How do I become more manly?
July 29, 2009 4:18 PM   Subscribe

How do I become more manly? Even though I think masculinity is bulls$#!%!

I have realized: Sometimes. It takes work to not be jaded.

I have been thinking really bad things about men lately. Hating them.

I simultaneously despise them for their ridiculous fakeness and crave their acceptance.

Well.. here's the thing... I'm a guy. 23. Bisexual and possibly gay.

I have started realizing lately.. that because I have lived outside of societal gender roles and expectations, a lot of men view me as someone of a lesser class, who, basically, deserve "the ultimate insult" which is faggot.

I don't have a lisp. I don't have limp wrists. Most people are genuinely surprised when I tell them I am bisexual. I do look young, however, and have naturally blond hair. I am not overtly feminine, yet I am not afraid of doing, talking about, or being interested in things that are. I am not interested in pursuing things simply because "men" are supposed to pursue them.

I like what I like and that's that. Manly, right? But if I talk about something that "men aren't supposed to talk about", like say, interior design or lighting, or drink something I am not supposed to drink... then I get to deal with wry smiles and covert mockery. And that bothers me.

This all boils down to... I have a deep-seated inferiority around men. As a man. I would like to overcome this, without compromising who I am.

Instead of being jaded and despising men... well, if I think masculinity is such fake bulls$@%, I should be able to take advantage of its fakery and use it to my own advantage. Instead of opening myself up to lack of respect as a human. Is this right or flawed?

I have realized that, if masculinity is bullshit as I claim, then I should be able to use it to my advantage when I choose, without compromising me.

Not giving into to the gender expectations system (which apparently really is how the whole world works), has cost me. My proposed solution is kind of like.. finally "giving in" to the system, but not.

Any thoughts?
posted by beingresourceful to Human Relations (56 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Being a man is not compromising or giving a toss when you talk about interior design or lighting and people respond with wry smiles or covert mockery.
posted by the_ancient_mariner at 4:30 PM on July 29, 2009 [9 favorites]


well you could start off with not faking like you're a man, and actually be one with some honor. masculinity isn't an act, its what people really are. quit worrying about it and just be yourself. no one really gives a shit that you like amaretto sours and curtains in the long run.
posted by Mach5 at 4:31 PM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


You may be confusing 'masculinity' with 'machismo'.
posted by Pecinpah at 4:38 PM on July 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Gender stereotypes aside, my boyfriend is obsessed with this site: http://artofmanliness.com/
posted by np312 at 4:52 PM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


What is the difference, Pecinpah? That's one of those things that people say and everyone agrees with. But the two sure seem blurred and blended in the wild.

I just seem so gender neutral. When I've talked to close friends about this, they've said "Yeah! You are so gender neutral!" or then they've tried something positive and building, like, "Well, you are masculine. It's just different."

I feel like I'm a gender hybrid.

It's like I lack some sort of essence.

Some sort of essence that the world requires of men...

I never think of myself as a man, I just think of myself as a person. That's how I think about other people too, unless they buy heavily into masculine gender expectations. Or they're mistreating me.
posted by beingresourceful at 4:53 PM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]



I like what I like and that's that. Manly, right? But if I talk about something that "men aren't supposed to talk about", like say, interior design or lighting, or drink something I am not supposed to drink... then I get to deal with wry smiles and covert mockery. And that bothers me.

This all boils down to... I have a deep-seated inferiority around men.


Not to malign your friends, but is it possible you're hanging around a bunch of assholes?

You seem to know what you like, why you like it, who you are, and yet you still feel insecure. That's something to work on on your own or in therapy, as you prefer, but that's the thing that needs to be worked on--not the fact that you're interested in interior design.

At the very least, find some people who are interested in interior design or lighting. Plenty of people are. You shouldn't have to feel like a freak based on your interests unless your interests are fighting pitbulls or dressing up as a clown and chasing young children around the playground.

You're fine as you are. Work on understanding that part.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:53 PM on July 29, 2009 [7 favorites]


Previously
posted by bjrn at 4:58 PM on July 29, 2009


It sounds to me like you need to associate and socialize with different people. Your current circle sounds like a bunch of jerks, not like a bunch of manly men.
posted by The World Famous at 4:59 PM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I feel like I'm a gender hybrid.

I know a number of people who consider this to be the gold standard of hawtness.

