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.
Some time ago I was given some advice: that because I was nearly 30, it was about time that I sort my life out and man up for once. The term 'man up' has always perplexed me, as I don't really know how one would increase their masculinity levels, and to what standard. For instance, is there a chance that I could man up so much that I became too manly? Confused, and plagued by several questions, I decided to do what any self respecting man would do and pop into my local newsagent to purchase a copy of Men's Health magazine. To complete the manly experience I also bought a Rustlers - 'hot, satisfying and prepared in seconds,' just like every man should be. Once I had prepared my Rustlers and smeared tarragon mustard on it, I was ready to settle in and learn some things from Men's Health.
One article in particular caught my eye, entitled, 'How to be an Alpha Omega 3 Man,' it was essentially saying that in order to be a real man, you must first learn how to be a fish. This spoke to me as I am quite interested in marine biology and have watched a few episodes of The Blue Planet and found them enjoyable. Now, you may be thinking that the article in question sounds completely absurd and unfounded, but there was quite a bit of science stuff in it:
'Studies have shown that there is a direct link between ideas of masculinity and paraphyletic organisms.'
I was hooked. The article contained several tips and techniques, one of the most beneficial being a tutorial on how to get in touch with your essential fatty acids:
'A good way of doing this is to always carry around a tin of mackerel or sardines in order to remind yourself of what you are ultimately trying to transcend. (You don't want to be boneless and in brine all your life.)'
The article also included an exercise sheet with tips on how to promote mental and physical fish strength. One of the exercises I really got into was the fennel weight lifting. This is harder than it sounds as you can sometimes get fennel bulbs that are a bit larger than usual and the fronds tend to tickle your hands, which can be distracting if you're trying to get in the zone.
All in all, the article cleared up a lot of things for me, and was just what I needed in order to realise what it means to be a man. I now have the tools to swim upstream against all odds, and the next time someone tells me to man up, I will be able to show them that I am a real man, a real fish man.