For a long time I didn’t feel like a real man.
I wasn’t really sure what being a real man was supposed to feel like, but the very insecure and clumsy state of mind I was in most of the time just didn’t seem very masculine.
A real man was the guy that was portrayed in Playboy Magazine.
He had a real man watch, a real man car, smoked real man cigars, drank real man whisky, and fucked real men women.
I didn’t do any of these things.
A real man was both sophisticated and arrogant, he was funny and smart and had a lot of money, and he didn’t give a shit about how he was perceived by other people.
I didn’t even come close to this bag of real man traits.
When I was around 16, I started on a journey to become a real man, which involved working on my muscles, wearing expensive clothes and putting on expensive French after shave.
For years and years I added stuff to this routine.
I read about picking up women (‘humiliate them, they LOVE it!’), and I read many books on how to impress everyone in the room (which never happened because I was always trying to remember what I was supposed to say to impress everyone in the room).
I stuffed my head with knowledge that was supposed to make me look like this worldly creature, and I started drinking and smoking, although the brands weren’t particularly expensive or exclusive.
Everything I did, I did to come across as a particular powerful person.
I became really dominant and exuded aggression and cynicism.
I made harsh jokes about every person in the world except me.
And I DID get some money, and I DID get to sleep with some very attractive (and even famous) women, and I might have even looked like a real man once in a while, but I remained insecure and unhappy as fuck.
The reason I tell you this story right now, is that I just skimmed my bookshelves and saw all these books that were supposed to build up and support my manliness.
And the other reason I tell you about it is that I realized I stopped caring if I look or behave or smell like a real man or not.
For a very long time I wore this image of Being A Real Man like an extremely uncomfortable coat, a heavy, badly patched collection of superficial ideas and clichés.
I tried really hard to be like the man I invented while reading Playboy, without realizing that he doesn’t exist, and if he HAD been alive, would be nothing short of a complete freak.
I believed that pretending hard enough would finally replace my excruciating insecurity and deep notion of being weak and uninteresting, with the bold swagger of the real man.
Looking back it fills me with tender, loving pity for this deeply unhappy guy who tried to change the personal story that limited him so much with a bunch of shiny ideas.
If there IS something like a real man, he’s probably the opposite of everything I tried to do and think most of my life.
And the last thing he probably cares about, is being a real man.
Maybe I’m finally on to something 🙂
(Photo by @mroz, for Unsplash)