Over the course of the past 16 years of counseling, I have found myself in discussions ranging from the absurd to the heart wrenching. But there are several topics of discussion that always resurfaces no matter what. One of those topics for discussion, presented by both male and female is: “What is a real man?”
Type this into a search engine and there are thousands of opinions and descriptions as to the definition of a “real man”. The opinions are so vast that if a male owed a fraction of these traits, he would be able to walk on water and raise the dead.
You will find topics such as, “10 Things a Real Man Does.” and “50 Things a Real Man does Not do.” and “The 5 Signs You Are Dating a Real Man.” After 20 minutes of this stuff, I became nauseated and began to feel really inadequate.
Growing up, I was taught several things by society. “Real men do not cry, real men are always brave, real men are not weak, real men do not show emotions and unless you work hard, you are not a real man.” This is kind of heavy for a little kid to absorb, let alone, follow and practice constantly. But practice I did. I can distinctly remember one of the first teachings to the “How to be a real man” lesson plan. I was very young when I helped my grandfather pick raspberries. In the course of helping him, I was stung just over the eye by a bee. Instant pain and swelling and being little and not trained in the ideals of being a real man, I cried. “Stop your damned crying. You sound like a girl.” was the empathy I received. I learned that lesson very well. Real men do not cry. I didn’t cry at his funeral. He would have been proud.
So, what really is a “real man”? After trying to answer this question over the years with a diverse range of adjectives, I finally sat down and looked at the question from a research based mode of cogitating (I have always liked that word. It sounds so…..manly). I looked at what a female would want in an ideal man, I read about what men feel are the traits of a real man, and I have looked at the vast cultural requirements imposed on men, present day and historically. I took all this information, read it, studied it, blended it and boiled it down to it’s essence. I finally had a finished product which I use as an answer now, every time I have this question posed to me.
My answer: If you are comfortable with who you are, if you have genuine compassion for others, if you have honor and respect for yourself and others, if you accept and take responsibility for all your choices and decisions, and accept the fact that you can not be a “real man” all of the time, then you are a “real” man.