I’ve been a little boy, I’ve been a teenage boy, I’ve been a young man, and now I’m trying my best to be a real man. I live my life in opposition to the more normalized, standard issued northern Albertan male personality type, and have made the effort to bring my style in line with my personality. It’s taken me twenty-nine years to find a place where I can comfortably stand on my own feet, and in that time, I’ve ducked and dodged all the trappings that can befall any young man. We could fill a hat with all the ways people can waste their twenties and write a blog post for each one, but I find the most dangerous trap that any two people can fall into while young is the search for a new mother.
In my days I see couple after couple—maybe I’m hyper sensitive to it all because it’s the first time I’ve been without a partner in nearly a decade, but when I shop for food, clothes, groceries, I see it all. There’s a certain brand of man in this world who chooses to outsource his self care to the woman he wooed. I’m not trying to discount the relationships, love or anything like that between these people, but there’s a type of man who makes his wife into his mother, and a type of woman who will accept it.
For some reason, in this town, I feel like it’s more prevalent than in, say, Edmonton, where I really only encountered one person like this. He was in his mid-fifties and I was convinced he didn’t even know how to take care of himself—his wife made his lunch, bought his clothes, did his laundry and generally did everything for him that wasn’t his job or hobbies. I see men in stores standing around on their phones while their wives bring them clothes to try on, which if they do, it’s reluctant. I don’t know what makes me watch these people, but they suck me in like a car crash.
I knew a woman in her early twenties who would spend her time running errands for a man who couldn’t even be bothered to pick up his phone, who was barely older than she. I felt for her and wondered how she’d look back on her life. I have hard opinions on a lot of things, and this is one. There’s an episode of Mad Men where someone who knows about their affair, says something to Joan (Christina Hendricks) about Roger (John Slattery). He says, “don’t waste your youth on age,” and it’s stuck with me.
I feel like these types of people have been raised by that type of person and don’t know any better. It was their example of love. My father cooked, he cleaned, he was handy around the house and he empowered my mother. He never referred to anything as “women’s work,” and set a tone for my entire life; he was the Shepard I needed in this flock of girls and women to keep from becoming a wolf. He taught me that life was never something to settle into to but strive to perfect—and I wonder if that is the reason some people seem like they’re already “finished” with life at twenty-seven, locked into the cycle of work-couch-bed-repeat.
Maybe I’m being overly judgemental and overlooking something, but as the person I am today, I just couldn’t imagine turning over my autonomy to someone like that. In my marriage, I was the one making lunches, I was the one doing laundry. The thing I remain the proudest of in my former marriage was the effortless release of gender roles. For a long time, she was the breadwinner and I was the homemaker. The situations weren’t perfect, but it was what we did, as best we could. It’s something I cherish and take forward with me today. I take pride in my abilities that are stereotypically lost among men, and I pine for a day where someone in my situation doesn’t feel the need to “fight” against projections of masculinity.
I want to think that a growing ratio of women to men is going to help reshape the face of masculinity. If this growing trend of awareness around toxic masculinity keeps growing as it has, we might have another leg up too. I watch my nephew, at four years old, and wonder what kid of boy he’ll be. Raised by my sister with all that Morgan blood in her, I’d imagine that he’ll just grow into a taller version of what he already is, a kind, sweet, empathetic human. The challenge will be to nurture that seed into something that changes the narrative. Someone much, much smarter than me once said, “There is no manual,” and I’ve stolen it before, but it was put into my head by a friend, shortly after I met her about a year ago.
Today I wore my power outfit, which was a good call—it was warm on a cold day. But, having switched the time I take my medication, I don’t sweat nearly as much in the mornings anymore. It’s all coming up Joel.
See you tomorrow.