sew and you happen to be male, then go for it! My dad taught me how to hand stitch and my mom taught me how to use a machine. My dad also did all the ironing in our home because he enjoyed it. My husband loves to cook and he’s damn good at it, just ask any of our friends. He can make almost anything, bread, beer, home-made pasta, scratch cakes, hot sauce, and the best smoked pork you’ll ever have. When we first started dating, I could toast a bagel and make an okay meatloaf and mashed potatoes dinner, but that was about it. He taught me everything I know in the kitchen, and now I’m pretty damn good at it too! He was able to teach me because he wasn’t afraid to put on his mama’s apron and hang out with her in the kitchen. That’s what he did for me.
If you look at Wikipedia for the definition of masculinity, you’ll find all sorts of adjectives depicting a big, strong, virile man, and that’s completely unrealistic. Just as all women aren’t small and meek with sopping wet vaginas ready to be penetrated at a moment’s notice, some women don’t even have vaginas. Sex isn’t about putting Appendage A in Slot B; it’s about a connection between two people. That connection requires attention, attention to a partner’s needs and responses, to their mental and emotional state, and to their desires. While I do enjoy being used for his pleasure, there has to be a balance. He has earned free use of my body by being attentive and loving and caring. He asks me questions, checks in on me, and pushes me to open up to him, even the tiniest detail is important to him. He’s creative in ways that gets my mind to connect to my body, allowing our sex to become more than just a physical act. He will spend hours getting me there, taking me on a journey, watching me the whole time until at just the right moment, he will push me over the edge and catch me when I come crashing down. It’s amazing to be tended to like this. He showed me that a man can gain pleasure from giving instead of receiving. That’s what he did for me.
A masculine man doesn’t necessarily have to be hard, strong, independent, or aggressive. While I do appreciate the romanticized version of a manly man, that muscly male type that can whisk you off your feet, throw you on the bed, and fuck you all night long, making you come thousands of times, that’s just a fairy tale. I think that true masculinity comes in all shapes and sizes and is embodied in all genders. The modern day manly man isn’t quite so “manly” and that’s exactly how it should be. Masculinity now encompasses all sorts of roles, from bread-winner to care-taker. Society is slowly eliminating boundaries making it easier for people to be who they want, opening doors to those were previously shut out, and the same line of thinking means that men can also be who they want. They can sing and cry and dance, they can hug and kiss, they can clean and cook, they can be emotional and they can celebrate themselves just as they want to be even if it’s not very “manly”.