Meaning Mondays: A Gathering of Men Edition

By the time a man is 35 he knows that the images of the right man, the tough man, the true man which he received in high school do not work in life.

-Robert Bly

Here’s something you probably don’t know about me: I miss stuff.

For instance, American Idol was on television for seven years before I watched it. Popular movies are long gone before I hear about them. Fads start to burn out and at the tail end I’ll poke my head up and notice them.

A song will play on the radio and I’ll ask my husband who’s singing it; he always knows. But I’ll wonder aloud if it’s a new song. The answer usually goes like this: “No, honey, this is an old song.”

It’s not that I don’t pay attention, exactly. It’s more like my attention is elsewhere. And usually, I figure it’s no big deal if I miss some pop culture phenomenon. What I don’t like, though, is when I miss a movement.

Take, for example, Robert Bly and the Mythopoetic men’s movement.

Bly’s book, Iron John: A Book About Men, was published 20 years ago. And suddenly men were experiencing themselves in profound new ways, talking as they never had before.

Looking back, I recall the buzz. I wasn’t totally checked out, head in the sand. But I didn’t take it seriously. In fact, I scoffed a bit, without knowing anything about it. And if memory serves I do believe it annoyed me.

Who are they, I reasoned, to need a movement?

Not my finest moment, to be sure. But I was much younger (weren’t we all?), focused on my external life. I hadn’t yet hit the turn in the road, when I learned to balance inner and outer. When I began to understand the deeper story of men and women. When I realized that women weren’t the only ones who’d gotten a raw deal throughout history.

And when it finally occurred to me that men had their own particular brand of yearning and sorrow and joy.

So Saturday night found me catching up, thanks to Dave, who recently read Iron John. Turns out that Bill Moyers interviewed Bly right before the book exploded as a bestseller. The 90-minute program, A Gathering of Men, is available online through Google videos.

As I settled in to watch, I found myself unexpectedly moved by Bly’s poetry and pronouncements.

When he spoke of the often-unclaimed grief that men feel, largely because they are taught not to show or share their emotions, I got it this time. And when he told the story of watching his nine-year-old son on the basketball court, doubled-up from the ball’s violent hit to his stomach, not daring to show tears or pain to his teammates, well, I felt an undeniable sadness in that moment.

But then I pulled back. It’s 20 years later and two generations of men have come of age. Surely, things have changed.

As I was considering this, a field of images rose up and beckoned me to look at them.

And then I began to remember.

I remembered two years ago when I was supervising a practicum of soon-to-graduate counseling students, most in their mid- to late-twenties. At the end of the semester we celebrated with a potluck. As we were clearing up, the women in the group hugged their farewells to each other. And they hugged the men, too. But the men? They gave each other a quick handshake or pat on the back. I noticed, and remarked on it. They replied, “Nah, we don’t hug. It’s not a guy thing.” Keep in mind that these men weren’t going out into the world to be engineers or lawyers. They were about to become counselors.

I remembered a few weeks ago, on the reality show Survivor, when a male contestant cried in front of another male tribe member. Although his buddy gave him some comfort, the consensus from him and the rest of the men was, “Don’t do that again. Suck it up. Be a man.”

I remembered six years ago when my husband’s brother was dying and Dave was struggling at work. It was like his grief and sadness were invisible. The message he got from his employer was, “You’re blowing it and you need to pull yourself together. Tough it out. And just get the job done, Man.” Thankfully, he no longer works there.

And of course, I remembered all the years I’ve counseled and coached both men and women in life transition, listening to them sort through the confusion and joy of what to let go and what to move toward. As is true for any office such as mine, I’ve tried to create a safe place for people to bring their emotions. And many tears have been shed there. Often from women. Rarely from men.

At the end of my remembering, I turned to the man I share my life with, and asked him if things had changed for men in the last 20 years. Without skipping a beat, he answered, “No.”

So talk to me about this. Please.

Men, do you feel like you can show tears and pain in front of other men? Or do you feel like you have to be tough and stoic? Do you even care about this? And if you’re a father, will it be different for your son?

Women, is it important for men to be able to show emotion? And what’s it like for the men in your life: husbands and lovers, sons and brothers, fathers and friends?

