Man Down

The 20s are about breaking boundaries, and knocking down barriers to progress. There are so many questions to be asked on college campuses and of us as young people. What is stopping us? What prevents us from talking about the tough things, the things that aren't so picturesque, but the things that are most real. Why is socially unacceptable to have problems, to acknowledge their existence and most of all to talk about them? Why does it make us uncomfortable? This is what happens when there's a man down.

Fraternity/sorority life is an absolutely amazing community to be apart of. It's not for everyone, but if you find your fit - it can/will change your life forever. While it does foster camaraderie to certain extent, it is also problematic in the attitudes, ideals, and behaviors its members sometimes perpetuate. This past week was my college's "Greek Week" - a time for all chapters to get involved, celebrate together in the spirit of competition. Never have I ever been so annoyed with the crippling idealized standards for men. Yes, my fraternity won most of the events (Greek Sync default, Banner, Taste of Greek Life, Spelling Bee) for the fraternal competition this week but anyone could easily say it was because at any point only one or two other fraternities, out of the seven others, showed up to even participate. I don't want to win by default. I want to go head to head, create a playful rivalry, and know we went against everyone's A-game. You have deprived me of getting to know your men, and from a fulfilling win. You have also missed out on the opportunity to forge interfraternal bonds and have some wholesome fun. For people who say they don't care, you DO care and it's so visible how much you care. I don't care and I'm free to be me, all the time that is to do what we all signed up, pledged, and promised to do - create brotherhood, foster community and give respect. I'm tired. I'm frustrated. I'm over it. Fraternity life on this campus is at a standstill. I'm asking you to man down. I'm begging you to get real. I'm beseeching you to stop pretending everything's okay. Cease and desist fulfilling stereotypes and living up to ideals set by other people for what a man, and specifically a fraternity man is supposed to do, to like, and be. I don't care if this makes you mad, if that is what it takes, then please get mad and then prove me wrong. Who are you? If this is who you really are uninvolved, unmotivated, or without initiative then that's fine, but are you okay with being described as those things by other people? Doing the opposite is doing something. It's uncool to care. It's not "frat" to be respectful of what opportunities other people to are providing. It's not manly to have emotions. NO IT'S INHUMANE. Contrary to popular belief, showing your emotions (aka your HUMANITY) doesn't make you weird (that is going against "normalized' societal expectations), weak or worst of all a girl, a bitch, a pussy, a pansy, and every other demeaning term (why are all our put downs related to stereotypically "effeminate" things/trait - a conversation for another post). It makes you a REAL PERSON. I'm telling you it's okay to care. I'm telling you it's okay to man down. Man down. Man down. Put the beer down, take off the bowtie, and turn off the gives none attitude. Listen, speak and listen and tell the truth of who you are, not who you think you're supposed to be. When did being a guy mean exclusively popping bras, chugging alcohol, talking sports/cars, and accessorizing with boat shoes? The manliest, that is the most badass, the strongest, and the most courageous men in this world (in my opinion) are the ones who refuse to accept the fa├žade. Barack Obama, Andre Agassi, Michael Jordan, John Boehner, Anderson Cooper - all notable for different reasons and all have cried in public. You would have the audacity to call the greatest basketball player of all time or the president of the United States - unmanly? They've done/are doing epic things and yet are unphased by how society thinks they should act, and so they cry when they need to. Man down, cry, cheer, yell, laugh ... exist.

Men are suffering in silence, in shame, in solace. For people who arguably have the most power in society and therefore decide how every other identity should be exemplified, why then would they curse their own with these crippling ideals of staidness? It doesn't make sense at all. It needs to stop. Think about it. Why do we think LESS of guys for having problems, for caring not only about themselves, but for other people,  and for talking (not just to get cheap laughs) and speaking their personal truths? It causes a lot of trouble because other men, and some women alike, EXPECT men to be bossed up, broed out, and emotionless. Break the damn expectations. There are guys in our fraternity community, more than we would like to admit and more than will admit to themselves, that are not okay. If you're not okay, then say something - simple as that right? Wrong, when guys talk about themselves, or ask for help, they "lose their manhood." Of course no man would ever talk about who they really are, or what they're feeling, only to be alienated by their "FRIENDS" and partners alike. Find the courage within yourself, the spirit of unrest, and that gives none attitude to come out and share with the world what you're thinking, what goes on in your head, but most importantly your heart. We want to know. We're waiting to see. We're here to listen. This works two-fold, you have to find it within yourself to talk about the hard things (which relatively are actually really simple, it's just that we don't do it often enough if even at all) and to also be receptive when people are speaking. Don't ridicule your friends, don't belittle their problems, don't run away from these conversations. We need you to be an actual friend. Yeah, it's hard, but life is hard. It gets easier when you actually have true friends that will listen to you and help you out. Prove your brotherhood and LISTEN. Don't make jokes to diffuse the awkwardness (it's only awkward because it's unfamiliar), sit in the moment and stay engaged. Your brothers, and even the women (if we're being heteronormative) you interact with NEED you, every part of you, to be open. Do you know what happens when you tell a guy to man up? He shuts down, a piece of him dies, and he's left alone ... again. That's your insecurity putting another person down. Sac up, grow a pair, stop complaining, hit the gym, take a lap etc. all deflective words meaning "I can't do this so I'm running away." Stop running, stand in place, turn around, and face yourself and the people who need you. That's the manliest thing you can do. When you see someone is not okay, tell them to, "man down" and that you're willing to be there, really be there and that you're ready to listen.

The 20s are all about doing the unfamiliar. It's hard. It's difficult. We're not taught how to actually be people, but emotionless shells of them. Time to reclaim yourself, to discover what you actually are interested, to step up and out. Time to come out of hiding. Time to grow up, to mature, and to stop avoiding ourselves. You can do it. You have everything you need to do it. All it takes is one person to say man down. Choose to be the one guy who's willing to listen to your friends, and no matter how much you be called names for it, avoided or even shunned, know that it's worth it because people (even if they don't say it) will be grateful, so much more than you will ever know. Man down.

My blog post question for the day is ... when was the last time you cried and why? I think the last time was like last week when I talked to sister on the phone and she was going to Homecoming and looked so beautiful and I was sad that I wasn't there to drive her to the dance. The homesickness washed over me.


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