Decisions Pre-made for Males

I wrote this several years ago in an attempt to discuss my feelings with my wife. Since that time, some of my feelings have evolved and I am more careful with how I describe myself.

I was born with a Y chromosome and that seems to have come with a set of decisions that were already made for me. Who made those decisions, when did they make them, and why should I be forced to follow them now?

Who decided that I should be emotionless? Who decided that I shouldn't know what sensuality is? Who decided that I only want to wear practical clothes made from practical fabrics and with dull colors? Who decided that I could only wear pants?

Even though I am a man, I do have emotions. I feel pain, anger, joy, sadness, envy, and desire - all the same things women feel. But the absence of a Y chromosome in women seems to have granted them the exclusive right to feel and express emotions. Why can't big boys cry? We have tear ducts; we hurt; we can even feel sympathy and empathy.

But, if you believe the media, all men are capable of feeling is lust and anger. And the only way we can express it is by violence or making fools of ourselves. Well, I'm sorry to tell you that I have never hit a woman, never raped a woman, and I don't follow them around like a puppy with my tongue hanging out. Maybe I'm not really a man?

Males (at least in the cultures with which I have some familiarity) grow up being taught that they cannot derive pleasure from their senses. Women learn to do it from an early age. Men are taught that the only way they can be pleased is to jump on a woman, do his thing, and get off as quickly as possible. Women learn to derive pleasure merely from another's presence, touch, scent, and attention, not to mention their own clothes or personal appearance.

I guess it says something negative about my manliness that I enjoy the company of another person. I enjoy their touch and touching or smelling them. I enjoy being the object of attention. And, dare I say it; I enjoy these things even more than sex. But, maybe I'm not a man.

In the last several decades, our culture has shifted from a primarily manufacturing and agricultural based work force to an information-shuffling work force. For those of us who spend our time in an office, practicality in clothing is simply not important any more. Where once one had to be careful to guard against getting one's clothes caught in heavy machinery, now it is rather rare that a computer will snag a skirt hem and chew up its wearer.

Offices are also, by and large, climate controlled, as are our homes and automobiles. We just don't spend that much time, any more, exposed to the elements. Cotton and wool just aren't the only practical fabrics now. Yet men seem to be forced to stick with these two materials, although occasionally we can try linen. Yes, I know that some men have tried silk (and loved it), but it always comes with questions about their manliness. (Yes, I have experienced the questioning.)

Men also seem to have been given a wide variety of colors to choose from: black, gray, navy, and tan, plus one more annually varying dull color, such as dark green.

Yes, we have made a few more additions to our color palette in more recent years. We can wear pink shirts now - but with some restrictions. A tie is virtually mandatory; a coat is highly recommended. Never should we wear a pink shirt alone!

A few of us have really ventured out and gotten some brightly colored Hawaiian print shirts - all cotton, of course. We love the color, but we don't particularly care for having our sanity questioned for wearing them. Yes, believe it or not, people will question a man's sanity for wearing brightly colored, patterned shirts! A woman could wear exactly the same thing, and she would just be fashionable - a man is a bit loony.

As for other fabrics, forget it. Sure we can wear silk - with more restrictions. It had better be blandly colored and tightly fitted, unless you are talking about boxer shorts. (There's a whole other subject: women wear "lingerie," men wear "underwear.") No fancy decoration, no lace, no ruffles, not even wide sleeves had better be on those shirts. And while you're at it, it would be best if you wore it with a suit!

So, who decided that I don't like colors, lace, ruffles, and flowing shapes? Not me, for certain, because I do like all of those. And they also please my sensual side. Oh, I forgot, maybe I'm not a man.

In a factory or a field, pants make some sense. In the office, there is nothing to make them any better than a skirt. I am certainly not what some would call physically well endowed, yet I am constantly being bound up, twisted, and cramped by the crotch of my pants as I sit all day. (I realize that women may not understand this problem.) For me, a skirt has to be a much more comfortable choice. We won't even go into medical discussions on reproductive health.

On those occasions when I am out of doors (and living in the South), a skirt brings a new type of comfort that even shorts don't offer - additional "air conditioning."

Sure a skirt brings with it a certain amount of vulnerability, but that's another emotional expression that men aren't supposed to enjoy. It also brings some more sensual feelings when the breeze blows or the hem brushes my legs. I love that, but then, maybe I'm not a man.

When I was young, several people criticized the way I walked - like a "sissy." So, I watched other men and the television and I learned to adopt the "gun slinger" walk, even though I've never had a .45 strapped to my hip. My peers also told me to ignore my mother's admonitions against slumping - but guess who was right?

My peers (I do use the term loosely), as I was growing up, taught me all kinds of things. I must never let anyone see me standing with a limp wrist - so why does it happen naturally? I must look at my fingernails by bending my fingers rather than stretching them out straight. And while we're on that subject, I must always keep my fingernails short and unadorned. My eyebrows should be allowed to cover my face if they choose to do so.

I could go on and on with all these decisions that were made for me, but that would be whining, which men don't do. But, maybe I'm not a man.

So, if that Y chromosome makes me a man, then why do my preferences or behaviors make me something else? Why does the accident of conception constrain my humanity? Perhaps I would be better off accepting my humanity first and my masculinity second.

And, I've finally come to the point, after 50 years, of realizing that what others think of me is immaterial. What I think of myself is what makes me who I am. I can make my own decisions, thank you. And they may not be in agreement with what is now considered traditional. I'm willing to be "different." I'm willing to not be a man.