And for all of you, does any of this still matter in the 21st century?



51 thoughts on “Meaning Mondays: A Gathering of Men Edition

  1. A man who can embrace the femininity of his innate poise is a man who transcends the normality of this societal caricature called “machosim”!

  2. Men will always be men, cold and insensitive. It will take courage for men to face their vulnerabilities and explore their soft side. Of course, I would not be foolish to pretend to be tough as most men do. I will express my emotion whenever it is needed and I won’t be ashamed to express my feelings. After all, I will be the one to suffer if I suppress my feminine side. 🙂

    • Hi Walter – I think Bly would disagree about men being cold and insensitive. But he would certainly say that men and women do emotion differently. It’s wonderful to hear that you do not feel ashamed to express your feelings. Thanks for the comment.

  3. [[ When he spoke of the often-unclaimed grief that men feel, largely because they are taught not to show or share their emotions, I got it this time. ]] – Yeah, that’s precisely the problem. Too bad that men in our society are socially conditioned to be emotionally unaffected and act obsequiously. No wonder we treat war, violence, politics, and crime as outputs for our repressed emotions. lol

    [[ Men, do you feel like you can show tears and pain in front of other men? ]] – Personally, it depends on the situation. It’s not a big deal if it’s in front of my family or my closest friends. Otherwise, you won’t see me shed a single tear in front of any other person or in any other kind of circumstance. hehe.

    [[And for all of you, does any of this still matter in the 21st century?]] – Affirmative. As far as I could tell, we’re still human. =)

    Great post, Patty!!

    Peace and respect,

    • Hi Ryhen – Yes, there’s a lot of shadow projection in our culture. All that stuff has to go somewhere. Thanks so much for sharing what it’s like for you, when you must tough it out and when you can let it out.

  4. Good Morning Patty!

    I wrote this in response to a comment you left on my blog post “negative emotions kill”. It is a partial excerpt, the rest applies to the post.

    “When the two shall be one and the male with the female neither male nor female”.

    It goes on to talk about the above into the below and so on… however, I have always been fascinated by this.

    In all my relationships with women, I have found that the battle of the sexes, is a result of using different centres.

    Each has their power of understanding, that collides with the other, as long as we remain asleep, thinking that we are “right”(fixed), there is always discord.”

    Unfortunately, I was initially trained by the “War generation” to fight another “war” so to speak. Although I matured during the peace and feminist movements, I was already programmed.

    “Men don’t understand women and women don’t understand men.” (I found the book, “Men are from Mars and women from Venus” a very good read.)

    Women expect men to be sensitive like them and really feel the emotions. Men think that the emotional manifestations are a waste of force. Both are wrong.

    Don’t get me wrong though, I have had my fair share of holding and comforting women and men younger and older, while they were going through emotional crisis. I tried to be sympathetic and really feel the situation, but there always arose a conflict in me. When the chips were really down, I would revert to my masculine side of sorting out the problems methodically, taking action as appropriate, without emotional considerations.

    On the flip side, I have seen men, women, and children panic when the leader of the tribe (male or female), has a serious emotional melt down. The king / Queen is off their throne, the General is no longer on the Battlefield type scenario.

    Emotions, we all have them, both male and female, unfortunately the majority are of a negative nature. The sexes however use different approaches to different situations with different centres. Environmental perhaps, Hold over from prehistoric man perhaps.

    I do believe in the saying above though, unless the two become one, there is no true understanding.


    • Excellent point about the programming, Eso. I wonder, has that changed at all? I’m not sure. I do know it’s a question of both nature and nurture, although had you asked me years ago I would have said it was all nurture. Now I understand the differences, as your comment so well illustrates. I really like how you speak of two becoming one. Reminds me a little of the work of Harville Hendrix. Thank you!

      p.s. Eso, thanks for coming by and leaving your thoughts about metro sexuals, and the role of parenting (more mothering but less fathering) in their lives. That’s interesting, because one of the things that resonated for me in the Robert Bly interview was his assertion that the father-son bond is critical for a man’s growth and development. And in order to get that bond with the father or father figure, a man must sometimes actively seek it out and persist, because the father is likely to withdraw initially from such an overture. Bly also talked about the importance of older men teaching younger men, showing them the ropes, as it were, but acknowledged that it doesn’t happen much these days. So as you say, I guess we’ll see how it all turns out!

