A letter from a brother.
Sisters, have you ever wondered why men hardly express emotions in relationships?
Do you ever wonder why your man generally seems emotionally absent except from those moments of intimacy you share in bed?
Perhaps you wonder why your father never expressed emotion; or remained emotionally unavailable to you, your sister, brother, and mother?
There are no concrete answers to the questions raised above. But In the spirit of honesty, we confess to you that being a man in the 21st century is extremely complicated. With this in mind, I offer you this letter in a humble attempt to inform you on some of the challenges we are facing as men.
Today, the standards and definitions of manhood are constantly undergoing change. As men, it is no longer clear to us how we ought to express our masculinity without becoming symbolic of social contradiction(s). To stay relevant to you, and perhaps to keep up with societies fluctuating definitions of manhood, many of us are downplaying our emotions and contradicting our truth.
Each day, we are forced to prove our strength at the expense of our sensitivity and vulnerability. We show emotions, we are weak; we express sensitivity, we are “moist”. What exactly is expected from us? What are the standards by which you measure our manhood? Because it is no longer clear to us how we ought to express our masculinity.
In case you didn’t know sisters, as men, we are fighting many wars within: we are dealing with complex internal contradictions (separating who we are from what we do), confronting hostile anxiety and doubt (the fear of inadequacy and irrelevancy). In fact, we are desperately trying to rescue our divinity from society’s nebulous and problematic definitions of masculinity. Each day we are confronted with fresh spiritual, social, cultural, economic, and political hazards all of which call into question the fluidity of our manhood. These systems are designed to keep our ‘true’ masculinity subsumed under the shadows of hyper-masculinity. Yes. We are under attack!
Admittedly sisters, sometimes our pride hinders our ability to confess to you that we are weak, vulnerable, and plagued with an obsession for validation – validation not just in intimate relationships with you, but from platonic relationships, too.
Most times, we just want to know that amidst the catastrophes and daily traumas we encounter, that we are appreciated and valued. Some of us express this need for validation in ways that may not be conducive to our relationships with you. We admit that. Some of us choose to remain silent and prefer to just get on with life, though we suffer in silence. And this does not help either. But irrespective of the way we articulate our frustration(s), hidden behind our scornful and sometimes silent disdain –though not condoned – is an infinite desire to be celebrated by the ones we love and cherish the most.
Sisters, if you would be patient and take the time to investigate us – not just our bank account, our status, our beard, our stuff – there you will find a sweet, innocent (yet troubled) boy trapped in a grown man’s body.
“We use our trophies and accolades to temporarily quieten the raging storm of insecurity, self-doubt, fear, and anxiety that routinely erupts within us.”
Yes; as we stand before you, we come with the innocent cravings of a boy – a strong desire for sincere attention; not an unaffectionate stare, but a deep, tender, meaningful gaze into our soul. We require the patience of your ears to hear the potency that is hidden in our stories and experiences. We come before you with the secret hope that your heart learns the language of our complicated heart. Because, sisters, there you will find our truth, our essence – not our contradictory truth expressed outwardly through our language and behavioural patterns, but an authentic and uncontaminated stream of sincerity.
Indeed, sisters, as men we take full responsibility for the mistakes we have made and continue to make (or at least we should). Sadly, some of us brothers use the symptoms of our success – the cars, house, money, fame, our ‘power’ – as systems to dress up and decorate our dysfunction. We use our trophies and accolades to temporarily quieten the raging storm of insecurity, self-doubt, fear, and anxiety that routinely erupts within us. Sister did you know that as we brag about our successes and display to you our trophies, we attempt to convince you that we are self-sufficient and self-aware of our masculinity? But the hidden, and sometimes silenced truth is this: behind our elevated perceptions of our successes, we are afraid that we will not make it out the maze of masculinity.
Perhaps what you may not know is that many of us are still longing for childhood justice; still dealing with the residues of piercing betrayal and cold neglect experienced with old lovers and family members. Some of us are still awaiting the priceless praise of our fathers. In fact, some of us are still in conversation with our childhood-self, asking why dad never came home. Some of us never experienced the warm tenderness of mum because she was overworked and underpaid and never had time to stay indoors to teach us about tenderness, vulnerability, and sensitivity. In fact sisters, we announce to you that some of us have never been celebrated for our efforts. We have had to throw ourselves a celebration party that we were both the guest and the celebrant.
It’s not that we don’t see you for who you are – precious and unique creations of God – but some of us are lost in the abyss of hyper-masculinity, causing us to become outsiders in precious moments of ethereal bliss.
“..if we told you our deepest secrets in the evening, would you still want us and respect us in the morning? If we revealed to you the boy within, would you still respect the man you see?”
To convince ourselves of how relevant we are to you, we embark on a prolonged hunt for your validation. For those of us who are emotionally unbalanced, the hunt for your affirmation causes our definitions of manhood to be perpetually bound to your opinions of us. Perhaps, what you don’t know, sisters, is that many of us have lost ourselves in the pursuit of your emotional and physical endorsement.
Certainly, as men we ought to be more expressive of our weaknesses, sensitivity, vulnerability, and even the troubles and traumas we experience; but maybe what we fear most and what we want to know is this: if we told you our deepest secrets in the evening, would you still want us and respect us in the morning? If we revealed to you the boy within, would you still respect the man you see?
A loving Brother.