HuffPost UK is running a month-long focus around masculinity in the 21st Century, and the pressures men face around identity. To address some of the issues at hand, Building Modern Men presents a snapshot of life for men, from bringing up young boys to the importance of mentors, the challenges between speaking out and 'manning up' as well as a look at male violence, body image, LGBT identity, lad culture, sports, male friendship and mental illness.
Alarming statistics continue to make headlines around suicide. For every woman that takes her life, three men take theirs. Last year alone, a male took their life every two hours. A statistic can't give us an answer, but it can point us in the right direction to fixing a problem, and hey, isn't it the man's task to fix something that's broken, to be 'man of the house'?
But what does it mean to be a 'modern man' in a world that gets more politically correct with every opinion that's tweeted? Society is breaking down so many barriers when it comes to equality, so if we're moving in the right direction, why are we feeling more insecure?
I realise I've already asked three questions, so don't be expecting an answer to the meaning of life in this article. It's simply a 26-year-old's thoughts in a world that seems to be moving too fast for him to keep up.
Growing up in a rural, industrial, working class town in the arse end of the North, it was rammed with blokes in the working social clubs who downed their ales, potted their snooker balls and bundled through the doors to 'get away from the wife.' Let me set the scene of a Saturday night in a working men's social club.
"Right, my round. What y'havin'?
"Carling." "Fosters." "Carling for me." "Raspberry Koppaberg."
"Shuddup, yer pansy. What you really havin?"
It seems then, that - point number one - a man is defined by his drinks. What are the other success criteria to defining a man? According to a quick internet search, a real man:
- Has had a dog, currently has a dog, or eventually would like to have a dog
- Doesn't apologise if they don't last long during sex
I'm doing well so far. I AM A MAN.
- Has goals
Yep. I've got goals. I am ACING this being a man malarkey. Surely I'm one screwdriver, or one pot of paint with a stirring stick, away from being THE modern man.
- A real man has a least two or three dishes they can cook well
Right, it's in the bag. Providing a full English counts, I am 100% a modern man. "But Tom, you do realise you've been single for over three years. Are you sure? I mean, you don't even have a beard..." I hear my subconscious rattle around in my head, like a pair of dirty trainers in the tumble dryer. It brings me back down to Earth, so I read a few more how-to-be-a-man points, just to make sure.
- The modern man is the marrying kind
Hmmm. I've always preferred to spend my money on something like a round the world trip, or saving yet another animal that's lost its habitat to the greedy ways of the world.
- Real men don't overeat
I've just polished off half a packet of bourbons.
- Real men don't ever feel sorry for themselves, ever
See above comment regarding bourbons - I'm feeling pretty sorry for myself right now.
- Real men call when it's practical
BOLLOCKS. I don't even own a phone at the minute. Does that make me a prepubescent teen? Then comes the nail in the coffin:
- Real men don't take selfies
Shit. I was doing so well! I think I've taken two selfies this week, or maybe it was three? I had it all and I blew it. I've gone from Don Draper to Norris Cole of Coronation Street in the space of a couple of bullet points.
But why is it that Norris isn't a successful man in modern society?
We live in a world that is progressing at an alarming rate, a rate far too quick for our Neanderthal minds. A world in which headlines say scientists are close to virgin births, and nearly everything apart from a shite can be genetically modified or cloned - it's no wonder that men are questioning their very own existence.
There's a lot to be glum about in modern society. We live in a world where happiness isn't good for the economy, where people are fine with animals becoming extinct, a world in which humans continue to add to global warming and shun polar bears out of their homes. Maybe we're all a bit fucking depressed and anxious, but women seem to deal with it by opening up and revealing their feelings. What is it about the Y chromosome that keeps our feelings bottled up, which makes us feel the need to soldier on only to the detriment of our own mortal frames?
We are mortal and we are going to die. And you know what else? Life is shit at times - life can be shit for a long time - but it is possible to wrap it in glitter and find the sparkle in it. That sparkle can come from anywhere: taking a selfie, the sip of a freshly opened Raspberry Kopperberg, or dunking half a packet of bourbons in your cup of tea.
Men have always compared themselves to others, it's natural. The fight for competition used to be enormous, but that was when we were Neanderthals. We HAD to compete. We had to fight, it was basic survival but NEWSFLASH - we don't need to compete anymore. A 5 ft 9 (and a bit) 11 stone wet through 26 year old with thick rimmed glasses does just as well as the other bloke that shares 'Lad Bible' posts on Facebook and pumps iron at the gym.
What is a real man? One that talks...
CALM works hard to challenge a culture that prevents men from seeking help when they need it. Part of this is asking real men 'what is it like to be a man today?' You can get your voice heard by emailing your story to firstname.lastname@example.org. CALM is currently working with Lynx to raise awareness that suicide is the single biggest killer of men aged under 45 in the UK, and to encourage people to park the small talk and discuss #BiggerIssues like this. Find out more at biggerissues.co.uk.
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