I grew up in Northwest Georgia where boys and men typically affirmed their masculinity and sexuality with trucks, boots and camo-ball caps. I’m not originally from the south and never quite identified with the sub culture, but I lived in it, understand it inside and out, and appreciate it on a certain level.
As a kid and especially a teenager, this made me stand out like a sore thumb. I remember it being insinuated more than a few times that I was queer, gay or even a faggot. I remember one very hurtful time when my two best friends at the time insinuated that I was gay while we were driving down the road. Nothing is worse than being trapped in the back of a car and being attacked with the “So, are you a faggot?” question.
Worse, I’ve been propositioned by quite a few men as well. I remember working at Target one summer when a gay co-worker asked me if I wanted to come over to his house and go swimming. His parents were out of town for the weekend.
I have a lot of conflicting feelings about this on the inside that I’ve never really talked about. I admit, I do have a lot of hobbies or interests that most people would consider gay, though I have never actually felt attracted to another man before.
This morning I was riding my spin bike at 5am. Yep… real manly right? I had my earbuds in and there was I was alone in my garage with the music thumping in my ears. I sang out loud because, hell, it is 5am and I’m all alone in my garage! So why the fuck not!?
As I was cooling off I wondered what my wife would think about my performance, if she had happened to peek her head in and see me. Would it turn her off? Would she think I wasn’t very manly?
I spend a lot of time afraid my wife doesn’t think I’m masculine enough. I’ve heard her make fun of me to her sister for having solo ‘Just Dance’ video game sessions, or singing along to lofty sounding Silverchair songs with my guitar. And last summer, when I took her to see Les Misérables I got the impression that she felt awkward when I became visibly moved during Eponine’s solo, ‘On My Own’. Yes, I admit, that isn’t very manly and probably isn’t going to help you get laid at the end of the night. But I couldn’t help myself. I got teary eyed.
I’m not sure how I developed these tastes. My dad is a former marine who hunts, shoots, then carves up his own meat. He makes his own wine and beer and spends entire days wondering around in the woods for fun. And my mother isn’t really into much of anything, except shopping and watching re-runs of CSI on Lifetime. I also have zero friends who share any of these interests with me.
I just am who I am for better or worse. I do worry about what my wife thinks though. I pay extra attention to how I dress, how I carry myself, the amount of authority I command and the way I deal with other men who challenge me. I’m careful to never appear that I am not in control.
Sometimes, when we’re going through rough patches in our relationship, I feel that my masculinity is on trial. And to an extent, I feel the same way with most of my friends, especially those I might keep at arm’s length.
Though, I do wonder if maybe the most masculine thing I can do is be secure in who I am, and be a confident leader. I wonder if, at the end of the day, honesty isn’t what is most masculine. Instead of trying to fit into a mold of what society tells us masculinity is.
I am a confident, physical, strong man. I know who I am. I am honest with myself. I am not afraid to stand up for myself, my friends and my family. I am a good provider. And I work hard and love my wife and girls through and through.
That is true masculinity.