Last November, I had a brief exchange with a man while boarding a red eye flight across the country that taught me an invaluable lesson about men and the state of masculinity.
The Exchange: I was exhausted, our flight was delayed, and by the time we began boarding around midnight, many of us had joined together in solidarity of our unfortunate present circumstances. The man standing behind me in line began to engage with me in small talk, as well as a few people around us. He asked me where I was heading, and I told him I had an interview for a nursing program. He said he was traveling for work, and I asked him what he did for a living. He sort of looked down at his feet, and told me, "I don't know, it's pretty boring. You probably wouldn't want to hear about it." I laughed and said I'm sure that's not true. He explained that he worked for a company that was developing electrical devices that would be sealed into the concrete of skyscrapers that could remotely report the structural integrity of the building during earthquakes, hurricanes, etc. "Just an office job." I told him I actually really thought his work was very interesting and very cool, and that I was sure it would save a lot of people's lives. His eyes sort of lit up, he straightened up, stared at me, and told me he'd never really thought about it that way before. We got on the plane, I made my way to my seat, he ended up about ten rows in front of me, and a few minutes after sitting down, he stood up and passed his business card through ten rows of people, and gave me a wave.
I wasn't single, and probably wouldn't have been interested even if I had been. I was just trying to be kind and courteous to a stranger in line. But although he never heard from me, I really do hope he was able to keep that light in his eyes and confidence that I saw develop in those few fleeting moments.
The Lesson: It's the oldest archetype known to man. The Hero. The dragon-slaying princess-saving man of admiration and honor. The man little boys dream of becoming. In 2018, that little boy grows up to be told by women everywhere that his masculinity is toxic, that his strength is oppressive, that his accomplishments are the result of privilege, that his efforts are futile, that his nature is predatory, that fatherhood is meaningless, that husbands are useless...
...that he won't be able to find his way without pulling over and asking for directions.
In five minutes, a few words of encouragement, genuine interest, and admiration from a stranger completely changed this man's attitude about his work. It's quite possible that for the first time since he was a young boy, he felt like he could be a hero. A woman made him feel better about himself, instead of tearing him down. Imagine the impact you could have on a man in a lifetime. I take it back - the oldest archetype isn't the hero. It's the Woman. The Woman Worth Fighting For. The Woman that civilized man, the Beauty to the Beast. Feminism has decided that it's not fair that the hero archetype belongs to men - we want to be heroes too, right? But when you compete with a man instead of supporting him and loving him, you take away his pride and motivation, and become an adversary instead of his princess and number one fan.
Yes, ladies, we have a masculinity crisis in this country. But who's responsible, and what will it take to reverse the damage done? Whether you're entering the dating market, or have been married for 30+ years, take a second to remind yourself to look up at a man, instead of looking down on him. See the hero in them they desperately want to be, even if he does just work an office job. Be a woman who inspires him. Admire his efforts, thank him for his sacrifices, let him be your hero. And as he begins to see himself through your eyes, magic happens. I've even seen this happen over the course of the past several months with my own man, and can't wait to see where he'll go from here.
I hope you all are having a beautiful Tuesday.