Just saying.
posted by regicide is good for you at 5:00 PM on July 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


What you're proposing is commonly called "being in the closet," and from what I hear it rarely works out for the best. People giving you shit about gender noncomformity are a symptom of a larger social problem that is perpetuated by people who go along to get along. Might it relieve some pressure and make you feel better in the short term? Maybe, but it is by definitiion compromising yourself and is not gonna make your negative feelings about men go away. The only way to do that is to stop generalizing and maybe find a job/social circle that includes more men you can comfortably be yourself around.

And when you see over-the-top macho fakery in action, there's nothing wrong with doing a little wry smirking of your own.
posted by contraption at 5:03 PM on July 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Mid-twenties gay man here.

It boils down to this: find a community of friends - gay, straight, whoever - who keep you close for your personality.

But if I talk about something that "men aren't supposed to talk about", like say, interior design or lighting, or drink something I am not supposed to drink... then I get to deal with wry smiles and covert mockery.


Leave these people behind. There is a huge, huge number of gay people on this planet. Gay people are everywhere, doing everything. There are gay prime ministers and gay serial killers and gay stockbrokers and gay newscasters and gay factory line workers. And they do not, your friends may be surprised to learn, all spend their weekends rearranging their bonsai trees or whatever. They do everything in the wide array of what we might call "normal" things, because being gay is normal.

They drink Coronas and Cosmopolitans. They wrestle alligators and manage "alternative" bookshops. They are as varied and as sundry in their interests and pursuits as everyone else on Earth. This fact seems to have escaped your friends, who appear to want to put you into a box labeled "unusual", over on the side of the rest of humanity, with everyone else they don't want to learn to understand. People with an odd number of digits? Unusual. People who don't shop at Store X? Unusual. People who are still learning how their sexuality works? Unusual.

They spend so much time trying to decipher you, like some secret code, that they never bother to ask, even if you'd wanted to tell them. There are better people out there, who value you for what you bring to a group, not for what nattering gossip they can enjoy at your expense when you "make the wrong move." There are no wrong moves.

I am not overtly feminine, yet I am not afraid of doing, talking about, or being interested in things that are.

I like what I like and that's that. Manly, right?

Try not to let this dualistic vision of gender affect your worldview too much, though you'll have to live with it like everyone who doesn't identify as 100% straight might have to now and again. I love driving cars a little too fast...but I also like baking. And I am still, undoubtedly, completely, a man. These likes/dislikes are more closely related to my personality than my gender. One of my best friends has wrestled animals to the ground on a station in Australia but still straightens her hair every day. Is she less a woman because she has scars from her time outside Broome? No.

Also, I urge you to spend some time exploring the more, uh, "manly" elements of male homosexuality, whatever that means to you. Bikers, firemen, hockey players, guys into body hair...all these "masculine" roles are present in gay fiction, humor, drama...even pornography. In the end, you don't have to be anything. Just know that however you identify is how you should expect - demand, even - to be treated, by your friends, at the very least.
posted by mdonley at 5:03 PM on July 29, 2009 [22 favorites]


But if I talk about something that "men aren't supposed to talk about", like say, interior design or lighting, or drink something I am not supposed to drink... then I get to deal with wry smiles and covert mockery.

Who is doing the wry smiling and covert mocking? Because you should stop hanging out with them. If they are friends, get some new ones. If they are strangers, then why are you wasting time and energy trying to get approval from people who don't know (or care) about you at all?

I know a lot of men who are pretty manly. Many of them never talk about "manly" things, like sports, and don't follow sports. They talk about stuff they care about (computers, video games, health care reform, etc.).

Before you can expect respect from other people, you must respect yourself, which you don't seem to. Do you hang out with other gay men? With men your own age? With men a little older? With people of any or all genders who have respect for themselves?

And not to be an AskMe cliche, but your extremely conflicted feelings about men, maleness, and masculinity could really be helped by some therapy, because resolving them is not going to be "act like a [stereotype] of a man."

On preview: I'm a woman, but I don't know exactly what it means that I am a woman. I don't know how other women experience their femaleness; I only know how I experience mine. I know there are certain societal expectations, and I don't fit most of those, and I don't give a shit. I am a woman, and any time I've been told "women can't do [thing I am doing]" I think, yeah, but here I am doing it, therefore it is a thing that women do.
posted by rtha at 5:04 PM on July 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Ditto A Terrible Llama: You're fine as you are. Work on understanding that part. Don't try to fit yourself into any category. There is no "system" that defines masculinity or manliness. People will try to classify you in whatever you do. To be seen as male you don't need to be manly. You don't need to pound beers, get rowdy while watching sports, and strut around. If you like things that are generally deemed feminine: rock on. If you like sports, fantastic. People can say you're wrong either way, but that's their own perception of you, and they can shove it.

