Real Man

"I felt real when I asked for help, when I failed, when I was myself. I did not want to become a real man, I realized," Alvin spoke gently to the therapist.

"Why did you not want to be a real man?"

"Because everything I was told about being a real man didn't feel right."

"Can you give me some examples."

"A real man doesn't cry, but sometimes things hurt. A real man takes care of his wife, but who takes care of me? I have to man up and deal with BS at work, but nobody else has to because I'm the only guy, so I can take it. Even if I can take it, why should have to?"

"Do you think women have it easier?"

"That's not what I said," Alvin's voice raises.

"Then explain."

"Overall, I think it's just as hard for men, but we're not allowed to speak up. Sure, the struggles are different. I've never been sexually harassed by a coworker, but I've been challenged to a fight by the boss before. I've never been called a fast tailed little girl, but I've never been allowed to fully express my emotions either. Yeah, women get pushed into certain fields, but men do too. You know, teaching is a woman's job. Then we end up with men pushed out and women pushed into it. Neither is happy, and the students suffer. A lot of stupid stuff like that makes it hard for both men and women. But we get caught up in this stupid gender war, and nobody realizes the same problems are hurting us all."

"You've thought about this a lot," the therapist reaches for a pen and notepad. "How long have you been thinking about this?"

"Most of my life. Different levels, but always there. It's been a constant. I'm constantly questioned on my manhood but I don't really know what that means. What does it even mean to be a real man? I don't like beer, I like hard cider. The color pink isn't girly, it's just a color. Why does being a real man have to line up with some backwards society nonsense? Who gets to make the rules on being a real man?"

"Alvin, would it make you feel better if I told you I saw you as a real man?"

"Not really." 

"That's good. My favorite uncle watches soap operas, religiously; he has them recorded so he can watch as soon as he gets home. He's also gets a pedicure and manicure every month. If my aunt wants to go, she can, but he's perfectly fine going without her. He told me, no I learned from watching, that you can't let anyone decide what it means to be a man for you. My favorite thing to do on weekends is bake. My sister had an Easy Bake Oven, she hated it. I loved it, but wasn't allowed to play with it. I still love baking. That doesn't make me less of a man. Nor does crying make you less of a man. I think the world needs more men like you Alvin. Men who define their own manhood instead of being what society tells them to be."

For a moment Alvin pondered on the situation and what he had just heard. He never looked at it beyond himself. He hadn't considered that there are millions of other men in the world who have these same questions. The idea of a real man had been thrown in his face over and over again his entire life. It had taken over his thoughts at time, paralyzed him with fear during others. He held these thoughts close to his own heart, never expressing them.

"Do you really believe that," Alvin asked.

"I think, a lot of men are told to go fight in the streets, wars or whatever. But I think some of us are supposed to fight for something better, even if it may not be a fight in the literal sense. I think that's what you were doing."

 "I was fighting for something better?"

"Even if you didn't know it."

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