How to Build Better Boys

The 20s are all about coming into your own. You know what's funny - how much time we spend trying to fit in and feel comfortable when in reality we are most at peace with ourselves when we stop trying. When we let our guards down, cease striving to be what we think others want us to be, and embrace ourselves we see how extraneous all other attempts at finding us had ever been. We already know who we are, we just have to accept it. Being you should be the easiest thing you ever get to do in your life and it's a real privilege to be able to so, one that too few people get to enjoy. Take advantage of it and let you're most you you on through. This is how to build a better boy. 
One thing I am always thankful for about my parents was that they let me do my own thing in figuring out my interests. They ignored the social pressures to force children to adhere to this absurd binary that delineates everything as male or female. Toys, colors, clothes, TV shows and all the rest apparently have gender. Not only that but there is a rightness (and implied wrongness) for how people are supposed to carry themselves and interact with the world. Boys can't have Easy Bake Ovens as if chefs are always female. Girls can't have Legos as if all civil engineers are male. Then there's the coloring of it all. Blue and pink, seemingly polar opposites but nothing more than pigments that we assign these gendered messages to. Glittery excess in hot pink fluff make up dresses and sedated bland boring blues patch up blue shirts. I learned to love cooking, painted landscapes in mock pointillism, and most importantly was giving free reign to cry, hug, and express the multitude of emotions I had pent up inside me. I wasn't constrained by the severely limiting notions of maleness and in that liberty I found myself. My comfortable, confident, and compassionate rendition of me - the real me. That's how you build a better boy. 
You know what I'm tired of? I'm beyond finished with masculinity being defined in the terms of what femininity is not. Maleness cannot be limited to what femaleness is not because save for your private parts, I don't see much difference between men and women. Also note that this relationship excludes men with queer identities as if finding other men attractive somehow alters or revokes your maleness. I think men and women can do just about the same things. We can have the same characteristics, we can look or even dress the same, complete the same jobs, and most of all fulfill the same social roles. It's way more common to see women commandeering from things that are typically classified as masculine than men doing the opposite but man do we need to. If men are stuck with being strong, athletic, and stoic then that means women are tasked with things I personally believe are exponentially more valuable, vulnerability, flexibility, and authentic emotional experiences. We have to build better boys.
Guys need no absolutely must find their emotional selves or risk spending their entire lives emotionally inept and incapable of effectively processing everything that comes their way in a healthy ways. People in general need to stop ridiculing men who show emotion. Women are expecting men to be nothing but imperturbable just like other men. Cry for goodness sakes. Hug your damn friends. Mess around with one another. Touch and be touched. There is nothing more powerful than to come into contact with another human being, especially your friend when they need it most. The linkage between sex and sexuality has to be broken. You can have same sex friends that you are close with, both emotionally and physically. You need them. Who else to better understand you? You can compliment other guys without having your sexuality questioned. You can share bed without it being weird. You can sing into each other's faces while using the same spoon from a container of Eddy's ice cream to destroy a gallon of frozen goodness. Hell, you can make out with another dude (regardless of sobriety) and that has nothing to do with your identity as man (if you it makes you want to explore your sexuality then so be it). Find your emotions, and find yourself. You need you, your friends need you, and the world needs you. That's how you build better boys.

Last Friday night was an awesome one to say the least. My fraternity brothers and I have a going away kickback for our brother Dom who is graduating at the end of the semester. It was finger foods, libations, and goofiness galore. Party games, shouting matches, synchronized dances, and lips-synching to Taylor Swift, what more could you ask for. I was looking around and saw people letting themselves out. It's so funny how touchy-feely people get when they stop caring and also how much closer people get when they let themselves. Beard-petting, lap-sitting, and so many warm hugs punctuate that night. Everyone was smiling, laughing, and talking. I mean really talking, about anything and everything. Some people were joking around while others were having some deep conversations. I spent most of my time being silly with Kyle, Willy, Connor, and Dakota. That's the point of having friends, being able to talk with them candidly whenever and wherever. It shouldn't have to take a get together for people to get real. Seven hours later I was tired as hell from dancing my ass off, losing my voice my singing too loud, and achy all over from all the horse-play. Those guys are how you build better boys, you let them be themselves.

Saturday had me recovering my night of ginger ale sipping and unsightly pelvic thrusts. Evening fell and I had a couple of my first year friends over in Max and Henry. We had dinner, recapped our semesters, and traded random stories of hospital visits. It was such a good time. No expectations, no awkwardness, no barriers, just some guys hanging out. I even had the opportunity to step up and be my favorite version of myself, the compassionate one too. I shared some of my stories of tough times and overcoming hardship. I spoke from the very depths of my heart some much needed powerful truths. I hugged with every fiber of my being while returning an "I love you" with bonafide fervor. That's what's friends are supposed to do. They give all of themselves to you when you need it most. They tell you the truth. They let you be yourself. And you get to do the same in return. That's how you build better boys.
My blog post question for the day is ... what is your favorite thing about your best friend? I really enjoy his hugs. He's like an awkward teddy bear but he puts his whole self into them and you just melt.


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