What’s In A Man?

by Lindsey Coates, M.A.

I’ve never been a man. That’s a pretty indisputable fact. I have found myself wondering often, though, what it is like to live in a man’s skin. I used to make gross assumptions based on cultural stereotypes and snide remarks from angry women, but I have come to realize those are pretty poor representations of men. Actually, seeing all men the same is a pretty poor representation. I would never tell someone to base their understanding of all women just by knowing me – that would be ludicrous!

Comedian Chelsea Peretti does a bit in her standup routine about what it must be like to wake up every day as a man. She wonders, out loud, if men just open their eyes in the morning and say, “I am awesome! People want to hear what I have to say!” That may be true for some men, but as I counsel men and get to know them on a deeper level, that seems to be another misconception. I like to read Esquire often because I feel like it gives me a glimpse into what men are being told to do. Men’s magazines are just as patronizing and ridiculous as women’s – sometimes even more so! I have felt so much more compassion towards men when I have seen that they are given the same cultural mandates that I am given as a woman, just with different packaging.

I recently re-watched the movie Nine. It is a brilliant film that received no press when it was released in 2010. Nine is the story of Guido (played by Daniel Day Lewis), an Italian movie director who is tortured by his own self as well as the women who have rotated in and out of his life. Throughout the film, Guido runs from every situation and into the arms of another woman to solve his problems. He is confident, witty, chic, and handsome on the outside, but insecure, terrified, and manic when he is alone. He can’t sleep, can’t work, and begins to drown in his own demons.

The character of Guido got me thinking…what is it like to be a man? What is it like to live in the image God created for man – to exude strength, compassion, leadership, servanthood, paternity, and childlike faith all at the same time? That seems like a pretty tall order to me. In a culture where we receive so many paradoxical messages about what it means to be a man – “Be sexy”, “Be tough”, “Be sensitive”, “Be in shape”, “Be resilient”, “Be anything and anyone but who you are…” – what is a man supposed to do?

In this new year, I have been challenged several times to focus on who I am becoming rather than what I have done. I wonder what that would feel like if I were a man. I know the challenges and gifts of femininity, but I can’t help but wonder if other men struggle like Guido – trying to be everything everyone wants them to be to the extent that they don’t even know who they are or what they are becoming. My prayer for all of the men I know this year, and even for the ones I don’t know, is that they are able to live into who they are becoming, and not what Esquire says they must become.

Categories Article | Tags: | Posted on January 12, 2015

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