Yes, we know how to iron.
While not as pronounced in our current 21st century environment as it has been in the past, there is still a common assumption (no matter how quietly) among more than a few people if man is serious about adopting the “rules” of manhood, that he will do the following.
Hello guys (guys literally)! We have all heard the conventional wisdom. Real men are economically responsible, strong, rugged, heath conscious, sexually adequate, take care of their families, are chivalrous and are in control of their emotions.
True men are alpha males who are financially successful, in good shape, good in bed, are able to take care of their wife and children, protect their wives or girlfriends, do not cry, break or bend under pressure regardless of how stressful things become.
To put it bluntly — to be a “normal” man means being as close to perfection as possible.
A superman of sorts. Being excellent and exceptional is the standard and anything lesser than is frowned upon.
What is even more telling about the expectations we (at least a sizable segment of society) subscribe to men in our culture is that for a man to qualify as “legitimate,” he is expected to be married or in a committed relationship (preferably married). While not as pronounced in our current 21st century environment as it has been in the past, there is still a common assumption (no matter how quietly) among more than a few people if man is serious about adopting the “rules” of manhood, that he will do the following.
Most likely in this order:
- Find a respectable woman
- Cease pursuing all other women
- Get serious with her
- Purchase a wedding ring
- Get down on one knee and propose to her (hope she says yes)
- Walk down the aisle with her
- Buy a house in the suburbs or exurbs (perhaps live in trendy, urban housing if you are young, super successful professional couple)
- Produce at least two children (possibly more if you can afford it)
- Have a well paying job
- Be faithful to your partner (although we know that men will be men)
To be sure, this sort of mentality is not universal. Nonetheless, it is pretty much the accepted narrative in many quarters. Anyone who deviates from this script is viewed as abnormal or “suspect.” In the case of unmarried single men the stereotypes abound.
Among them are:
- obsessed with sex
- mama’s boys
- immature overgrown men
- possibly closeted pedophiles
Any rational and sane person should be astute to the fact that such stereotypes are just what they are — myths! The fact is that all of the aforementioned stereotypes can apply to married men or men of the majority of these categories regardless of race, age, or socio economic class.
While we are gradually evolving, the truth is that we still live in a society where many people still place a high premium on marriage. In fact, I have a friend (now in his second marriage) who came close to having a nervous breakdown in his early thirties due to the fact that he was still unmarried. He was convinced that his entire manhood hinged on being wedded and a family man. He is far from alone. The fact is that there are many people who decide to stay in flawed, problematic, violent, dysfunctional, psychologically unhealthy marriages due to societal pressure or fear of being alone or being seen as a failure.
Over the years, I have had my share of conversations with a few male friends, acquaintances and strangers (yes strangers, usually in coffeehouses or on airplanes) who have discussed dissatisfaction with their current marriages or relationships. To be sure, there are many married men in strong loving, happy stable partnerships.
Applause! Applause! This is great. More power to these bros!
That being said, there are many other men who are single. They tried marriage. For whatever reasons, they either failed or decided to exit from the institution. They have decided not to put a ring on it. They are not interested in pursuing the path of children and family or having a permanent partner. In short, they are content with their lives and bachelorhood suits them just fine. Marital bliss is relationship non grata. In a nation that has a 50% divorce rate (although lately, this statistic has been contested) in some segments of the population it is much higher) perhaps some these unattached men may be on to something.
The truth is that not every person needs to be partnered up. What is a good thing for person a may not necessarily be positive thing for person B. Single people deserve to be treated with as much dignity and respect as their married counterparts. The notion that marriage is the only viable option for men to be fulfilled, cultivate and satisfy their inner brawn, and garner acceptance from the larger society is myopic, patronizing and insulting to those men (or women) who desire a certain degree of social independence. To paraphrase Beyonce Knowles — all the single fellas!!!