One night when I was in high school, I was walking downtown with a friend of mine. We're both guys, and we're both straight. But for whatever reason, some dudes in a truck slowed down as they drove past us, and yelled "the gay bar's that way" (pointing the opposite way we were going, which was actually the way they were headed). My friend and I weren't holding hands, skipping down the street. We were just walking on a sidewalk, in what I'd consider fairly typical clothes (shorts or pants, t-shrits, sneakers). We both thought it was odd, and laughed about it with friends.

The definitions for and examples of machismo range within various cultures. Sometimes it's seen as being a chauvinistic pig, sometimes just being virile without the negative connotations.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:11 PM on July 29, 2009


masculinity is most definitely an act - it is in no way the expression of "how people really are"

ultimately, coy smiles & significant glancings are nothing more than high school bullshit & you should regard it as such - folks like that aren't worth hanging around with, or listening to - and what's great about this piece of advice is that, according to the rules, "real men" would agree with you because "real men" don't care what other people think, right?

that said, one of the best ways to trump this particular game if you need to is to go the knowledge route - no matter the guy, being stupid is rarely something folks feel they can be proud of - if someone scoffs at your interest in interior design or lighting or whatever just plunk down the knowledge card "really, you don't think that design is important? that's a curious perspective, given that it's been shown by numerous disciplines... oh, i don't know, you pick: psychology, architecture, engineering, etc. to be not only necessary but, y'know, essential to any real understanding of a given structure or system - your thoughts?" - even better, think of this truly excellent intellectual smackdown - ignore the last few minutes :)

what i'm trying to say: work from a place where you know that what you like is important & real - if necessary, remind yourself that many important, powerful, highly-paid, beautiful people like & are intensely interested in what you like

lastly, keep thinking of yourself as a person instead of a "man" - that's a strength, not a weakness
posted by jammy at 5:13 PM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


you should find a more accepting people to hang around with. I suspect from what you've written that you don't have many gay friends. My suggestion would be: find some. (maybe not the leather-daddy / skinhead-crowd, their masculinity fetish is sometimes even worse than straight jocks)
posted by kolophon at 5:16 PM on July 29, 2009


Gay male, here. No joke: I have found that doing maintenance, mechanical repairs and outdoors activities are excellent ways to get in touch with my masculinity. I can do these things without other men around, so I don't feel uncomfortable when I invariably mess up doing something. As a bonus, I get all sweaty, and I think my sweetie likes that part.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:20 PM on July 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Some of the "manliest" men I know aren't the traditional/media-driven version of "manly". I think it's kind of "I am who I am, and if you're not happy with it...eh, whatever. Not my problem." It all boils down to confidence. (Which, believe me, I understand is tough to come by.)

But if I talk about something that "men aren't supposed to talk about", like say, interior design or lighting, or drink something I am not supposed to drink... then I get to deal with wry smiles and covert mockery. And that bothers me.

If you want to remain friends with these people, you should tell them that it bothers you, and why. You don't have to get on a soapbox or anything, but a "hey...wtf?" may get your point across. If they do it again and again, I think you should seriously consider if you want to remain friends with them. Friends don't knowingly make friends feel like crap.
posted by AlisonM at 5:20 PM on July 29, 2009


I submit--and I swear I'm not trying to be a dick here; this is hard for me to remember a lot of the time, too--that other people are not paying nearly as much attention to you, what you drink, what you say about lighting, etc. as you think they are.
posted by willpie at 5:23 PM on July 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


What I hear you basically saying here is that all men are interchangeable lumbering dolts who are entirely uninteresting to you and not worthy of your respect, but that they should pick up on and be fascinated by how unconventionally awesome you are.

If I picked up on this attitude upon meeting you (and I guarantee that some of these guys you think are such bullshit do), I'd be dishing out some wry smiles and mockery for sure.

There are certainly intolerant meatheads out there, but I don't think the problem here is everybody else. You're not going to have healthy interactions with people until you can make an effort to know them rather than just make up BS about how fake they are, and stop making yourself the focal point of everything.
posted by substars at 5:24 PM on July 29, 2009


For as many people who think it's weird that you're a "gender hybrid," a ton of people think that's sexy as hell. My advice wouldn't be to tone down your personality and try to shoehorn it into the masculine side of the spectrum, but to play your personality up. Way up. Be extremely confident; that's the point when some people find androgyny sexy despite usually feeling otherwise.

