What do you really want to be?


cc licensed flickr photo shared by jspad

Dear Readers,

Back in October 2010, I wrote a post related to Halloween.

At the time, I didn’t have the pleasure of having many of you as readers.

Thus, I saw it fitting to share it with you today.

I don’t know whether it’s the visual of the Son when he was five, or the fact that just this week he turned 21, but it still makes me chuckle.

I hope it has the same effect on you.

I’ll never forget the day the Son came home from kindergarten, paper in hand and said, “The teacher said you have to read this.”

I still remember what the note said: “Dear Parents, this Friday we will be celebrating “Career Day”. Please assist your child in preparing for a small presentation that will be titled, “When I grow up I want to be…”.

Being the diligent parent that I am, I immediately asked the Son, “Honey, what do you want to be when you grow up?”

Expecting to hear something along the lines of astronaut, scientist, football player or firefighter, I was completely aghast to hear him whisper, “A ninja.”

“A what?” I asked, even though I had clearly heard his response.

“Mom, I said I want to be a ninja, so leave me alone already.”

Ah, the joys of motherhood.

So like any controlling responsible mother, I set out to brainwash create awareness in my child regarding the importance of making a good career choice.

Fast forward four days, and my heart soared as the heir to my debt spoke into the microphone and said, “When I grow up I want to be a cardiothoracic surgeon.”

Forget the fact that he mispronounced “cardiothoracic” and it came out “cardiosaurus”.

I beamed with pride.

It’s now fourteen years later and the Son is coming down the stairs dressed in his Halloween “costume.”

“Mom, do you like my costume?”

I glance up to see him dressed in a pair of black jeans, black sneakers, and a black hoodie.

“Are you supposed to be an Italian widower?”

“Nope. Try again.”

“Johnny Cash come back from the grave?”

“Mom, get serious.”

“Zorro without his mask?”

At this point he ties a black scarf over his mouth, pulls his hood over his head, and whips out a sword.

I hold my breath and hear him say, “Mom, I’m a ninja.”

Lesson learned: You can steer your child in the direction you want him to go but in the end, he’s still going to be…a ninja.

Roxy and I want to wish you a Happy Halloween!

Fellow bloggers, what would you say to this reader?

Dear Readers,

I had a post written up and ready to go tonight.

However, I received a comment on one of my earlier posts that I feel merits attention.

Why?

Because the comment is regarding a subject I feel very strongly about.

Many of you might recall the post, “One Man’s Definition of Masculinity.”

Tonight, Greg, a new reader, added his two cents.

At first, I thought my reply to Greg would be enough, but then I thought this would be a wonderful chance for members of the blogging community to voice their opinions in regard to the subject.

Many of you will think I love to stir the pot (which I do), but in all honesty, it’s more than that.

I see this as an opportunity to educate our fellow human beings on the importance of gender equality.

If the spirit moves you, if you feel as strongly as I do, or if you agree with Greg, please share your thoughts.

Just remember, the purpose of this exercise is not to bash Greg if you don’t agree with him, but to share with him the reasons why you think differently.

You will find Greg’s comment and reply at the bottom of this post and you can click on this link to read the original post.

Greg said:

“Oh dear. Please read these words with the love that compels me to share them. As a man who was once like Son, I have realized denying my masculinity was keeping me from engaging in life and disabling me from my life mission. I felt guilty for being a man. I repressed my inherent masculinity, cultivating feminine characteristics to survive. I was taught masculinity is angry, masculinity is not acceptable, anger is not acceptable, feeling my true feelings is unacceptable, only feeling the feelings I am expected to feel is acceptable.

Of course we all have our own life experiences, and I don’t know you or Son. I can only speak of myself and how I read my experience into your posting.

I am only now learning to cultivate my masculinity and neglect the femininity I used to nurture myself. Like Son, I have a basic understanding of all people being equally deserving of being. It was a positive evolution in society, but what is next? Is post-equality society one where all are equally deserving yet still uniquely equipped?

I am a man. I have masculine traits that are necessary for me to live my life mission. I have desire and drive and ambition and muscle and stink. My mind, body and spirit need to work to exhaustion towards the satisfaction of my ambition. Fighting myself by cultivating femininity within myself only serves to sabotage myself. I am a man, passionately loving through my masculinity, with loving anger, loving rigor, loving physicality, loving aggression. It feels weird, but I’m getting used to it.

As a woman, you understand better than I will ever, how much you desperately want your son to live his life mission. As a woman you understand love like no man and you accept it as the nature of a woman.

Oh yeah, your kid didn’t do the assignment! Failed! Out of love for all existence, I sincerely hope he chooses to find his masculinity and demonstrates how to be a post-equality man, because equality is boring.”

Bella replied:

Greg, hello and welcome! I hope you will read my words with all the love that compels me to reply to your comment. First of all, I respect your opinion. We have the right to think differently and given you’ve taken the time to elaborate a response, I appreciate that. That said, allow me to let you in on a little secret–masculinity is overrated.

It never seizes to amaze me how much work many men put in, as members of the “boys club” say, to avoid appearing “gay.” Although this doesn’t surprise me given the importance that “real” men put in exhibiting their masculine traits. Beard stubble? Check. A rejection of anything feminine? Check. Stifling any sign of being compliant or in agreement with the feminine gender for fear of appearing whipped? Check.

Some men are so obsessed with embracing their masculinity that they fail to see the bigger picture and that is that we should not continue to be a society obsessed with gender. You say, ” I have desire and drive and ambition and muscle and stink. My mind, body and spirit need to work to exhaustion towards the satisfaction of my ambition.” Well, guess what, Greg? That’s not you being a man, that’s anyone, male or female who has the goal to get ahead in life.

