The World In The Life Of A Guy – Part 8 -Growing Pains

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I’ve been told my entire life that guys mature much slower than girls, that we as a couple steps behind in growth and willingness to accept responsibility for things.  I’m tired of hearing it as often as I do but maybe it’s true, that we don’t mature like girls do.

I think part of the problem is the level of expectation for men to mature tends to be a bit delayed in general.  Girls, by the time they are teenagers and already going through puberty, are expected to bear the responsibility that growing up female entails, both body and mind wise.  Where as guys, even though we grow and go through puberty later, they are treated as if the changes are only sometimes cosmetic. Through our actions carry more weight we are not treated to the same standard, partially because what I had brought up last month about the level of fear for men and women deal with and the need for girls protect themselves from the dangers of the world. I think it’s this lack of responsibility for oneself creates a situation where men fall behind women in this area.

If you learn anything from these posts is that I believe that there really shouldn’t be a huge difference between men and women in how they are treated and are accountable for.  There is though a sort of necessity for women that doesn’t appear in men. The need to settle down. By far, I am not saying this is something intrinsic to women, there are a lot of social and cultural pressures for women to marry earlier than men, to have children sooner than men, and to generally have their life together sooner than men. Why is that a burden placed on only one of the sexes? Why can’t both either worry or not worry? Be told they are too old or their clock is ticking.
I am figuring part of the reason being is because of the timing of it all. For men, they still have the ability to have children later, and in some ways are suppose to be established before doing so. This doesn’t necessarily happen but once children are involved, people, for the most part, turn their attention to providing or settling down.

There is also the idea that is a bit ingrained into the minds of young men to sow their wild oats before settling down.  To let all the craziness out before deciding on something. This isn’t a bad philosophy, I think people should really try and live the life they want especially when the amount of responsibility is negligible.  Girls don’t get that message though, they are always told to be protective, not to go wild by to stay in control.  They are told that they need to be looking for that next step, working towards it because they only have a limited time. Both have their own benefits and drawbacks, but again they should be closer together, a balance of both.

Ultimately, people will learn to meet the expectations that are set for them, and as a culture, if boys are treated as if they should be just as responsible and mature as girls from a young age they will meet that standard.  For now, I just have to deal with the stereotype that I am a few years behind the maturity of girls and hope I am doing my part to prove it wrong.

The World In The Life Of A Guy – Part 7: Fear and Freedom

IMG_0099.JPGThere is something I take for granted, this ability to move through the world without having to worry too much about how the world will react.  Using only a little bit of common sense, I can manage to not have to worry about much.  Strangers walking down the street, glancing eyes about what I may be wearing, an offhand comment, these things don’t skim my radar.  But for women, this is something they have to deal with every day.

I think the easiest distinction that can be made is with travel.  I was lucky enough to be able to backpack through Europe, going from hostel to hostel, train to train, and airport to airport.  All without having to really think about the possibilities of strangers doing anything to me.  I took the standard safety precautions of locking up my stuff, but in coming back in the middle of the night to my bunk in a shared hostel room, the thought never crossed my mind that something could happen to me.
Maybe I am lucky that things didn’t but in talking about my trip with several of my friends and touting how great and inexpensive hostels are all my female friends had the same consensus ” that simply would be too risky for them,” especially having gone alone like I had.

Now whether or not that is true is one thing, but it’s this general feeling of being paranoid about the world that is the problem.  It’s both taught to girls at a young age and substantiated by how people act as they get older.  In walking in unfamiliar places there is always some dangers, but I never have to be overly suspicious of peoples intentions, and I am more concerned with theft then I am harassment.

I’ve seen it happen too, the unwanted attention or a misread signal leads to women being harassed by men.  It’s crazy in some way how non-stop it really can be, and I don’t envy women for having to be on guard for danger so much.  It’s this crazy situation where the threats are so much greater because it’s not just your things or your life, its other atrocious acts like assault and rape that comes to their mind.  This is something people have to look out for in their day to day life, not even just when they are traveling or abroad.  That’s why groups are so important, and something like walking to your car in the middle of the night can be more of an endeavor than simply walking down the street.