There are androgynous-acting/dressing people that are straight, even.
posted by Nattie at 5:32 PM on July 29, 2009


In my experience, no quality man is concerned about his manliness. Your friends' gender anxiety, at least as you report it, seems so . . . unmanly. I don't think you should mimic that gender anxiety.
posted by ferdydurke at 5:32 PM on July 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


You seem to be really concerned with your own sexuality. How often are you telling people you're bisexual? Is it one of the first things you say about yourself?
Please understand I'm not trying to say that you should ever, ever hide your sexuality. But frankly I'm not totally sure of the sexuality of a lot of my male friends and mainly it's because we don't talk about it and frankly, I don't give a shit. We all have sex with whoever we have sex with.

We live in a very homophobic world. If you make a point to tell other men that you're bisexual, you're going to take some shit for it. And if you're angry because the homophobic world we live in doesn't consider bisexuality to be manly, you have a hell of a lot of work to do.

As far as I'm concerned, manliness is about independence. Honest independence, not dorky "aloofness".

So the real question I have is, do you really want this? Do you want to hide who you really are? I'm pretty fucking manly - I kill animals and eat them, I'm a blacksmith, I own land and I can fix shit - but I don't want to be surrounded by a bunch of silent, independent, homophobic, boring as hell manly men.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 5:52 PM on July 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Straight Male Man Manly Grizzwald Man here:

Sometimes after a long day at work when I am just dead tired, I sit down on the toilet and pee. God that's relaxing. Maybe I am gender neutral (ish). 0.o

Also I have never undertaken an activity for the purpose of reaffirming my masculinity, nor have I heard my friends say " That's some real man shit right there" in the midst of an activity.

Seems to me that you're more hung up on how a man should act then is required by the unspoken rules of man world. You wanna talk about curtains? fine. You like apple martini's? Me too.

I think you are assigning more weight to the role of the manly log chopping, beer drinking, Look at the new shocks on my 4x4 stereotype then really needs to exist or even does. Maybe quit giving a shit about what some peckerwoods at a social event think about you and that's about as manly as you need to be. Every thing else is butter(clarified perhaps)
posted by Gravitus at 5:55 PM on July 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Believe it or not, straight men have many of the same kinds of worries and issues about masculinity that gay men do. Do you have any straight male friends? Maybe you should try making some. It might make you feel a little less afflicted.

I think that being a gender hybrid (and I truly consider myself one) is an interesting gift. I can be and convey almost anything I want, I can change my appearance and my body language fluidly, and in the process I have learned far more about my limitations and my true identity.

Many people would be shocked to know I consider myself to be this kind of hybrid, because they've only seen one side. Others think I'm the gayest person alive. As long as I can rise to any given occasion and make myself understood and be treated with respect, then I don't really mind what people see when they look at me -- but it has taken me many, many years to get to this point.

One thing that really helped me was training kung fu. I hadn't been around so many straight men all at once in years, and it was really awkward at first to train with them, to get used to incidental touching and conversation with them. They hit me, I hit them -- it was weird, but liberating. The training was very equalizing, we all had different advantages and disadvantages. Over the two years I spent at that school, I learned that there are many, many kinds of strength.

You get to decide what being a man means to you, and then be it. No one can tell you how, but if you spend enough time around others trying on different roles, you'll figure it out.
posted by hermitosis at 6:08 PM on July 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


To paraphrase some others here: you need new friends.
posted by awesomebrad at 6:09 PM on July 29, 2009


Everything I need to know about being a man I learned from Dirty Harry:

"A man's gotta know his limitations."
posted by philip-random at 6:56 PM on July 29, 2009


I know for a fact that some women begin following sports as a way to better connect with males in their lives, usually co-workers and/or bosses. Does this make them more macho? Maybe. Does it matter? Probably not.

You could say that they're somehow not being true to themselves, but "self" is such a fluid, amorphous thing that maybe following sports becomes part of themselves (they can always stop if they hate it), and I don't think it really has to take away from a new interest if you begin it just as a way to better understand or relate to other people.
posted by amtho at 7:20 PM on July 29, 2009


Keep your back straight and look people in the eye*.

*Obviously not everyone, always...that just makes you creepy.
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:00 PM on July 29, 2009


Believe it or not, straight men have many of the same kinds of worries and issues about masculinity that gay men do. Do you have any straight male friends? Maybe you should try making some. It might make you feel a little less afflicted.

Hi, straight boy over here. Straight boy who obsessively reads Apartment Therapy and spent the better part of last night hauling furniture around to open up his bedroom, and proceeded to draw up diagrams for better wall-art placement in the "new" room. A guy who just bought a piece of art consisting of a painting of a fucking hummingbird.

