What it Means to be a Man Today

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This post is sponsored by Stetson.

Our family is going through a difficult time right now. Hah. Understatement of the century! I’m not ready to talk about that just yet, though. I’ve buried myself in work as a welcome distraction. There’s zero logic in anything going on in our world, but there’s logic in my response to it. I need to provide stability for my family. I need to be strong for my boys. The irony is not lost on me. Women, stereotypically, are not the workaholics. Women, stereotypically, are not the logical ones.

Father and son sitting at window together

But then, nothing about our family really is stereotypical.

I talk a lot about our farm in San Diego. There are always sheep to shear, chickens to tend to, things to be harvested. Nate and I fall into ‘normal’ roles there. I share photos of him chopping wood and wrangling goats, and our audience is entertained and comforted. Their expectations are met. Sometimes, though, I’ll share unexpected tidbits of him in casual conversation with our friends. “Did you know,” I assert rather than question, “Nate used to play the trumpet and the bass? He was in an orchestra, and he acted on stage.”

Boy holding a Stetson Original Cologne bottle

They smirk or giggle or exclaim, “Wow!” and I’m mildly uncomfortable. Nate’s mildly uncomfortable. Later, we’ll both question why. Secretly, I think that Nate gets intense pleasure from the idea that these facts make other people feel awkward. Maybe that’s a defense mechanism. I know that he has trouble donning this role. This ‘unstereotypical man’ role.

He’s been rejected over and over again by society and by his peers.

It hurts, stings, just a little. A lot of things in life do right now, and we’re learning to lean into that feeling. To embrace it. To soften to it instead of flee. To build up amazing communities around it. These are all new ideas in our culture, though. They still feel like we’re slipping into an awkwardly-fitting coat.

Father and son holding a wedding ring

I find our family gathered in a hotel room, as we often are, and I ponder over the awkwardly-fitting things all around us. My son buttons up a black dress shirt and toys with a man’s wedding ring that he found on the floor at the restaurant last night. He sheepishly explains why he didn’t tell us about it until after we left. “It’s cool,” he says, “I wanted to keep it so I could put it in my treasure box.”

We explain that it will have to be returned. You can’t simply collect other men’s things and become decidedly “cool” like they are. That’s not how it works. He has to put in the effort and build the constructs of his own character.

Collection of manly things

He’s trying his very best, just like Nate. I watch my oldest son mimic his dad. He lays out his collection on the bed, resigned to playing at masculinity until he can actually form his own definition of it. Nate teaches him tradition, and I’m struck by the sensitivity in his actions. My husband may be at an awkward point in history where the traditional male roles are being shirked, but he doesn’t rebel against the whole thing. Stetson Original is his dad’s cologne and now it’s his and someday it will be his son’s. “These things matter,” he tells our son. “Be confident knowing where you come from.”

Father hugging crying son

A couple minutes later, my son crumples into tears under the weight of something unrelated. Something that seems to have nothing to do with anything, but we know better. Nate doesn’t miss a beat, embracing him. “It’s okay to cry,” he urges. “You’re strong, I’m proud of you.”

I’m proud of him, too. Proud of both of them for carving their way through unfamiliar territory. Much like our ancestors did, I suppose. Perhaps, navigating our own course is the best way of honoring history. I smirk at the thought, blink back tears, and snap a photo. It’s blurry and emotional and perfect. I smirk again, just for a moment, realizing that I’m tossing off yet another feminine role. Perfectionism.

That’s not a hat that Nate will be putting on in my place, though. His focus in the midst of all of this is sharp, and he won’t be distracted by any of those trappings. His priorities are authenticity, community, and legacy.

He’s not a stereotype.

But then, none of the men I know today are.

You can purchase Stetson Original at your local Walmart, or on their website.


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