I have not traded in my man card. I am a red-blooded, all American male. I was born in the middle of the last century, well before Dr. Phil, Oprah, love languages, Enneagrams, skinny jeans, or metrosexual defined the “new” masculinity. I’ve lived the “Big Boys don’t cry” legend, and the Marlboro Man’s leather-tough veneer was the model for all things macho. Charles Atlas showed us skinny guys we didn’t have to take sand kicked in our faces at the beach anymore. I’ve been around, so I have an idea what makes us tick.
“How do you guys really take care of yourselves?”, I asked several of my pals recently after finishing a round of golf. What had been an enlightened discussion about things other than sports suddenly turned into a deer-in-the-headlights silence. I thought the time was right to ask something like this. “I mean, look at a lot of guys our age. They’re huge or look like they got rode hard and left out wet. And, face it, none of us are the same studs we used to be. We gotta be thinking about this.”
“What are you talking about? All of us exercise, cut the grass…you know, the regular stuff. What else is there?”, they replied in exasperated tones.
“Yeah, I know. But, when was the last time you talked to your wife or kids and asked them what they would like from you beside a pay check, or what’s happening in their lives?”
“Oh, no. Not going there. Next thing you know, I’ll end up doing dishes or laundry or something.”
And this, then, is the whole nut of the matter: We’re basically afraid because we don’t know any better. Many of us weren’t raised to know what it means to take care of ourselves; we were taught to perform. When we eventually get around to talking about self-care, many of us get stuck on thinking it only means working out. We have to look good so we can achieve. We believe we have to perform at work, with the “guys”, on the golf course. Competition often drives what we do. We have this deep masculine need to be better, faster, stronger, tougher, handier, and funnier than all the others.
It is a shame, really. We all know life is so much more than this. So, what does this man think may help other men (and the women who love them) realize their own self-care does provide a healthier edge in living life? A few things to consider:
1. Accept our blustering and griping about discussing our thoughts and feelings. Encourage us without badgering. We need a safe place to finally let it out. Remember, we’ve got a lifetime of manly man training to overcome.
2. We don’t want to go to the doctor. Fear again. Threats work here; use them.
3. Express your wants and needs for your relationship and his well-being. If we love you (and we do), it’ll be harder to resist. Trust me, this works.
1. Grow up. We ALL know we need to care for ourselves. It’s a good thing to work on our own self-care. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. You are not a wuss.
2. Tell Charles Atlas (real or metaphorical) to beat it. You’ve got some real stuff to do.