      • “I wonder, has that changed at all?” That’s a very interesting question. I have recently been studying the term Metro sexual, and observing the young men in my life that are (according to the women in my life) examples of this new breed. I do find that they are a lot more “sensitive”, than the typical guys that I knew, during my days of rough-house and rowdiness. One thing I’ve noticed though, they do come from families where there is a more dominant female and less male involvement.

        I think someone else mentioned that the newer generations may change the whole dynamic.

        Is that a good thing? Juries still out on that one. We will see, what we will see.

        As for me personally, I have learned that, not identifying and catching my emotions and thoughts before they become actions. Makes me more sensitive to others difficulties, which let’s me in turn see my own.


  5. I just love your honesty in your writing. You are just so… REAL – someone I can relate to.

    I have sympathy for the men in our society who have been conditioned into a “cowboys don’t cry” persona. I think it’s really tough for them to cope with life sometimes and deal with inner housekeeping. Emotions like crying are an emotional release which aid emotional healing. Crying can be just so good for the soul… as much as showing love and laughter.

    • Thank you, Tracy. I appreciate you saying that. I agree with you about crying, and I don’t think it’s gender specific, although women may be more predisposed to cry then men. But those times when men need to release it, I so want to live in a world that makes it OK for them to do so.

  6. Hi Patty! There sure IS some weird “masking” going on with the male population. I’ve known some really deep feeling guys yet you would never know it unless you spent a lot of time talking to them – and showing emotions? Not many had the courage to just let it go. I think you’re right – they have the “suck it up” mentality.

    Hubs is all hand shakes with all but our closest friends – then it’s hugs all around. As for tears, he seems to cry more in his 60’s than he ever did before – sometimes more than I do! Interesting. I’ve noticed that with older men. Maybe it comes with age? Like they had to hold it in, hide it, for so long now it is a what the hell, let loose and who cares?

    I wish it would change and equal out a bit, this display of emotions, but I think it will take generations to really get there.


    • I expect you’re right about that, suZen, that it will take generations to change and 20 years is not nearly enough. Interesting, too, what you say about your husband having more access to his emotions now that he is older. Bly talks at length about that, and it does seem when we get to the point in life where we know that every precious moment counts, then we feel freer to just be who we are. Thanks! and hugs!

  7. Hi Patty,

    I enjoyed your post. I too remember Robert Bly and I have to admit that I had the same reaction as you did. As with you, time gave me a more ‘enlightened’ perspective about the subject.

    As women, we don’t really know the world of men. We are observers of it but mostly from our perspective, without understanding their world. We can say they aren’t enough of this or too much of that and even though there may be some truth in that, it is an incomplete view.

    I watched the movie Brokeback Mountain and it was in many ways a window into a world I really know very little about. I’m not referring to the sexual aspect of it but to the interaction of two men away from the constraints of societal judgment. Without the need to ‘posture’ to the expectations of society. I was fascinated. They were real, human as I am and sometimes believed men could not be. A condescending opinion really. But here were two men who enjoyed companionship as expressed in a male way but there it was none the less.

    Men should be allowed to be men since simply put, they are men and not women. I don’t mean in the stereotypical way that denies them being complete beings. I’m not sure men need to ‘express’ their emotions in the way women are permitted to. They may not feel the need to. But certainly not be confined to a woman’s definition of how and when to express their emotions.

    As with both women and men, being aware of emotions is crucial and makes us more complete. To learn how they impact us in our respective lives and how to constructively deal with them is the ideal aim. Not to squelch them or be overwhelmingly controlled by them.

    I agree with Eso’s response. We are both male and female, not necessarily in equal amounts of course, but both exist in us. It is when we are one with both aspects of us; the Yin and the Yang, that we are able to be whole and in harmony with ourselves and the other sex. The constant battle between the sexes arises when there is no understanding of the other and the judgement that one is therefore ‘better’ than the other.