A couple of weeks ago, I ran into a friend I hadn't seen in a while; he was hanging out with a bunch of other guys. They had... rituals. I didn't get them, at all. There were elaborate handshake-things with bumping and finger-waggling that went way beyond a simple pop-and-lock, and they definitely expected me to react in a specific way to each arm-motion. They were very... manly. In some sense. I felt incredibly uncomfortable all night, and guess what? When I ran into him again a week later, the first words out of his mouth were "God, I'm so sorry you ran into me with those jackasses."

So you know what? If you have problems with people because of your interests, or attitudes, that's the problem right there. You're around the wrong goddamn people. Sure, I end up talking ottoman-placement with far more women than men, but I also don't hang out with any men who mock me for my interests.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:51 PM on July 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


But if I talk about something that "men aren't supposed to talk about", like say, interior design or lighting, or drink something I am not supposed to drink... then I get to deal with wry smiles and covert mockery.

Not every man will react this way. There are a lot of normal guys.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:52 PM on July 29, 2009


A guy who just bought a piece of art consisting of a painting of a fucking hummingbird.

Okay, the key word here is "fucking". Otherwise, it's just another "man?" who bought a picture of a hummingbird.

But seriously, I haven't been accused of effeminacy since pre-puberty, so I guess I'm lucky ... among a certain kind of man. And yet these are exactly the assholes I had to disconnect from roundabout my 19th birthday in order to get on with my life in anything approaching an "interesting" way.

Be proud of what you are.
posted by philip-random at 9:34 PM on July 29, 2009


Just, whatever you do, don't take a "How manly are you? quiz." Automatic fail.
posted by codswallop at 9:36 PM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is going to sound all Zen and the Art of Being a Pretentious D-Bag, yet nevertheless...

Be the actor instead of the acted-upon. That's only commonailty I can see in the way stuff traits get classified as manly or not....courage, independence, protectiveness, resourcefulness, toughness, acquiring certain practical skills...the common thread is the sense that you will be confronted with challenges and you will tackle them yourself, you will have the desire to tackle them yourself, to work your will upon the world. That's why it's sometimes manly not to care what other people think; a man is an actor, and what he desires is therefore the right thing to desire, and if they don't like it, fuck 'em. (It's even how the "Don't be a guy, the world is full of guys. Be a man," bit works in Say Anything; by declaring his love Lloyd makes himself vulnerable, but it's also the only way to get what he desires, Ione Sky. Therefore Lili Taylor is correct to say that is the manlier move.)

There are negative variations on this theme which we'll skip. And even if you agree that this is a common thread that underlies conceptions of manliness, it says nothing about how actual human manage to live up to that standard, or don't. But if you want to be more manly, that's what I'd say. Take for granted that your desires are worthy and act upon them.
posted by Diablevert at 9:58 PM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


You are a man. Gay, Bi, ambivalent, whatever - you're still a man. Hating men is pointless - are you going to hate yourself and (almost) half of the people on the planet? Speaking of which - there are billions of men on the planet - not all of them are grunting, homophobic, he-man, dickwads - in fact, most of them aren't. If this is your predominant view of your gender, then first of all, look in the mirror and make your aquaintance, and then get out in the world and meet more people. Your view of your gender is hackneyed, stereotypical, and most importantly...wrong. Get a grip and get a life.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 10:15 PM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think when I was younger I had similar issues. I don't have those sorts of problems anymore.

Body confidence is really important as well. Pay attention to your posture. Stand up straight, don't avoid eye contact, especially when speaking. Square your shoulders and put yourself at a 45 degree angle from the guy you are talking to.

A lot of times when there is a group of males together there is this subtle competition going on. In this situation it doesn't really matter what you say, it is part of the game to put another guy down. The best responses I have seen are to play along and give it back.
You-"You gotta a problem with interior design, buddy?"-with a big smile on your face.
Him-"yeah, its kinda of gay."
You-"everyone designs their interiors, some of us are just good at it."

Note: you don't have to play these sorts of games if you don't want to. You can connect with people on all sorts of levels and finding friends who are compassionate and respectful is more rewarding than learning to play games. Personally I like playing games with the right people though.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 11:22 PM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


First, stop using $#!%! in place of actual curse words.

Second, stop thinking masculinity is bullshit.
posted by wfrgms at 12:49 AM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Your question starts off by claiming that all men are ridiculously fake. I think that is the root of your problem. Are you seriously claiming that 50% of the population are faking who they really are?

