“To me, the definition of masculinity – and femininity, too – is being able to lay in your own skin comfortably.” – Vincent D’Onofrio
This morning, I retweeted something that I really liked: 10 Things to Teach your Son about True Manhood. What I enjoyed about the article was that it talked about young men learning and maintaining manners, understanding how to be compassionate, and admitting mistakes. I like these virtues. They exude character. At the bottom of the article, I read a couple comments, the first of which praised the article, but disagreed with a previous post about painting toenails. Being the inquisitive fella that I am, I located said toenail article. I wish I hadn’t: Don’t Effeminize Your Son. Sigh.
This article mentions a J.Crew ad depicting the company’s female president painting her son’s toenails pink. The bone of contention is that doing things like this blurs the lines of “God-given distinctive between boys and girls.” Further, “Don’t effeminize your son. Our culture is rotting because real masculinity is on life support…You can show your boy how to clip his toenails, but never paint them. Ever.”
Here’s what this article is really saying: men are men and women are women. At no point should a man do anything that could be construed as female activity. Cooking? Get back in the kitchen, women. Footballin’ and drinkin’? Saddle up, dudes. Pardon me for believing that this is utter, complete, and total horse manure. This is what we want to teach our young men? This is the message we want to them to hear? Do we really want to draw such specific distinctions between male and female activities? To what end? So that we can continue to perpetuate outdated ideals and clearly define what it means to be a “man’s man”?
You know what I find impressive? This: My Son Wears Dresses, and That’s OK With Me. You know why I find it impressive? It’s impressive because being a father of a son is REALLY hard, especially in instances like these. I want my son to be a man of character. I want him to exude the things that were discussed in the “10 Things” article. I want him to be respectful and I want him to treat women (hell, all people) with compassion. But, you know, the other day he was walking around the house in his mom’s high heels. If I’m being honest, it made me feel a certain way. I can’t explain the feeling specifically. It wasn’t a good feeling. I think it was probably a natural thing felt by a lot of men when their sons do stuff like this, though. Maybe the feeling arose because I have been ingrained to think that boys doing something less than manly is wrong. When he told me to look at him in those shoes, I said “Buddy, you’re funny” and left it at that. You know what happened when he wore those shoes? Nothing. After a few minutes, he hopped out of the shoes and went back to being Spider-Man. The end.
What would have happened had I made a big deal out of it? What if I had told him that real men don’t wear those kinds of shoes? I can imagine that a three-year-old brain would have been utterly confused by that sentiment because one of the most important people in his life (his mother) wears them. How can that be bad or wrong?
We have got to let go of this notion that men have to be John Wayne in order to be considered real men. We have to show them love so that they’re able to reciprocate it and repeat it. We have to allow them to feel and express feelings. We need to teach them that it’s okay to express themselves creatively instead of stifling them. We have to remember, dads, nail polish and high heels aren’t going to make our sons less manly. Our job as fathers and mentors of young men is to push them to be the best possible versions of themselves by treating people kindly, possessing a solid work ethic, and allowing them the creative freedom to pursue what makes them happy.
In my opinion, this is the manliest thing we can pass along.
Have an awesome Thursday,