    • Hi Amyly – Welcome! I appreciate you stopping by. I’m glad to hear someone else rejected Bly initially. Now I’m at a place where I’m more able to see how much sense he makes. Although for some men I expect he would be too much. I love it that you mention Brokeback Mountain, one of my favorite books/movies. And I agree with you that men don’t need to do emotion the way women do, but rather do emotion the way they feel comfortable doing, not having to suck it up because of some programming, as Eso says. I think you’ve hit it when you mention Yin/Yang, and the importance of recognizing and embracing the opposites within ourselves. Thanks for adding to the conversation!

  8. Great post, Patty. It is so interesting, isn’t it, the different ways men and women handle emotions.

    I consider my husband to be a pretty enlightened, modern man (housework, cooking, grocery shopping – we share it all) but he does not often show strong emotion. On one hand, I think it is just his personality, his makeup (as opposed to my very emotional nature) but on the other there is the societal pressure and expectation to “keep it under control.” Tricky stuff.

    I remember that scene on “Survivor” a few weeks back – interesting, isn’t it?

    • It sure is tricky, Eva. That’s the perfect word for it. It’s a real challenge to discern what’s nature and what’s nurture, although seeing Robert Bly speak and hearing from men what it’s like out there makes me think that men do still have a tough time out there. Thanks for your insight!

  9. I think men have been robbed of the opportunity to live life to the fullest because they aren’t allowed to show emotions. Personally I think men do more than ever but that’s the men I hang out with. And it’s probably true because my hubs shows emotions.

    With for daughters and me it was impossible not to join in the crying, the joy, the sadness, kissing, hugging etc.

    He cries openly, hugs openly…a gift from his five favorite women and now granddaughter.

    My grandson is very sensitive and sucks it up in middle school but because he has it from the rest of us I know when it’s time for him to “come out” he can and he will.

    He’s been terribly bullied but isn’t that what happens to the sensitive ones?

    • Ah, the perfect juxtaposition, Tess. Your husband raising daughters and getting more comfortable with emotions, but your grandson still having to suck it up on the playground because of bullies. Yikes! Why does it have to be like this? (I know you don’t have the answer.) Thanks for bringing that insight my way, Tess.

  10. Hmmm…

    I would argue that, whether we like it or not, men who are likely to be fathers or have to protect their kids are both culturally bound *and* genetically bound to show less emotion (on average) than women. For example I have read (but can’t find the reference quickly, sorry) that testosterone interferes with the hormones that enable emotional tears (prolactin I seem to remember).

    While it is always a little too tempting to invent evolutionary ‘just so’ stories you can see in principle that a man’s behaviour within the troop/clan/tribe is aimed at getting food for his children and protecting his status (and so that of his children) within the troop hierachy. Tears would interfere with this – blinding him in moments of peril and communicating weakness to a competitor. From comments further up, and my own experience, as men get older and the fires of testosterone die down, their ability (not just their inclination) to shed tears increases. And then there is cultural predisposition too.

    Women of course are stereotyped as being better communicators (I’m not sure just how big a truth this is) and displays of emotion are just one way of communicating and building networks of supporting friends.

    Having said all that, would it be a good thing for men to be able to show more emotion? Obviously, for some individuals, yes. Better to open up than fall into depression or suicide. But for some individual men, possibly most, too much openness is going to affect how well they do in life. The guy who sobs at the slightest rebuff is not going to get the bacon, or the promotion, or the desirable women. Life can be tough for men as well as women.

    So do I, as a man, think I can show tears and pain in front of other men? Yes – but only now when I and they are past our reproductive prime of life. Certainly the relative ease of modern developed world life makes it more acceptable to be emotionally freer within the family and close friends, and my two boys (young men now) find it easier to show emotion. But they are still trapped within the ‘suck it up’ mindset. As long as society (and societies in commercial competition elsewhere in the world) has a default expectation of men being ‘providers’ then a certain degree of ‘toughness’ will be expected. Whether this is politically or philosophically desirable is another matter.

    Finally a joke:
    A troop of monkeys is sitting in a tree. The boss monkeys (almost without exception male) sit on the highest branches, look down on all their subordinate female *and* male monkeys and see their kingdom. The subordinate monkeys look up, but all they can see is a**holes.

