They say that men don’t feel; that we are stoic, strong and reserved; that we hide our own feelings so we can play games with the feelings of others. The media says we do, it must be true. Cultural stereotypes say we do, it must be true. Some women think it’s true. Some men will try and convince you it’s true. Yet the truth is a fickle thing handed a mask and told to be what it is not. It struggles to break free of the act it must play and punished with shame when the mask is loosed. It is misunderstood and maligned in its natural form, yet praised and glorified when bent and twisted into something unrecognizable. The truth is that we feel, we feel a lot, we feel the same things women feel and we feel them to the same intensity. Yet our role is different, we are the protectors, the providers and the pillars of strength. While we are put in these roles how can we be the defenseless? How can we be the ones cared for? How can we be the sail that needs a tether in a storm? We know we cannot fill two opposing roles so we remain strong, stoic and reserved because that is all that is allowed us.
We are bound by our feelings to act, to solve, to resolve. This is what marks us as different from women, that which is most often complained about is our tendency to fix, but these are our feelings shining through and you sometimes misunderstand us as much as we sometimes misunderstand you. Our feelings are problems which need to be overcome and fixed. This we have learnt from our past, from our peers, from our parents, from the very culture we live and breathe. We learn that our actions are suspect and our decisions while feeling are unwise, so we hide them from ourselves and the world around us. Our bodies when young course with testosterone making us more likely to aggress, to take risks, to take initiative, to dominate and to become more anti-social. Our feelings, intertwined in this hormonal cocktail, we must learn to curtail, to control and to focus. These feelings ride side by side with testosterone and you can’t control one without controlling the other. A decade or more we spend achieving this balance between wisdom, feeling and action yet at the end we still do not trust our feelings. This is because after a decade or more to us the loss of emotional regulation is loss of choice, loss of deliberate focused action and loss social standing.
Women want us to show our feelings yet sometimes misunderstand the perspective we have on feelings. Woman like romance, a feeling of excitement, mystery and feeling special yet to us this requires action, something with a solution so we will buy her flowers, take her to a special restaurant and make an effort to make her feel special. We do not always understand that women do not necessarily want the actions; women want the showing, the looks, the attention, the allure that comes with a man focused solely on them. In the end women can feel as if their feelings are being bought and we can feel as if our efforts are for naught, neither understanding that each other’s feelings are mutual yet simply expressed differently. When women show us their feelings, when they cry, or hurt or are upset they want someone to join them in their discomfort, to understand what they feel, to empathize. When we hear a women’s pain we do empathize, we do understand but we don’t show that we do. We see your hurt and feel it inside and we want to make it stop, we don’t want you to hurt and so we want to act, we want to fix the hurt so we offer solutions instead. So women can think we are not listening and we can think we are not being taken seriously, neither of us understanding that each other’s feelings are mutual yet simply expressed differently.
We are capable of showing our feelings but there must be trust, and there must be strength. We must trust that we will not lose social standing with you, and we do lose social standing because too many women see it as a sign of weakness. We must trust that you will not use our feelings against us, and we do have our feelings used against us because too many women are far better at wielding our feelings like weapons against us. Strength, it is not men who need strength; it is women who need strength because we will not show our feelings to someone incapable of absorbing them and showing us that those feelings can be understood. If you do not have the strength to be unafraid of our fears, our insecurities or the strength to bear witness to our pain and grief we will hide them. When you ask us what we are feeling, when you ask for us to show our emotions you are asking us to lose control. You are asking us to forgo decades of control. You are asking us to no longer act but to release. We cannot do that unless we know you have the strength to bring us back.
If you want us to open up it cannot be done by asking us to share, it will not happen that way. We have far too many years of control under our belt to simply let go in that way, we simply can’t. If you want us to open up then you will need to prove to us that you are the stronger. Join us in our actions as we mindlessly chop 1000 logs for firewood we don’t need, ask us how we plan to solve our problems. Understand that our solutions are just words, they are not actions but the intent to solve the problem of our feelings. Our feelings are hidden, even from ourselves, but we know deep down that we have the need to act, to do and to plan. If you help us in our actions and planning and guide us, steer us away from unwise decisions, we will see that you have the strength to listen. As we talk through our plans and actions slowly will our feelings become clear, even to ourselves, and if you are by our side you will see them too.