Being a man is fascinating. Through culture, our environment, and toxic masculinity, most of us grow up with the misconstrued notion that we need to prove to everyone that we know exactly what we’re doing at all times, especially if it’s the first time we’re doing something. As a man, we must naturally know how to do everything entirely on our own. Any topic with a hint of a feminine twinge is absolutely prohibited from discussion with the boys or is automatically chastised by other boys.
I can’t help think about how my preconceived notions of how to be a “man” have made me uncomfortable talking about topics that should be openly conversed about with other men. At face value, any of these topics should not be embarrassing, but I would bet a lot of money that 99% of conversations guys have with each other would never mention any of them.
#1. How to Properly Dress Yourself
It’s funny to see the juxtaposition between the interactions between women and men shopping for clothes. Most guys ask for 0 advice on style, looks, quality, color, or brand. Some of us don’t even try things on. Meanwhile, I see my girlfriend send just about every purchase she makes to her group chats asking something along the lines, “Do you think this will look good on me?” and then receive a flurry of texts of actual advice on what they thought. As much as I would like to say that style comes naturally for everyone. It’s always helpful if someone can tell you what color matches with which, how to wear clothing that fits your body shape well, and the types of clothes that will work with each other. We need to make conversations about what we wear a new normal. I’m not saying it’ll be the same amount of emphasis women put on what they wear. Nevertheless, there are many guys out there who would love to learn how to dress well; we just need to make it acceptable for men to help each feel more confident about how they dress Fashion is for everyone, don’t settle for going out in your 11-inch inseam basketball shorts.
#2. How to Take Care of Your Skin
For many men, fighting acne through our teenage years was a fight we fought alone. For such a common problem, I’ve never understood why I never had a conversation sharing advice on minimizing breakouts. I know that there are tons of material online on how to take care of your skin, but why do so many teenage guys feel so uncomfortable asking their best friend, “dude, what do you use to treat your acne?” For a topic that affects so many boys, you would think guys would talk about this more. Far too much of the conversation as a teenager falls into how you can make yourself seem as “adult” and “manly” as possible, but what’s so unmanly about having clear skin? Even at 24, it’s rare for most of my guy friends and I to have a conversation about skin, but I know that most of us have taken up some form of skin care. Whether it was the Proactive skin regiment you took up to fix your acne or your girlfriend’s skincare products you haphazardly put on your face in the bathroom, most of us seem to at least do something. We’re just too ashamed to talk about it. As much as products are marketed to feel “feminine,” there is no reason most men shouldn’t care about their skin. Trust me, go to your nearest CVS, and pick-up a cleanser and moisturizer to use every day. You’ll thank me later. Tell your friends as well. We should all want to have clear skin.
#3 How to Take Care of Our Mental Health
This one is the most critical topics to destigmatize. According to the CDC, male suicide rates are 4X higher than female suicide rates. In the US, 20 out of every 100,000 men commit suicide every year, which equates to about 30,000 deaths every year. Suicide is one of the leading costs of deaths for men under 45. Growing up, men are supposed to be viewed as physically “tough,” but for some reason, this perception of toughness also leads men to believe that they must also be emotionally “tough.” It is this encapsulation of toughness that is so dangerous for so many men today. It’s a fallacy that the added muscles on your arms equate to stronger mental wellbeing. We all need mental health support at some point in our lives, and the misconstrued mindset that we’re supposed to bottle everything out has been such a great travesty. Our bros aren’t just out there to talk about sports, sex, and video games, the reason for our bonds should be much more than that. We need more men to be okay about being open; we need to create a culture where we stop telling young boys that they shouldn’t cry because “they’re a man.”
As a male, we grow up with misconstrued notions of what it means to be a “man.” We think that we’re magically supposed to know everything and that asking for help or advice is shameful. It’s the exact opposite. For us to grow both as men and create a new chapter of what we describe as “masculine,” we need to have open conversations with each other.
I write about this, not for the sake of chastising other men about what we should be talking about but as a personal reflection of what I wished was there growing up. I myself am a perpetrator of the mindset that I vow against above. To this day, I would be lying if I told you that I don’t feel a slight sense of unease whenever I bring up any of these topics.
Still, the conversation needs to start somewhere.