    • Wow, thanks for that. Lots to think about. And we’re back to the nature vs. nurture question. I’m looking at what you say about the stereotype of women being the communicators. If that’s not necessarily a truth, then doesn’t it follow that it’s not necessarily a truth that men are the stereotype of the protectors? I suppose we could lay a lot of this off to biology, but I think there’s a danger in how far we go with that. I think your point is well taken about society’s default expectation about men’s roles, and I like your joke a lot. Bly talks about how the boss has taken the place of the King in our society, but the boss does not understand much about the archetypal ruler or know how to create a healthy, happy kingdom.

  11. I’m cautiously hopeful about this. I think for Westerners, men of the younger generations are changing. I don’t know any male friend my age who’s also a father who doesn’t change a diaper on a regular basis or doesn’t show tenderness at the sight of his child doing some silly thing. This wasn’t the norm for our parents and a sign that gives me great hope about the future.

    As for men in other cultures, I know more than I’d like to know about women being brutalized by men and I’m not so sure what kind of changes are possible in those areas where basic rights suffer. I wonder what our role is, if any, in affecting change where so much history and suffering is mind-boggling.

    Great topic! I will check out Robert Bly!

    • Hi Belinda – I agree that men are transforming in the ways you mention – changing diapers, showing tenderness. But I wonder, does that translate to outside of the home, letting that part of themselves out into the world? I’m not saying men should be like women, not at all. But I do think the world needs to be a safer place for men to show emotion, whether or not they choose to do so. And your comment about the brutalities you know about makes me think we’re far from getting to that world. Thanks much for the comment.

  12. Great post, Patty! I have had the luck – and it is luck – to have several great relationships with men who were more “liberated” and would show emotions freely. Unfortunately, these same men seem to know better when they are getting close to a “blowing” point in a discussion or relationship and immediately, when most needed, shut down. I am not sure I get it but I keep hoping it will change.

    I think my thoughts are a bit scattered today.

    • Nope, your thoughts are right on today, Nicki. It’s interesting what you say about that blowing point, the point of no return that feels like a danger zone. I think in a relationship it can change, though, and men can find the emotion underneath the blowing point and express it. In fact, I suspect we’re much closer to that happening in relationships; less closer to men being able to pull back the toughness around other men. Thanks for your thoughts!

  13. Patty, thank you, I, too, enjoyed your post. Then I started thinking about what I have observed of many Japanese men, and how the culture here conditions them to express themselves, and there was so much I wanted to say that I couldn’t, so I retreated to bed instead. It is now 4:12 am, and I just got up, and as I sit here now in the quiet mountains with the Japanese man in my life, who all through the wee hours has been preparing our tax forms, I still can’t say all I want to say.

    My sense is that the interaction with the woman or women in a man’s life is critically important in developing how a man expresses himself, emotionally or otherwise.

    I also think that the extent and depth of shared life is an important factor. A man and woman who work together, or run a business together, or otherwise spend a great portion of everyday together, develop a different dynamic of expression that encourages honesty of emotion, even when it is painful. The relationship does not seem able to thrive without this.

    Re-reading your interesting post and comments, I feel that the deeper each of us becomes who we already are within, the less the questions of men versus women in the expression of emotion will matter.

    Women might say that they want to see more of the woman’s side in a man. But how often do we women show the man in us? It is there for expressing, too.

    The point is that both women and men grow into a fuller expression of themselves in every aspect. And from the basis of that fullness, to begin to share with another human being. It is the emptiness in each of us that shows its lack.

    With warm wishes from the mountains – please stop by my blog again to enjoy a breath of springtime in Japan – Catrien Ross.

    • Hi Catrien – Thanks for reminding us of how crucial the interaction between men and women is in determining a man’s comfort with expressing himself. Robert Bly, I think, would agree with you, especially as that relates to a man’s (boy’s) interaction with his mother. However, he would add that the relationship with the father is crucial too, as is the relationship between the mother and father. And I really appreciate what you say about seeking depth and understanding the opposites within us, for both men and women, because that’s really what the mythopoetic men’s movement was about. All beautifully put, Catrien. I’m looking forward to visiting you again soon!

