Can a man be ‘mushy’ and still be macho?

Men can do all sorts of things together. They can play golf, drink a beer, argue about politics, soccer and cars and make crude jokes about body parts of the cute female pedestrian across the road.

Men can do all sorts of things together. They can play golf, drink a beer, argue about politics, soccer and cars and make crude jokes about body parts of the cute female pedestrian across the road.

The unwritten rule in male to male interaction is to avoid open display of emotions. Men from time immemorial are brought up in societies where to be a man is to be macho, hard hearted go-getter, leaving emotional tantrums to the fairer sex. To show emotion is to pass for a ‘weak’ man.

Socialisation is partly to blame. The man as the head of the family had to hunt for food and protect his wife and children. Therefore, the man had to have no fear or else, he would fail on his commitments and lose out on his mates.

For a man, that is the worst thing that can happen. Biology puts it down a brain area called the amygdale, which controls emotions, social and sexual behavior.

This brain area is much larger in men than it is in women, and is highly reactive. Thus men in reality have learnt to control those reactions by being unemotional.

As Jimmy found out, his best friend, Munyambo was having some ‘woman trouble’ which depressed him and was obviously visible in the way he carried himself around although he was struggling to hide it.

After constant prodding, the issue of his spouse’s infidelity came to the fore and for all his trouble Jimmy was surprised that later he preferred to ignore the matter, leaving his friend to sort out his own private mess.

Unlike women who will pour out their hearts to their best friends, it is taboo among men. In fact as much as men would openly exchange facts about their sexual escapades with women, as soon as an emotional attachment develops or when they think that this is the Mrs. Right, the intimate details of their relationship become a no-go area.

In reality however men can be emotional when they mean to. You have to watch guys in front of a television screen when soccer is airing to know what that means.

What about the real soccer people, the players and football managers, who scream, shout, jump in joy like children and do not hesitate to kick each other for some trivial provocation? In such instances men fall victim of their emotions and are even proud of displaying them in the ‘traditional way’.

In does not stop there. Men in their homes display emotions they would never do in front of their peers. Michael, who has a live-in girlfriend, displays the complete machismo attitude whenever he is with the boys.

But secretly the boys discovered that whenever he left home, he had to kiss his girlfriend goodbye. ‘The boys’ were in complete shock when they discovered this, never mind that Michael never let them in on that secret.

The women will say what a romantic man and every man would do as Michael does secretly but it is not fashionable to let your peers know that you have a ‘mushy’ vulnerable side. That is just men.

Crying is unthinkable. That is complete no-no for men. Big boys don’t cry, is what men get told by their fathers, big brothers and uncles when they are growing up.

Dr. Ron Levant, a professor at Harvard University, found out from research that men have developed two primary responses to emotional issues. For vulnerable feelings including fear, hurt and shame, they use anger as the “manly” response.

For nurturing feelings, including caring, warmth, connectedness and intimacy, they channel these feelings through sex. It is called ‘normative’ because his research shows that this limited dual response of anger or sex is the norm for men.

He also found that women practice Emotional empathy which is ‘other-oriented’ and exhibits the capacity for understanding interpersonal perspectives and emotions while men exhibit Action empathy which is self-serving and presents itself as the ability to enter into another person’s point of view from the perspective of knowing what the other person is likely to “do”.

That explains why men want to solve problems by doing something while women would like to listen or be listened to.

The debate can rage on and on about just how macho a mushy man is.  What is however undisputable is that even men have feelings that make them vulnerable, whether or not they know it, or even want to accept it.

kelviod@yahoo.com

 

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