When I was two, my parents divorced. My mother received custody of me and my brother, making us a single-parent home. Mom became the woman and man of the house, and dad an every-other-week presence with an ill-defined sexual role.
I learned little about being a man from my mother’s hermaphroditic parenting outside of the inference that if mom could take on both roles, men and women are probably pretty much the same thing excepting some anatomical differences.
Most other notions about what a man was came from TV. BA Baracus and Hannibal from the A-Team and Magnum PI seemed like real men. They got shit done. They drove fast, bedded women, solved problems and fired cabbages at bad guys. Unfortunately, they provided no instruction. For that, I just had mom.
If you want to guarantee a boy never becomes a man, hold up a woman trying to be a man as a role model. You don’t make the boy a man. You make him a wuss.
A wuss, so far as I define it, is an ineffectual male who exhibits few or no “masculine” traits. You might be a wuss if you:
- Avoid competition
- Are overly sensitive
- Can’t take criticism or failure
- Are afraid of the opposite sex (or same sex if you are a gay wuss)
- Seek others approval to make choices
- Are easily stopped by circumstances
- Need others to take care of you
- Cannot be depended upon/avoid situations where you are to be depended upon
Conversely, I believe a man:
- Does not shy away from competition
- Is thick-skinned (not to be confused with shut down)
- Can handle criticism and failure
- Is okay with his sexuality
- Does not seek approval
- Is able to work with, and overcome, circumstances
- Has few personal needs and is unfussy
- Provides and is depended upon
While I longed to be a man as a child, most of my adolescence and early adulthood were spent living in Wussville. I never joined any sports teams lest I lose in competition. I was sexually retarded, asking one girl out before I was 19 and losing my virginity when I was 20 (I was not preserving my chastity, it was imposed upon me). What few male friends I had used me and had little respect for me.
My lone reprieve from wussdom came in a liquor bottle. When I was drank, I felt like a man. I didn’t need anyone’s approval. I could talk to women. I could handle scorn (which was fortunate because the more I drank, the more scorn I inspired).
The liquor eventually stopped working. I got to a point where I couldn’t drink enough to hide my wussiness. I began to slur my insecurities. I was a wussy inebriate. So I stopped.
I’ve spent years trying to expel my inner-wuss, but today’s world is very wuss-friendly. Online interactivity has made things that used to take balls—like dating, meeting strangers, asking for a job, asking for help—virtually risk free. Getting a negative or no response to an online overture just doesn’t sting like it does in real life.
And it’s really easy for a guy to be wuss with women. Whereas a guy used to be expected to lead and provide, he can now evade those responsibilities. If he doesn’t lead or provide, a woman probably will. In fact, it’s not merely that many women are willing to fill the space men used to inhabit, they insist on it. Many of them no longer believe a man can lead and provide, so they don’t allow him the chance to disprove their theory.
Perhaps you say this phenomenon (if it even exists as I describe) is just a sexual reordering. It’s a new world and male and female roles are changing. You argue there’s nothing intrinsically dysfunctional about these shifting roles.
This is logical in theory, but totally discordant in practice. I’ve witnessed and have been one of the many wusses who lack self-respect and purpose. I’ve witnessed many women who have lost respect for men and are completely stressed out by the demands of taking on both male and female roles. It ain’t right.
There is a caveat to what I’m saying in David Deida‘s “The Way of the Superior Man.” He describes how men and women have both masculine and feminine polarities. Some men are more feminine, some women more masculine. There’s nothing problematic about owning your femininity even if your man. What I’m talking about refers to something that feels incongruent with your nature. A good way to check is your comfort level with your behavior. For example, do you feel okay with being less assertive, or does it feel like something thrust upon you? If it’s the former, you might be a wuss.
Whether the wuss is you, someone you’re in a relationship with or a trait you consistently encounter in those around you, it’s disempowering. If you are interested in eradicating it, here are a few questions and exercises that might help:
- What are you not doing because you are afraid of being criticized of judged? List 3 things and do at least 1.
- Is there something you are doing online because you are afraid of doing it on the phone or in person? List 3 things and do at least 1.
- If you are in a relationship with someone you consider a wuss, is there something you want him to take charge of? List 3 things and pick 1. Request that he do it. Give him a chance to step up. When and if he does what you requested, do not backtrack and try to take control. Cultivate self-trust in him. (Note: this could be a romantic, friendship, business or courtship relationship).
Eradicating wussiness is not an overnight affair, nor, as I’ve described, is it just a matter of “manning-up.” Oftentimes, a man has a hard time being a man because there is no room for him to do so. While he’d ideally make room, he might not have the practice doing so. Sometimes it takes a woman to make a wuss a man.