  14. hi patty,
    how are you?
    i think there must be a balance drawn here and while i agree that we must show strength, support our families and have broad shoulders for people to lean on… i feel the bigger man also recognises he has emotions and can be vulnerable at times.

    • Hi Ayo – I’m doing great today, how about you? I like what you say about the balance between strength and vulnerability. And like Catrien said in her comment, I think both men and women need to be aware of that. Thanks for stopping by!

  15. I’ve shed a tear or two in my day, but only in front of family. I’ve gotten teary watching some movies, but I quickly wipe them away. I’ll hug men in my family, but not usually outside of my family. It seems odd to think about it. I’m not sure why it is this way. I don’t usually worry about what others think of me. It seems as though I do have some worry when my “manhood” is in question. It feels very caveman now that I think about it.

    I best express emotion in my writing. I have a hard time speaking how I feel, but I can darn sure write it down.

    • That’s fascinating the way you describe it, Eric. Almost like it’s so deep down that it’s hard to articulate. And writing is such a great way to express emotion isn’t it? You do that so well. When I was reading your most recent post about contented sadness and you spoke of walking through the rain, it made me think of tears, actually. Something about that is almost as cathartic as tears I think. Thanks, Eric.

  16. Some Men can be generally cold, I suppose it’s something to do with their masculinity as in ” Men don’t Cry” ….One of our friend seems to spend more time in the gym when upset , and can go a bit quite at times .. I guess that’s his way of expressing his emotions ….

    • Good point, Fatima. I think a lot of people release emotions that way, through physical exertion. Wearing themselves out perhaps wears the feelings out too. In fact, I just had a conversation with a client about that, so your comment is timely. Thanks!

  17. I think there’s hope, Patty, though still a long way to go. I point to my son, now in his mid-20s, who was a rough and tumble rugby player. However, he has been known to take a call from me in the middle of a rugby drink-up (traditional after-game party) and say, “I love you, Mama!” to the loud guffaws and snorts of the guys around him. So that’s something!

  18. Hi Patty,

    This is such an interesting subject, especially as I raise my three boys.

    As they grow I notice that it has been their decision to not cry in public and I am doing my best to teach them that it is okay to show emotion.

    I have had to teach my boys that not everybody responds to emotion in the same way and crying is not always received well in the male community, especially with friends who do not have sisters and have not learned how to accept emotions in others.

    Thankfully, they are very close to their two female cousins and are not becoming immune to responding to feelings.

    It has been a real learning experience for me to figure out the correct advice to give my boys and it will continue to be a work in progress but the most valuable thing that I know of to teach them is that it is okay and important for them to be able to express themselves and to not hide their feelings.

    • Thanks so much for weighing in on this one, Jillian. Since you have three boys, you’re the perfect person to talk about this. And what you’ve told them is right – crying is not always received well by other males. I wish it were not so, however. I’m curious about your husband too. What does he think about your teaching them that it is important to express emotions?

  19. Hi Patty.
    It does matter to me. I appreciate a man who can show his feelings, and without embarrassment about it. I think it shows a lot of strength just in the knowing and the accepting of the emotion, enough to even let it out.

    • That makes a lot of sense, Davina. Strength not just in the way we normally think of it, but strength in understanding inner as well as outer. Thanks!

  20. I recently read Iron John in order to try and come to terms with my X and his behavior toward our daughter. The one thing that stood out applies to both men and women – the phases that we must pass through. We have to fight our battles and work our way through the challenges on our own. And we need to learn to accept men as men and women as women – meaning that we are different and we each bring different qualities to the table. The book reminded me of Women Who Run With Wolves – each expressing the importance of honesty with one’s self and integrity and embracing all parts of the self over just those that are socially accepted or desired.

    • Hi Mia – Welcome, and thanks for stopping by. I’m glad you pointed out that the book is for women as well as men, and speaks to understanding those deep archetypes within ourselves. Interesting, too, that you should mention Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ book. I’ve heard that she and Robert Bly sometimes appear together!