Either you live in the worst place on earth -- or you consistently seek out the worst sorts of people as companions -- or you are projecting your own issues onto everyone else. In your world it seems that all men strut around drinking beer and talking about baseball exclusively. Do you hang out exclusively in sports bars?

Some men really are "manly" like that, and they're not fake -- it's just who they are; and other men are different. You seem to have a very compelling and ambivalent attraction to the first sort of men, so it wouldn't surprise me if you're seeking them out. But if you live anywhere even slightly urban, it shouldn't be difficult to locate some actual, bona fide gay and bisexual men. Then you can hang out with them and talk about interior decorating all you like. Most of them won't give a shit about decorating either, but they certainly won't mock you.
posted by creasy boy at 1:39 AM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's not men you despise. It's boys. Little boys in grown-ups bodies. Little boys who are so insecure that when they see someone break the fragile little rules that govern their own pathetic world they feel the need to put that person down. Fuck. Those. Guys.

There's all sorts of stereotypically manly things that you can learn to do that are just plain useful and fun to know. Like being able to fix things around the house, or repair your bike. So yeah man, be more manly in those respects. But all the other " manly " shit??? Like being obsessed with sports, or being pretending like feeling don't exist? Who cares!?

I like what I like and that's that. Manly, right?

Right!
posted by molecicco at 1:48 AM on July 30, 2009


But if I talk about something that "men aren't supposed to talk about", like say, interior design or lighting, or drink something I am not supposed to drink... then I get to deal with wry smiles and covert mockery. And that bothers me.


I often see young, immature guys razzing each other about this type of thing. And the maturest one of the group (often whoever likes the so-called feminine thing) will often go, "Well _I_ think it's pretty effin' cool." or, "That's what I like to drink. Got a problem with that?" (and get in the other person's face, mocking right back, jokingly).

Basically it doesn't matter what you're into. What matters is whether you're comfortable with it. When people see that you're not fully comfortable with your own tastes, that's when you leave yourself open to endless self-doubt and self-questioning.

I mean, I think a very typical thing I see among groups of young men is the way they test each other's mettle. I think once you demonstrate that you respect your own tastes and inclinations, they'll follow suit.

If they don't, well, welcome to the world of being a man. It means that you don't need everyone to like you, or to like the things you do. The more you pursue those very things that make you an individual, the more manly, by definition, you become.

You want to be less manly? Do things for the sole purpose of "fitting in."
posted by thisperon at 2:12 AM on July 30, 2009


Start by growing up.
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:34 AM on July 30, 2009


When I want to feel more manly, I build something, or at least assemble something. Get yourself an Ikea bookshelf and put it together.

I also recommend growing a beard.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:00 AM on July 30, 2009


I realize that what I just wrote came out harshly, but it's a condensed statement of most of the best advice in this thread.

Masculinity is not something you do, or something you wear, or a skill you can learn, or an affectation or a style. It is, effectively, the consequence of being a secure, self-confident, responsible, other-directed, competent, centered, giving, generally honorable person who happens to be male.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:07 AM on July 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


Don't let your sexuality or gender identity confuse the issue, and definitely stop using words like masculinity or femininity. Just looking at those words together makes my blood boil, because they embody such false ideals-- why would the ideal of an adult have ANYthing to do with your gender? It's emphatically not about what you're interested in-- I work with figure skaters and some of the most "masculine" guys I know are out-there flamers. The ones who aren't gay are so used to the assumption that they really don't give a shit, they just like to skate. It's simply not about who you are sleeping with. Unless you're my best friend, I don't care and I don't want to know.

It's an essence, it's the boy scout motto-- do your duty, be true to yourself, honor and integrity. It's how you hold yourself, and how proud you are to be who you are.

Also, what fourcheesemac said.
posted by nax at 5:43 AM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sounds like you want to be, or for people to think you are, "masculine", "feminine", bi-sexual, gay, straight, all of the above, none of the above - according to whatever context you're in.

It's ok, different people are always going to see you different ways. Some of that is in what you are, and some they will judge for themselves because of who they are.

Don't worry so much about it. In reality, you're all of them, in varying parts - just like the rest of us!
posted by greenish at 6:56 AM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Here's a handy quote from David Foster Wallace that I like to keep in mind when I'm worrying about the opinions of others: "You'll worry less about what people think about you when you realize how seldom they do."

