When I was 6, a child that picked up a barbie to play with instead of a basket full of plastic cars, was an instant hit. The girls muffled covering their mouth and the boys laughed at him, for days. He never touched another barbie again. That was my first tryst with congruence to gender conformity.
Five years hence, when my cousin announced he wants to be a butterfly for fancy dress, I did what was expected of me. I served him the rules of masculine congruence in a soup bowl and hit him with an acceptable behaviour boomerang. He dressed as a caterpillar instead.
As I grew older, the girth of the rulebook increasingly got swollen until all the ink dried up cold and I could no more take notes. I then gulped down the book whole, ruminating on the underlined parts, every now and then.
Men are taught to be volcanoes. To gulp down storms whole without flinching, to try and bottle up agony until their own throats and eyes start forcing it out of their rotten insides, finally squirting out unfathomable lava that juggernauts its way into a pool of despair and rage, burning down every bystander on its way.
I don’t remember the last time tears rained down after my heart felt heavy. But I remember having tears wash all over the eyelids when I suddenly heard deafening voices that whispered, “Gulp it down. You’re a bloody man”. Men are taught to be anchors in the ship of life. To get beaten down by waves, salt, mountains & reefs underneath, until they are corroded and withered, without complaining. Until one day, the chains break and they sink along with their ship.
I’m here to tell you if your 6-year-old likes to play with barbies, buy him 10 more. If your 10 year old wants to be a butterfly for fancy dress, make him the prettiest god damn butterfly the city has ever seen. If they cry, cry with them. If they prefer ballet over soccer, romance over action, cooking overeating, pink over black, don’t preach them otherwise.
I’m here to tell you, it’s okay. It’s okay to watch Sleepless in Seattle with your boys, it’s okay to not feel or be strong because you’re not the only one, it’s okay to break down when someone you love passes away instead of standing there like an electrocuted concrete pillar, it’s okay if you like to cuddle after sex, it’s okay if you love children and want to be a stay-at-home dad & cook scrumptious meals for them. None of these makes you any less of a “Man”.
You can’t raise graphite sponges expecting them to magically morph into therapeutic diamonds under pressure and then complain about having your hands turn black every time you touch them.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Turn the narrative around, tear every leaflet that reads “How to be a Man”, break every wall, every manhole, every square box, every closet, if it helps you breathe better.
Because what doesn’t kill you, doesn’t make you stronger. It either keeps killing you slowly like a leech or waits long enough for you to turn into a monster.
You deserve better, so do the women. So does everyone.