  21. Patty –

    Men have feelings too! Thanks for speaking up on our behalf. I’ve seen too many male friends, family members, colleagues and clients suffer in silence because that is the done thing. It is ridiculous in the 21st Century that this social construct is still so prevalent. I think that the truly strong man is comfortable to share his emotion without fear – however to get there takes real courage. I’ve spent most of my adult life learning to deal with the emotions I feel in a constructive way and not bottle them up – thanks a lot culture! Great post – as you can tell you’ve got me fired up. Keep ’em coming!


    • Hey Phil, I’m so glad you’re fired up. I like that about you! It sure is unfathomable that this is still the norm at this time in our history. And you’re so right. It is a social construct; regardless of biology, much of this has been learned. And as all constructs can be, so can this one be deconstructed and reconstructed. Kudos to you for trying to do that. Thanks!

  22. Wow, my thoughts are going rampant here. I think there are so many different influences involved here, hard to separate them and come to one conclusion I think. We people are complex beings with many layers of conditioning. Culture does not only relates to a country, but relates also to locality, social class and then of course you have family, gender and professional cultures. That is shaping us all and how can you find the real us underneath all that????
    I remember my father and brothers never eating an orange, but we girls did so somehow I thought eating an orange is feminine. When a first boyfriend ate an orange I remember the shock of thinking Oh my God he is gay! DUH and helloooo.
    It would be great if we could grow up and have a choice which culture we would like to adhere to, which culture would suits us best and be allowed to go for differences.
    Until judgment about what is in fashion and what is proper etc. is gone from our lives, men and women have no show to find out who we are.

    • You’re so right, Wilma. There’s a whole lotta culture going on, and it is certainly confusing for both men and women. But I like your story about the oranges! Thanks!

  23. I think there is a definite push for men to be stoic and not show emotion. having grown up in the 80’s and being an emotional guy it was hard, I had to hide my hurt, my joy, my sadness and anger behind an inner wall. Latter I had to deal with tearing down that wall. Today it still does not feel right crying in front of mail friends, it just does not.

    • Hi Quinn – Thanks for sharing that. That inner wall must really be a drag. Like you can’t go out in the world and be yourself among other males. But from what I’ve heard from the other men here, it sounds like many men have and are experiencing that inner wall.

  24. Great post and great questions. So much has changed and yet so much has remained the same. In the culture in which I live I am a man that does not fit in with the majority of other men. I do not relate to many of the same things that men are “supposed” to relate to. I do not fit the stereotypical mode. When I am with most men it is still an unwritten rule to not have a display of emotions unless those emotions are anger. To show tears or saddness in many circles is still looked down upon. To not be into sports is still a sign that something may not be right with you. I think one of the things that has changed very much in the last couple of decades is that gay men are now much more accepted and yet there is little tolerance for middle ground from heterosexual men. If a man is sensitive and shows his emotions and is gay that is acceptable, however if the man is not gay then it is unacceptable and many times both men and women will assume the man is gay or does not know he is gay yet. Yes the world has changed yet much remains the same.
    I don’t worry myself with what others think of me. I simply allow myself to be. It all works out very well for me in the end.Thanks for provoking these thoughts today.

    • I couldn’t have said it better: much has changed yet so much has remained the same. We still have a long way to go. It’s courageous to go out in the world and just allow yourself to be. I wish that every man (women too, of course) believed they had access to that courage. Thank you.

  25. You know, I don’t think I’ve ever felt like I can show tears and pain in front of other men. Ever. This causes me no end of frustration because I often feel like I’m just one big, walking emotion.

    But, of course, I’m not allowed to be that. Gotta bring home the bacon, thump my gorilla chest, conquer the world, all that crap.

    I wish I could say that I didn’t care about this, but I’d be lying. What usually happens is that my emotions get so super intense that I end up bawling in front of whoever is unfortunate enough to be near me at the time. I have never been able to keep my emotions in, even though I desperately want to be “manly” and show folks how stoic I am instead.

    At the end of the day, repressing your feelings doesn’t make you more of a man than the next man, but society would still have you believe that. It stinks.

    • Hi Tony – Thanks for joining the conversation and telling us your experience. I wish the world was a safer place for men to just be real. That’s quite a load of BS that society has handed you guys, isn’t it?

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