That's the crux of it. Rather than asking how you can fit yourself into some model of masculinity that you hold in contempt, ask yourself why you care in the first place. Certainly, the opinions of others have some weight, but you shouldn't let them, in a case like this, be the deciding factor. And, as most everyone else has pointed out, if you don't like having your balls busted for liking what you like, even if your friends consider it sissy stuff, get some new friends, or learn the fine art of ball-busting yourself.
posted by wheat at 8:16 AM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd worry about assuming I knew what other people are thinking about me, or that they're really how I'm seeing them. Insecurity is too tricky that way...

I've been surprised too many times learning how I was being interpreted, or how I misread someone completely.

I don't know that this will make you feel more secure, but it's impossible to really control people's impressions.
posted by ServSci at 8:36 AM on July 30, 2009


You'll have better luck finding a new set of friends. I and all my male friends are straight, and we talk about anything -- no shame, no blame. Find designers to make friends with.
posted by rahnefan at 10:45 AM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


So, here's what I have learned...

1. The nature of insecurity/inferiority is that it distorts your view. Having so many people respond is immensely helpful, because many of you said I am viewing things wrong.

2. Different friends, check.

3. Therapy.. yeah.. if I could afford it I would already be in some, but until then I will make do with books, and AskMefFi. :-) It sounds like I need to work on accepting me as I am. And eliminate this polar male/female view. Stop using the words masculine and feminine. Adopt the mental self label of "gender neutral" rather than the painful "NOT a man"... I wouldn't want someone having a hurtful self label hovering above their head everywhere they went, so I won't put up with having one myself. I could potentially put "man" as the self label... I need to do that.

4. Respect myself and stop being attracted to idiot douches.

5. People are not paying as much attention to me as I think I am. They are not going home and thinking about me either. That sounds really funny to say, but I really have those errors in thinking because of the inferiority complex.

6. To be perceived as male, I don't have to be "manly". ..... If I adopt that (healthy) view of manhood, then I don't have any problems, and I am a man.

7. Fix body posture. Stand up straight and don't avoid eye contact. It's okay to return wry smiles. :-)

That is all so far... I have read all of your comments 3, 4 times. Especially ones that I especially didn't like at first. I really appreciate the fact that so many responded, and so thoughtfully. Thank you. Truly.
posted by beingresourceful at 3:21 PM on July 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ps. fourcheesemac, I like your definition of masculinity, but it's another one of those things that people say and everyone seems to agree with... yet in the wild masculinity certainly looks more like machismo than anything else. Some of the manliest guys I have known were insecure, not self-confident, mostly irresponsible, completely selfish, unstable, dishonorable people.
posted by beingresourceful at 3:25 PM on July 30, 2009


I am still in contact with 2 friends I met when we were all about 17 years old, about 20 years ago.

One of them, let's call him Jim, is straight, and likes to regularly reinforce it to himself and anyone else within earshot. But, he's single, and has been for a long time. He loves his sports. He still jokes about homosexuality like he did when he was a teenager. He drinks a lot, and smokes a helluva lot of pot. He gambles. A big part of why he is single is that he expects every woman to fall in love with him, then gets obsessively freaky when they don't, and scares them off. He collects action figurines and spends most of his free time watching movies. He has lost several "best mates" over the years after getting into drunken fist-fights with them. He sends me hissy text messages when I haven't seen him for a few weeks, asking "When am I ever going to see you again?".

The other, Francois, is gay. Jim wants nothing to do with Francois, and the feeling's mutual. When I see Francois, he is not overly "flouncy" or outwardly gay, although he does have a slight lisp, and most people would be able to pick up that he's gay after a few minutes talking to him. Perhaps you could describe him as "gender neutral". But when he's "out on the town", he becomes his alter-ego, Francine. She is blond (a wig), heavily made up, wears slinky dresses, loves the boys, and they love her. Francois is comfortable with himself. He has no problem with his own sexuality, and doesn't give me a hard time about my relatively humdrum life. I enjoy hearing his stories. He is one of the most fun, comfortable, relaxing people I know.

Guess which of these is the bigger man, in my opinion.

Like so many others have said, be relaxed about yourself and confident about who you are. That's about it.
posted by Diag at 4:38 PM on July 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Being a man is not compromising or giving a toss when you talk about interior design or lighting and people respond with wry smiles or covert mockery.

Speaking as a fag slightly older than you, it is unbearably hot when people are unapologetically who they are.

Be yourself, hon. I know--remember vividly--how hard that is when you're in the "bisexual maybe gay" stage. But just be you.

I like what I like and that's that. Manly, right?