In my humble opinion, there is no “post” or “pre” masculinity stage. Why? Because we’re more alike than you give us credit for. Biologically, we both have testosterone and estrogen. Granted, it’s in different quantities depending on gender, but we both possess these. Ambition, drive, and the desire to succeed? These traits are gender free. Sorry, Greg. I’m not buying into the “I have masculine traits that are necessary for me to live my life mission,” ordeal. As far as I’m concerned, our only mission as humans is to work together to save our planet, exhibit compassion, respect and kindness to others, and strive to reach our maximum potential as people; not as men or women, but as people.

I don’t know why you may have exalted your “feminine” characteristics but it might serve to ask yourself if this is where your resentment stems from. Like you mention, we don’t know each other and we each have our own life experiences. Thus, only you know why you feel this way or were made to feel this way.

As a woman, and more importantly, as a mother, it pleases me to think that the Son will continue to think the way he does. In my opinion, it speaks of a well rounded individual who doesn’t think one gender is better, stronger, or smarter than the other. It speaks of an individual who values equality and who doesn’t think being a man is composed of aggression, smelling badly, or being angry. And I certainly hope he never believes that equality is boring! For nothing could be farther from the truth.Because a person who believes that we all have the same rights, that we should all have the same opportunities, and that we should never look down at others–those are signs of an enlightened individual.

Sorry Greg, but if you ask me, it’s only the confused men who think they have to act out their aggression, smell like old socks, and thump their chests like Neanderthals, the ones who have truly failed.

Do you agree or disagree with Greg’s definition of masculinity?

Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

XOXO,

One man’s definition of masculinity

cc licensed by D Sharon Pruitt

Today the Son takes his last final exam.

His summer break begins this afternoon.

And thank goodness, because these past two weeks have been grueling.

For anyone who has helped a twenty year old study for finals, you know what it’s like.

(If you don’t, read about it here.)

He’s already announced that this weekend “the party gets started.”

In other words, when I’m going to bed he’s going out and when I’m waking up he’s getting home.

The culmination of classes also means I get more computer time.

Yes, friends, after God only knows how many months, I’ll finally be able to write my blog posts at a decent hour and not in the wee hours of the morning.

I’ll also have more time to catch up with my favorite blogs.

The thought alone makes me want to do a victory lap around the living room.

But first, there’s something I want to share with you.

The Son recently had to do a discussion post for his Psychology of Women class.

After much pleading and cajoling, he’s allowed me to share his answer with all of you.

The topic was, “If you had the power to create your own definition, what would your definition of masculinity be and why? How would this impact the understanding of femininity?”

Here’s his answer, unedited:

If I had the power to create a definition of masculinity, I would do away with it all together. I think it does a big disservice to femininity for there to be a distinction regarding a difference in all that is male or all that is female. Instead, I would strive for the elimination of gender and focus on a definition of what traits best describe a worthy human being. The way I see it, the only difference between both genders are the physical ones; those related to reproductive organs and hormones. Yet the fact that men and women have different reproductive organs should not have anything to do with their behavior or attitudes.

Sadly, the reality lies in the fact that as a society, we attribute certain traits or characteristics to men and women. Masculinity is associated with a man’s ability to be strong, sexual, aggressive, and dominant, to name a few. Ironically, not only do men define what being “a real man” is like, but women also give in to the notion that if a man is in touch with his feminine side, he’s not really a “man’s man.” Hence, women too are responsible for having expectations that masculinity is defined by men who are players, who don’t let anyone tell them what to do, or who crave adrenalin-filled activities and adventure. It is these expectations that make it so difficult for men to escape from the culturally defined concept of masculinity. However, if we were to embrace the fact that no trait is necessarily specific to men or women, the definition of masculinity would not be necessary. We could accept the fact that women can be strong, determined, and assertive and that men, on the other hand, can be sensitive, intuitive, and nurturing.

In educating boys so that they understand that there is no specific list that details qualifications that make a man a man, we would uphold the belief that as humans, we should strive to place value on what makes a person valuable. Traits such as kindness, compassion, and empathy shouldn’t be associated with any specific gender. As a society, we should expect and promote women and men to possess those qualities that make for a more positive environment; one that values respect, intellect, and tolerance and not one that dictates that men are men if they have sex on the brain and are combative and dominant.

I believe that in embracing this type of mentality, we would do away with the harmful effect of objectifying and sexualizing women or of labeling men “gay” when they show emotion or exhibit tenderness, for example. Therefore, the definition of masculinity should cease to exist and instead be replaced with what it’s like to be a good person; a fine human being.

I think that in reeducating boys to the reality that other than the physical, we’re all equal, we would be able to change attitudes and beliefs that men are superior to women; we would be able to change the sense of entitlement that by virtue of being male, men hold more power and status. Educating young boys would combat the use of derogatory labels and stereotypes that are used to define women and it would educate them to the fact that it is unacceptable to use hostility and violence against women to achieve their means. Finally, I find that it would lessen the importance that society places on physicality, thereby eliminating the need to treat women as sex objects.

When I read his answer, I cried.

I cried because I could hear my nana whispering, “Bella, you raised that boy right.”

However, the purpose of this post is not to toot my horn, although my heart bursts with pride.

Instead, I wanted to show you that it if we educate young boys to embrace gender equality, it is possible to banish society’s expectations of how men and women should act.

As parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and teachers, it is our responsibility to engage in this process.

In doing so, not only do we take a step in changing societal views, but we also help determine the kind of women and men our children will turn out to be.