But in the spirit of trying to explain a male perspective on things, I am going to steer the topic back.  Fear is something for a guy that is thought as something to be conquered.  We throw ourselves headfirst into situations where courage becomes the only currency.  I have an appreciation for the fact that I don’t feel in danger all the time, or that I am in a state where I feel like a target is regularly painted on my back.  I think in some ways, that’s why (not to get all white knight-y) we are called to defend. To lessen the fear of others by putting ourselves between the fear and the fearing.  Since we do not have to worry the world constantly, we can spend time helping others feels safe too.

Safety is something that comes from being able to walk down the street and not have to worry about the world trying to harm you, and I believe we all should try and work together to make the world a safe place for as many people as possible.

The World In The Life of A Guy: Part 6 – The Nod

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There it is, a small gesture that goes on with only a moment. This is a part of being a guy that I really kind of enjoy. It’s this little thing we will do when two guys pass by each other. A slight nod to the other person. It doesn’t matter if it’s on the sidewalk, in a car, while running, sitting, or doing numerous other activities it comes quickly, and it’s gone. It’s just a gesture, but it says a thousand words.

I was never outwardly taught this, it didn’t come up for classes or lessons. It was just understood that this needed to happen.  To acknowledge each other’s existence, regardless if you know them or not.  A small sign of respect for a person you may never see again. It’s like saying, “You are here, and see you” It doesn’t really matter what I am doing, I can elicit a nod from another guy as long as we make eye contact.  Now, this doesn’t mean this is actually going to lead anywhere, it’s not any sort of invitation. No one expects people to act on the nod, the nod itself is a self-contained precept.  It just feels nice to be acknowledged, to be honest, and I’m happy to do it.  It’s the perfect way to end awkward looks.

A nod can happen between friends too. Pass one in the hallway but don’t really want to stop, just nod.  Find yourself in a situation where you see someone you know while with a different group of people, just nod.  It’s easy, and even though it seems like there is not much to it, there is a whole layer its complexity that just fills the gap in social relationships that would otherwise cause unneeded drama and harm.  Letting it go with a nod signifies that everything is okay, that there is nothing pressing, and its okay to just be on your way. Though things can change and a nod can turn into a conversation or a connection of some sort, it being there is a good place to start without having to worry about the stepping on people’s toes.

The last part of the nod is much less of a nod but fall under the same family of things. When I had my motorcycle and was learning to ride, there was a small norm I had to follow.  Every time you pass by another bike, you would throw up a peace sign or a wave depending on your preference. It was a nice sign of respect, and it just feels like your part of this wider community of people that are in some way connected through a shared experience and expression.

I don’t know where the nod came from, but as a practice, I find it an ultimately positive one.  I think the nod is something that helps create a society in which we feel as if we exist together. So if you have the opportunity, nod at someone, when you get one back you’ll understand where I’m coming from.

The World In The Life Of A Guy: Part 3 – The Cost Of Connection

Back at the end of high school, I remember how beautiful the day was when I asked a girl to be my girlfriend for the first time.  The rosy moment was dampened when I was informed that some of her friends had thought I was gay.  I laugh about it now, because of its ridiculousness but it highlights a whole can of issues about being a guy.

You have to understand, I grew up surrounded by women, let me tell you, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns.  I remember coming home from school on a regular basis to Pride and Prejudice playing on the tv.  It was my sister’s favorite movie at the time, and she played it every day.  Now whether she watched it or not is an entirely different story, but it was always playing.  She would get mad at me if I turned it off or changed the channel, so I ended up learning to enjoy it.  Though it makes for a great story, it doesn’t actually work toward my “man points” when I can name all the major characters from all the Jane Austin movies and quote some of the lines. I have stories and anecdotes all throughout my life like this, ones that without context make me sound very strange or somewhat effeminate.  I have struggled with that balance, at times hiding these things that I might be part of my past or who I am just because it doesn’t make me out to be a tough guy.

