Masculinity

Masculinity means so many different things depending on who you ask. In 1991 there was a meeting set up by Warren Farrell, one of the earliest pioneers in men’s issues, at his mountain retreat in California. A dozen or so of us so-called leaders of the Men’s Movement were invited to come and share our thoughts, feelings, and positions regarding the question of what true masculinity was, among other topics, including whether or not the Men’s Movement should be politicized like the earlier Women’s Movement.

By the way, this is where I got to be friends with poet Robert Bly. He and I shared a cabin together and it allowed us to start a relationship as equals and colleagues for over 20 years. This relationship helped to forge my understanding of my own masculinity.

It is kind of ironic that the recognized Father of the Men’s Movement was a character like Robert Bly. He is one of the most sensitive, kind, generous, and generative men I’ve had the pleasure to know, learn from, work beside and be friends with. It took a wild-haired bear of a man who is a poet and a master storyteller of fairytales and ancient fables to lead men right down into their well of pain. Here is a man who blends intelligence, emotion, music, poetry, passion and love of all things into what would be considered a new definition of masculinity.

As for the question, should the Men’s Movement be politicized, Robert and I, and a couple of other early pioneers, Shepherd Bliss and Aaron Kipnis, agreed that the Men’s Movement should focus on an interior journey, not an exterior one. Women had to become political to assert their rights as equals in every way to the predominant male culture. Robert and I said, “We’ve been political; let’s go into our souls, bodies, and hearts” for answers on how to live in the 20th and 21st centuries. Poetry – his own, Rumi’s, Hafiz’s, Machado’s, Jimenez’s, and dozens of others – was a way inward, and fairytales would help those of us who listened as he said – often accompanying himself on his Greek instrument, the bazuki – “We’re leaving our time now.”

One of the main reasons I was asked to attend this little-known conference was due to my approach to masculinity. I felt, believed and taught through workshops and writing that men who are abusing alcohol, anger, rage, and drugs should sober up and discover who they really are under all the layers of addictions.

Both Robert and I are adult children of alcoholics, which greatly impeded our growth and development of our masculinity; we talked about this and other issues while we shared that cabin and for 20 years after.

So what is masculinity? I can tell you much more easily what it is NOT.

True masculinity is not John Wayne movies.

True masculinity is not who has the biggest cock or stock options.

True masculinity is not homophobic, xenophobic, anti-feminine or anti-feminist.

True masculinity is not full of rage.

True masculinity is not oppressive.

True masculinity is as tender as it is tough and tenacious.

True masculinity is a balance between the wild and the sensitive.

True masculinity is not afraid of being called names like prissy, pussy, or fags because we read, write poetry, play music, sing to our brothers,’ fathers,’ and sons’ souls.

True masculinity mentors the young men and women.

True masculinity weeps, mourns, celebrates, laughs, wonders, looks at how we were wounded and how we have wounded others and our planet.

I could go on, but the truth is that true or deep masculinity changes over time with new information and experiences and at different stages of life. It changes as the seasons of a man’s life change. My own sense of masculinity at 67 is somewhat the same as it was at 35 but also much different. My masculinity now includes a kind of patience my younger masculine self did not have with people, processes and life in general. My masculinity incorporates the old Arabic saying, “Haste is of the devil, slowness is of God.” My masculinity, while still a little competitive, doesn’t do harm to other men. My masculinity finally learned lovemaking is 100 times better than fucking women I don’t know hardly or at all. My masculinity sits on the porch much more often and drinks coffee and eats banana nut bread without worrying about calories. My masculinity demands I stay in shape, but my ego is not damaged if I don’t, and as my old friend, Martín Prechtel, would say at our men’s conferences, “Long life and honey in the heart.”

Excerpt from best-selling book The Flying Boy: Healing the Wounded Man

The following is taken from my first best-selling book, The Flying Boy: Healing the Wounded Man. I thought it was timely to share this since I will be keynoting at two men’s events this month:

Oct 19-21 The Bubba-Buddha Men’s Empowerment Weekend for Mentor*Discover*Inspire Organization (MDI) ~ LaFayette GA

Oct 26-27 What Does Healthy Masculinity Look Like Now? ~ Sponsored by Lenoir-Rhyne University ~ Asheville and Hendersonville NC

I hope you will find something in this post that will touch you in some way, and I will be pleased to hear from you.

In 1981 I read one of the first articles about Robert Bly’s work with men in New Age Magazine. While I was moved and completely understood what he was saying, several years passed before I felt the truth told by the man who spoke to me as one who had lived my life. His father was an alcoholic – so was mine. His mother treated him like a magic person and gave him what C.G. Jung terms a “mother complex” – so did mine. He had escaped the world of men – so had I. He said that men who didn’t get in touch with their own deep masculinity found themselves unable to make commitments, hold down jobs and have good relationships. They constantly projected their souls onto the women they loved and left. These men did not have male friends because they only trusted females. He called them “Flying Boys” – I was a Flying Boy.

Unconsciously I had denied many things masculine and male in me. Though I looked and dressed like a lumberjack, I kept my hair long like my mother’s. I saw maleness as exhibited by my drunken angry father and wanted no part of such meanness. I had seen maleness via the cultural fathers who sent their sons to Vietnam to live out their, and John Wayne’s, dreams of heroism and cultural domination. I wanted nothing to do with such maleness. I looked toward the feminine and tried to look like a sensitive man who would not use his intuition to plough through people’s souls and bodies. My spirituality was deeply feminine and finally soft. During my early 30s, thanks to Bly, Laural and others, I realized that I was one who was completely out of balance and quickly approaching a “sickness unto death.”

If you fly away from commitments, responsibilities, intimacy, feelings, male friendships and your own body, chances are you are a Flying Boy. If you are a woman reading this, chances are you have loved or come into contact with a Flying Boy.

Flying Boys frequently use fantasy to escape reality. They hide in their mind/intellect, reason to avoid the pain they keep in their bodies. They appear to all but those closest to them as sensitive, gentle and completely in touch with their feelings. The truth, except in the most extreme circumstances, is that they seldom even know they have bodies and feelings.

Fate and circumstance always seem to be controlling their lives. They can’t quite make life work for themselves. When things do begin to work out or they finally succeed at something, they fly off in pursuit of another city, lover, job, degree, religion or drug. recovery treatment center image jumping between two mountains

Flying Boys are often addicted to sex, work, pain and failure as much as they are to intensity and darkness. They are constantly coming down from ecstatic highs and descending into deep, dramatic depressions. They seek the extremes and are bored with the in-between times.

Flying Boys often grew up in dysfunctional families. Their fathers were both emotionally and physically absent. Their mothers often tried to compensate for this loss. In the process, the Flying Boy learned to reject his masculinity and grew to overvalue the feminine. He experienced his feminine side vicariously through his mother and other mother-like women in his life.