Bingo. This whole masculine/feminine thing is so much bullshit. A (now dead) friend of mine was a blacksmith and a drag queen. Masculine or feminine? A lipstick lesbian couple I know are the most hardcore sports nuts I have ever met in my life. Feminine or masculine?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:30 PM on July 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


Ps. fourcheesemac, I like your definition of masculinity, but it's another one of those things that people say and everyone seems to agree with... yet in the wild masculinity certainly looks more like machismo than anything else. Some of the manliest guys I have known were insecure, not self-confident, mostly irresponsible, completely selfish, unstable, dishonorable people

I know. Tell me about it. But that machismo is not "manliness." It's a pretense to manliness. Straighten out your terms and you'll straighten out your thinking. I say this as someone who regularly goes hunting, knows how to rebuild an engine, and loves children, philosophy, and modern art. I had my own serious issues (as do most men I know) with how to be "manly" when I was younger, and had to learn the hard way (as do most well adjusted men I know) that manliness is rooted in how you feel about yourself, not how others see you.

Real masculinity -- the kind that earns respect from people you want to respect you -- boils down to being confident about who you are, seeing other people as equals, and learning to control emotions like fear, anxiety, and anger so they don't lead you to hurt other people (because in my view, there are biological differences between the sexes and men need to learn to handle their male wiring, which is fine tuned for aggression, acquisitiveness, social and sexual dominance, and preservation of face from millennia of evolution, reinforced in our Western case by centuries of cultural forces that are only slowly shifting in the present). It's been said a lot upthread already, but over time you'll come to understand it: the more macho you are, the less you have to prove it to anyone.


Let me tell you about masculinity "in the wild" as I have known it. Literally in the wild, since I'm thinking about my hunting buddies. The toughest guys I know -- and I know some *tough* guys from a couple of decades spent working in rural Texas and Alaska -- are also the most humble, generous, and giving guys I know. They don't even flinch when they get a deep cut from their knives while butchering their kill, but they cry like babies when their kids tell them "I love you."

It took me 20 or so years of growing up to realize that. It will take you some time and effort as well, but if you're lucky, less than 20 years.

Think about the most respected men you know -- especially those in positions of power and authority, whom *you* also respect, and especially those a generation older than you, since that's where you're headed eventually. Emulate them. It works.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:17 AM on July 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not giving into to the gender expectations system (which apparently really is how the whole world works), has cost me. My proposed solution is kind of like.. finally "giving in" to the system, but not.

You cannot really do this, at least I don't think so, and I say this as a woman who has struggled with that side of this "problem." Maybe it would help if your reaction to aforementioned machismo was not frustration about how you present yourself and wondering how you can change but not really, but frustration at the assumptions and stupidity being made over your individual choices. The amount of time and energy you spend waste trying to have your cake and eat it too in the social privilege lottery--a cruel and arbitrary and stupid game thats rules need to be re-evaluated, im(radical)o--is time you could've spent challenging--subtly, by not giving a damn and feeling free to be yourself and confident about it, or more radically by talking outright about this issue--the stupid responses people have to you based on gender expectations. That is eventually the way I chose to go. Because I got effin fed up with my frustrations at myself for "not quite passing" as a socialized female even as I knew that just wasn't me and had nothing to do with anything like my worth or whatever.

A friend of mine once wrote an lj post about how privilege is like a bad check. Even if you automatically are offered social privilege due to your outer identity--say, white male--there are subtle inherent rules you must abide by to "cash" that privilege in--namely, upholding the system of hierarchy that gave it to you in the first place, by, say, calling other dudes faggots when they don't conform, or whatever. It is a bad check, and you don't have to cash it. Don't uphold that system unless you actually want to.
posted by ifjuly at 9:38 AM on July 31, 2009


Update... I would just like to share how much all of your responses have helped me. I am constantly reminding myself I'm a man, and those who behave rudely are insecure. I went to a friend's graduation function today where I had to face that same mook/"machismo mocker"... and this time I could see right through his insecurity! At times I actually felt sorry for him. I was quite popular with everyone at the function, and he seemed jealous of me. Someone else (a man) I just met there even gave him snide remarks, even once calling him "bro" derisively! Exhilarating. Yes, there was one point where he mocked me (again, for no reason, not to bust my balls, but within earshot), and I let it get to me, but I sure didn't show it much! I think that guy is not a normal man... he might have equal insecurity issues, possibly worse ones. THANK YOU!
posted by beingresourceful at 12:45 AM on August 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


That guy is a completely normal man. Insecurity is one of the hallmarks of the human condition.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:57 PM on August 5, 2009


awesome!
posted by molecicco at 7:12 AM on August 7, 2009


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