When I first started writing my blog, here were my intentions: a) to fulfil my childhood dream of being a writer; b) write about some of the things that I went through in my life – and overcame – and hopefully help some people along the way; c) Because of what happened to my father, I am acutely aware of the fact that people that we love are not around forever…so I wanted to write down my thoughts for my daughters, for them to look back upon when the time was right for them.
Because of the personal nature of my blog, it’s mainly about girls and women – the issues that we go through; the challenges that we face – that’s what I know best I suppose. But that slant was unintentional – I know that men and boys have their own challenges and their own demons that they also battle with, and today I wanted to get some things off my chest about that too.
I went into a few clothes shops this week, looking for some potential gifts for my husband’s birthday. Shopping for men is so easy, I love it. Uncomplicated. Well it used to be…. When I first met my husband (it’s coming up to 9 years ago in December), shopping for him was a breeze – the standard sizes S, M, L and XL; regular fit and tailored fit; and different leg lengths. But now? Now there’s skinny; super skinny; slim fit and lots of other ‘so skinny it looks like your skin’ sizes.
What the hell has happened? Since when do men have to look like skeletons too? There’s always been that pressure on women to be dainty – why has this been transferred to men too? No actual men that I know would fit into these super skinny sizes – so why are they taking up the majority of the shop floor? To make men feel as rubbish as women when they shop? Nothing fits?
It occurred to me also that not only is the new pressure on men to be ultra skinny – they have to be muscular too. Bravo fashion industry – lets make men as neurotic about reaching these unattainable – you might even say unattractive standards, as women.
Then I started thinking – why am I so bothered about it all? After all, women have been under this pressure for years – isn’t it about time that men felt it too? Well I thought that for about a second…then of course I dismissed that thought immediately.
Let’s rewind 29 years, I want to talk about my dad – my father was the most macho person that I knew. Tall, strong, fearless – with the best moustache that I’d ever seen. He smoked, he drank and walked with an air of fearlessness, complete confidence! Imagine an Indian Robert de Niro – that was my dad. You’d be walking within 10 metres of him and you’d know – this was not a man to be messed with. We’d go into shops together, and he’d charm everyone around him. He told me once, that he was in an airport when he was younger, and he’d been approached by a movie director once to act in a film… This guy was my hero. Only once did I see him cry..
But even heroes can’t stick around forever. Cancer was his nemesis. Swooped down from out of nowhere – devoured him. Well – took his body anyway.
My baby brother at that time, was only 6 months old – and I was 11. Our household now, was filled with women. And even at that young age, I worried – how was my brother going to learn to be a man without my dad around? Who was going to teach him to be a man?
You see, a lot of women have an amazing network of other women to go to, or talk to, discuss things with. Men – well, do men talk about their problems? Are men meant to have problems? Do men support each other?
From the outside looking in, this is what I see. Men want other men to ‘man up’. A bit like the rules of Fight Club – the first rule of being a man is – You do not talk about problems! Second rule of being a man – if another man tries to talk about their problems – choose from the following – make fun of them; nod your head understandingly; if these things don’t do the trick – remind them about how to be a man – by telling them to ‘man up’.
I think that men learn these rules from a very early age, so they internalise a lot of their issues. They are meant to deal with everything themselves. Nobody will help them solve their problems because they are men – they are meant to be strong mentally as well as physically. They are meant to have muscles; drink huge amounts of alcohol with no side effects; earn huge amounts of money; perform like a beast sexually; be able to build a house with their own hands; have an excellent sense of directions and never get lost; never need to follow instructions for anything because they already were born knowing how to do things; fight like a superhero and most importantly – never show fear or weakness of any kind – and finally – don’t let people down.
Perhaps I’ve missed a few things out – but I think I’ve nailed the main issues. That’s a lot of pressure for a group of people to handle. And deal with on a daily basis all on your own. When women are with men, one of the greatest frustrations is that – he doesn’t open up; he never tells me what’s on his mind; he doesn’t tell me what he’s thinking – but men are not trained for this. Like Spartans, they’re too busy proving themselves to be real men.
Quite rightly, a lot has been done to fight for the equality of women. I’m not dismissing it – because when you look at the state of the world – there is still so much work to be done. Women are still unsafe, oppressed, tortured, raped, used as commodities all over the world.
But men – men also have their own demons to battle with. So much of it seems to me, comes from a deep rooted sense of having to prove their masculinity. As stated before, I’m not an expert on men. I went to a girls school and have always been really reserved around men. Having said this, I worry about the mental health of men, as much as I worry about women. Because there are lower expectations of women – it gives me a huge amount of pleasure when another women/girl smashes a glass ceiling – you thought she couldn’t do it? Look what she did! The expectations of men are so much higher – and when they can’t live up to those demands – what happens?
This is why equality is essential – for both men and women.
You know I said that I saw my dad cry only once? It was because he was telling me about his childhood, and that he never felt that his mum and dad loved him.
I often go back to the same message at the end of my blog posts – but I don’t think this can be emphasised enough. Love the people around you. Make people feel loved. And let’s some pressure off our boys to be ‘real men’, and higher our expectations of our girls.
And as for the fashion industry – I have little love for you right now. I have no love for you super ultra skinny men’s clothing. You have done enough damage to women – leave men alone!!!!!!!!!!!!