Bravado is a curious thing when it comes to some men. It’s like our philosophy for life – don’t ever let people see the truth, bury your weaknesses in the deepest, darkest corner of your being and ultimately just pretend everything is OK. Men have struggled to show their cracks for centuries now, but why? Is it the way we are brought up? Are we too concerned with maintaining a presence of strength, power and masculinity? Whatever the reasons I’ll let you in on a little secret – it’s mostly a load of rubbish.
My Dad was from a very working class background. Super tough and never one to be messed with. He was brought up fighting in a poverty stricken area of Glasgow. His best trait? The ability to throw a good punch. A man of many jobs he was a butcher, a baker, a window cleaner, a mechanic and a soldier before retiring with the emergency services. He was what I would call the true definition of a man’s man. My Dad did however have very poor hearing and yet point blank refused to wear a hearing aid. My family knew this would make our lives a lot easier, for him because he could actually hear properly and for us because we would no longer have to shout all the time (the neighbours mistake our shouting for aggression). Still, he would never wear it and avoided the subject at all costs. But why? Inconvenience? Laziness? Not at all, in his eyes it was a sign of weakness that he didn’t want others to see. Even the toughest of old boots can have their insecurities it seems.
At 29 I get by OK without too many problems. I’m very lucky, not because I think highly of myself but because over time I have learned to fully accept who and what I am. Over the years I’ve been described by people as confident, funny, a bit cheeky and a real people person who can chat away to just about anyone. But what was going on in my head was a very different story.
My honest assessment of myself went something like this: crooked nose, funny shaped head, squint teeth, double chin, oversized brow bone, too skinny, sticky out ears (one of which is higher than the other), over emotional and deep down a bit shy. This was how I saw myself without exaggeration and as much as I’d like to think I’ve made the most of myself, the majority of those things are still true today. The only thing that’s changed, is my attitude.
A lot of men both young and old, suffer with similar self-criticisms on a daily basis but often bury them behind a mask of jokes, arrogance, over-confidence, sarcasm, rudeness and basically anything that will hide the reality going on in their heads.
In my youth, I found accepting my ears to be an endless struggle. I would stare in the mirror for hours analysing them. One day after school I tried to stick them to the side of my head with double-sided tape just to see what they would look like flat – much to the amusement of my Mum I might add. I would also wear tight beanie hats to bed and hope that if I pressed my head hard enough against my pillow my ears would in time, stick to my head. Have you ever heard anything so ridiculous?
At the age of 18 I grew my hair long. It fitted in well with the whole indie and later emo culture, but in truth I’d grown my hair long to cover up my ears. The funny thing is, my ears aren’t even that bad (check my photos). I was just a paranoid, insecure, adolescent who was still growing into himself.
Being skinny, that was another problem. I was a cross-country runner for many years which made it virtually impossible to put weight on. Even on the hottest of days, I would wear three t-shirts just to add a little extra bulk. I find it hilarious that my intention was to give myself the tiniest shred of self-approval, when in reality I was just a plonker in three t-shirts on a sunny day. All those t-shirts and my ears taped to my head! Can you imagine if I’d had my way?
Showing emotion is another touchy subject for men. Being emotional is actually one of the few things I genuinely love about myself. I find that if I allow myself the opportunity to really feel something then I can experience life’s moments in their fullest capacity. Don’t get me wrong, in the past I’ve mustered a tear or two for some pretty trivial things including football, home improvement shows and on one occasion even just looking at the moon! (Don’t ask). But for every cheesy American TV show there were emotional goodbyes, breathtaking scenery and the marriage of close friends – times when showing emotion served to enhance a life-long memory.
One of my close Australian friends is another of the ‘real men’ in my life. He’s from a very male dominated family and enjoys the simplicity of fishing, rugby, beer and his dog. I lived with him for a few months on my travels and at a time when he was going through some real personal turmoil. He wasn’t the type to talk about his feelings, but it was clear to see he needed to. I discreetly probed for weeks on end, gently encouraging him to open up and on a few occasions there was the tiniest glimmer of hope, but each time he clicked on to what he was about to do and promptly shut off.
He moved in circles that didn’t allow much room for emotions, it just wasn’t very ‘manly’. I really wanted him to know that I was there for him, that I would listen without judgement and help him in any way I could, but it was all to no avail. I still wish today he would see the benefits of just, talking.
British actor Rowan Atkinson once said “I like to walk in the rain, no one can see me cry.” I think some men are starting to improve when it comes to showing emotion, it honestly is such a release to just let go and really feel something. And no it doesn’t mean falling to your knees and bursting into tears and it doesn’t make you weak, just human. Why wait for the rain to come?
I hope from this post women can gain a slightly better understanding of why men are the way they are sometimes, not because I excuse certain behaviours but simply to raise awareness…awareness that behind every arrogant pig there is a 12 year old boy standing in front of a mirror trying to tape his ears to the side of his head.