I think it’s a social and cultural thing. To be closed off. I don’t think it’s natural. I’m as open as a book to anyone and everyone, and that to me feels more empowering than being closed off and guarded.
Men have been this way since the victorian times. It’s been woven into the very fabric of our very being.
Imagine sitting in Primary/Elementary School and the teacher rattles off that all wars are started by men, that men are killers and attackers, and that the world would be a safer place if men were less of these things. I can remember squirming in my seat, apologising for being born and I hadn’t put a foot wrong yet. Guilty by association. And I couldn’t have a cry about it because the year before we were told that big boys don’t cry. And if we were caught crying our friends would make fun of us.
Yet it was a strange shift. If we caught a girl crying in the playground all the boys would huddle around them like their protective brothers and ask them what the matter is and how we can fix it. It’s acceptable for women to cry, but not men. We are taught from a very young age that being our natural selves is wrong. That society shuns a crying man. So we get very good at hiding our emotional side.
Did you know that men have just as much emotion as women do? We may seem like a hardened rock when trying to extract any emotion from us but it’s inside there, it really is.
See, we have a strange upbringing. One of the first things that we learn after we’re pulled away from the security of our parents and lobbed into a pool of 30 other children is that it’s not okay to have a cry. Then after a while if you’re still having a cry your school friends and other people will shame you for it. Do it enough like I did and they’ll bully you just to make it happen. Then when we’re teenagers we start to like girls. The softer males (like I was) will fall for them and depending how bad the knockback was if we received any, we’ll further retreat into ourselves. Our friends will compete against us for female flesh; they’ll lie to us, spin us stories and generally do their own thing.
Remember childhood? Only have one or two friends from there, right? Yep. I thought so.
It’s not in our best interests to be emotionally open. If we were we’d probably be crucified by the school bullies. I remember school as one big popularity contest, and through that I learned a lot of very bad traits I wasn’t brought up with. We fight with each other like cat and dog too, and it’s forgotten about the very next day, shake hands and make up. Onlookers may think as a boy, that’s an amazing trait. But it’s not. We learn from a very young age that it’s best to make peace than go to war with your schoolmate. The issues will still be there, boiling under the surface. But we know, as young man, solving our problems is usually with our fists, and it’s better to just ignore it.
I remember a classmate I had. He wrote on my schoolwork book when I was out at my Grans funeral some (which he thought) funny things about my Grans death. In response to this I drew big Swastikas on his schoolwork book because I knew he had lived in Germany. Our solution? Massive fight in the playground. Yet after that fight we knew, both of us, that it was best to make peace because we didn’t want lumps knocked out of each other again.
You’ll probably find that’s why some men are so relaxed and try to avoid arguments when possible. It’s why we don’t like to delve into our emotional side because we’ve guarded it for so long that all it brings us is pain now.
And if you were lucky enough to not have an abusive father like I did then there was the hollywood culture to contend with. You know? The men that faced down a hundred bad guys without flinching? The men that could disperse of an entire army without gaining so much as a scratch. We all loved these films, but most of us watched them well before our time, and it was hard not to place these guys as role models when they were the ultimate bad asses, and had all the ladies.
Then we have these men that have recently popped up everywhere. Pick-up artists, or whatever they call themselves nowadays. They tell us that being nice will get us nowhere, that opening up on an emotional level will fastrack ourselves to the friendzone.
Society is still firmly geared towards keeping men as closed books.
Some men compensate the black hole in their stomachs by making themselves out to be something that they aren’t; pretending that everything’s fine when it’s not. You can often see these people raging at the smallest of things, when the blackness gets too much for them and they need to vent some of it out. Other men take it to heavy contact sports like boxing. Nothing like venting the black hole like smashing someone over the face repeatedly. But ultimately, we never really let it all go.
Journey is not for the faint of heart
It was an incredibly difficult journey for me; opening the floodgates to the black mess that was inside my belly. I sort of took a metaphorical knife and stabbed it deep into the pit of my stomach and with a swift ripping motion pulled hard downwards so all that gunk could wash free. I was one of the lucky ones, I started afresh, a new man with a new lease of life. It was a hard journey. I had to completely lay myself bare to a few people that cared. And it’s not easy making yourself vulnerable to people on that level of trust. But eventually I managed to get there. And it’s why I always listen to others with a non-judgemental ear. Because I recognise the importance of this and how detrimental it is to the wellbeing of others.
I think it’s time for men to change. Society is quite archaic towards men in my mind. It’s a horrible mixture of wrong advice and toxic situations. It’s time we took to letting men be themselves. Stop teaching them that emotions are a burden to carry, and let them be open and free to the wind. Teach them that secrets are unhealthy, and that you don’t need to be a predator to get what you want.
For me, that is the way to go.