With that, there is a lot of pressure to forgo things that are seen as girly, a lot of pressure to act tough and harden your skin.  As a guy, you’re supposed to take it, shoulder it, carry it, deal with it. That’s what you grow up with, pressure to stay strong and stern.  It shows in our relationships, girl talk about their feelings, how they’re doing, and confide in one another.  Guys, at least in my experience, don’t talk much about feelings and emotions, and there’s a struggle to finally divulge information to one another. There are many things are left unsaid, hell, my father and I don’t even end phone conversations with I love you (I know he does so that’s not a problem).  The point is there is a barrier to connecting with one another on that level. It permeates our activities and even if something crosses that line if both people aren’t willing the event will leave a hole in the friendship. It’s seen as strange to act that way and only when special times arise are you actually allowed to connect on that level.

I just remember watching the show Scrubs back in the day and relating a lot to the main character JD.  He was a bit more effeminate and was treated as such because he was in touch with his feeling and acted with some “girly” mannerisms. The thing I liked about him is that he was unabashed at showing that part of himself, unafraid of going in for a hug, talking to people about what they meant to him. Sure some of his likes weren’t really tough or strong, but that didn’t really matter, he was who was he was.  It was a very different type of strength that he showed, a strength of character.

The point being that we’re not all wood working, car fixing, super outdoorsman like Ron Swanson, nor should we be.  Just because I know how to cook and at somepoint want to be completely and incandecently happy with someone doesn’t make me strange or gay it just makes me different.  There are things I do like fix electronics,  and being handy around a house that would be considered much more manly but what I find is that these labeles we give things only get in the way of us being who we want to be and limiting outselves.

After many years being this way I’ve come to accept these differences in perception of who I should be and am okay with how I am.  I just hope that these labels and pressures don’t drive people to the edge and that that people know its okay like both westerns and flowers but what do I know, I’m “just a guy”.

The World In The Life Of A Guy: Part 2 – Decisions

There is some unspoken part of being a man, a requirement to have a firmness of choice.  It’s confusing to me because I am expected to make decisions and stick to them even when I am unsure. To cut through the fog, and smoke like a sword, swift and with purpose.  It would be a false bravado, and maybe that’s what I need, to fake it until I make it. If people are to give me the power, perhaps I should learn to wield it, and do what I think is best.

The decision, that force that tears through the cloud like vengeance, requires me always to have the tempered blade ready to use in moments where it’s do or die, and I may have to kill.  That what decision feel like at times, subjecting myself to the fog of war, where left, right, up, and down seems negligible to the enemy in front of me. Trying my best to survive, as each choice takes its toll on me, I am just like others, not wanting to make decisions all the time.  I sometimes push off the responsibility to others so that I can go along with the ride.

The expectation is a guy I will make and stand by my choices, sway people like waves on an ocean to my choice. To be the lighthouse that brings the boats in during the dark nights and rainy days, a constant to turn to. It becomes the responsibility of the one making the decision, the one making this choice, to keep everyone in mind.

I don’t know how many times I’ve sat across from people trying to figure out what to eat and looking for that evasive input that would point me in the right direction it eludes me once more.  Seeking to narrow down the multitude of places that all swarm my brain and are all equally good.  Even sometimes when I make a decision, they tell me to choose again. It’s effortful and taxing in situations where the decision is much more significant, but maybe it’s a matter of learning to get stronger and more resilient so I can go further along.

I know that I overthink most things, and not every decision is tantamount to a national emergency, but like most people, I don’t like being wrong.  I guess I should learn to get over that, learn to make decisions the best I can with what I have.  I am an academic at heart so collecting information is my go to, but I need to know when enough is enough. When it doesn’t pay to squeeze out that last drop. It’s all part of growing up isn’t it, making do with what you have, and embracing the limitation and coming up with something new.

Maybe I shouldn’t put that much emphasis on what I do, and maybe I shouldn’t care as much about others think when I make decisions. Maybe I will just choose and let the cards fall where they may. I only know so much and am working with what I have because I’m “just a guy” right.