SOON TO BE PUBLISHED
The Man Thing
One Hundred Interviews With Men
By Linda Joyce
As an international life coach and astrologer, I am interested in the motivation and psychology behind the choices we all make. Through the decades, I’ve watched women evolve from total dependency on a man to not needing one to be accepted in society or for financial support. The question that haunted me was how were men handling these changes? Five years ago, I committed to finding out. My first interview cracked my childhood illusions of men in one fell swoop. I realized I had accepted the hype passed on by generations to shape boys into men. I had never questioned the long-term affects of words such as “Men don’t cry”or the holy grail of manly character, “Never show emotions.” To be accepted into manhood, a boy had to block his emotions never talk about them. If he wasn’t born competitive and with the ideal male body type, he had to find ways to prove his manliness every day of his life. Tall masculine men with great physics and a gentle soul also suffered; they were expected to act contrary to their hearts.
As the pieces began to fall into place, a new picture emerged -- men were not living authentic lives. How could they? The masculine image was unforgiving; if they strayed, they were shamed, especially by other men. It made sense that some men chose arrogance, anger or an attitude of disinterest as a form of self- protection. It wasn’t that they didn’t care; they were missing the skills to cope with their vulnerability.
I committed to interviewing one hundred men. The parameters were simple: western, heterosexual men from the ages of twenty-nine to seventy. They came from all walks of life, CEO’s to the local Starbuck’s barrister. The men were cautious at first, but once they realized I wanted the truth and they had anonymity, they relaxed and opened up. We laughed and cried and in one short hour we became intimate friends.
The Man Thingis their story in their own voices; how does a man feel about masculinity, fatherhood, femininity, dating, sex and commitment. We are at an important turning point in relationships and in order to evolve with wisdom, it’s important to understand what already exists, what we want to keep and what needs to be discarded. When you hear the voices of these men, you will understand what shaped them, what no longer has value and where their future lies.
As a young woman I admired men’s strength, intelligence and yes the mystery that surrounded and protected their secretive inner world. It gave them a sense of unknown power that intrigued me. Their attitude declared their authority as well as an indifference to mistakes and if they made one, they seldom acknowledged it. As I got older, my list of men’s “strange behavior” increased. Their most confusing aberration was the sudden disappearance of common sense and the emergence of an alter ego. This persona was a demon with a mission: be reckless and defy both gods and humans. I watched them go on drinking sprees, engage in random physical fights or death defying feats. However, the top choice for most men was speed. Whether flooring a gas pedal to fly down a dangerous winding road, or riding a motorcycle with the wind painfully whipping every pore – the purpose was obvious – freedom. It wasn’t until I became an international life coach and helped women and men solve their basic life problems that I returned to asking the questions of my youth. What was the real motivation behind men’s illogical behavior and did they really need to risk life and limb for no obvious purpose other than to just keep living as a man? To get my answers I decided to go to the source and interview one hundred heterosexual men from the ages of twenty-nine to seventy. I wasn’t sure if they would open up or if there was anything to really learn – but there was only one way to find out.
I reached out to Jonathan, a young man in his mid thirties, who was married, with a child and working two jobs: one to pay the bills and the other to feed his creativity – he was an entertainer. Smart, articulate and gifted with a philosophical nature, I knew he thought deeply about issues that were important to him. If anyone would share the truth he would.
Jonathan arrived in his usual gear, a sweatshirt and jeans, with a Yankee baseball cap turned backwards on his head. I would soon learn that he wore it, not because he loved baseball, but because he was losing his hair. Apparently, men were as obsessed with their image as women were. I could tell Jonathan was relaxed as he settled into a chair at my table. In fact, he seemed anxious to start the conversation. I had promised him anonymity, and the fact that there were no other men present made him feel safe. He was now free to open up.
We talked, I questioned his answers, he showed his anger at simple truths, and I absorbed his every word. Apparently, men were not as free to be themselves as I had always assumed. By the time he left, my head was spinning and many of my female illusions were either gone or dangling by a thread. I was annoyed at myself for having accepted so much of the fairy tales women were fed from birth. By the time I closed the door behind his Yankee cap, I knew I was on to something big. What amazed me was how challenging it was for a boy to become a man. We were no longer a primitive society, and boys weren’t abducted and turned into men through ancient rituals, and yet there was a right of passage – emotions and fear had to be under control. No instructions or guidance, just suck it up and keep silent. No wonder men felt isolated and suicides were on the rise – especially with older men. They were carrying around heavy, unresolved feelings and their inner container would eventually run out of room.
My project quickly took over my life. I was excited to be on a path that continuously enlightened me. My social life took on new meaning; I went to parties to get more men to commit to an interview. Traveling around the country, I was able to meet men from all walks of life and almost all of them were not just fascinated with my project, but eager to make their contribution. I began to connect to their inner emptiness and realized that men carried this around continuously trying to fill it up with accomplishments – because that’s how men were judged.
The more I opened Pandora’s Box, the more I realized how programed men were since a child. Those common phrases: “men don’t cry” and “man-up,” were not just reminders for boys to act like men, they were straight-jackets that real men insisted they wear. If a boy appeared too soft, creative or sensitive, he would not make the cut – even if he was a genius. There were too many men in the world pretending to be a man, because in their heart of hearts they believed they didn’t measure up. This either motivated a man to prove his worth or he would avoid life’s risks and live his life treading water.
For many men the rules of masculinity help them achieve a more fulfilling life. Marriage doesn’t detract, on the contrary, it gives their life structure and purpose. Children provide legacy and the unconditional love they never received. These men project character, strength and a sense of stability and so they are respected and that respect helps them grow. For them the image works.
In the past, women depended on the men they married – not their talents and abilities. If they married well, they had a good life, if they didn’t, there were few options for them to find their own way. Today, women are totally capable of taking care of themselves and not all of them want to marry. This has challenged the identity of a man, and many feel lost. To add to the problem, young men, without having paid their dues with sweat and hard work on the corporate ladder have launched an idea for the digital market and overnight they are billionaires. Technology and women have finally brought the masculine ideal to its knees.
The Man Thing” is for men to realize how they have been shaped and why. It’s important for men to understand manhood then and now. Today, men are focused on easy sex; they’re not looking for a purpose because they’re addicted to their freedom. The life of a stud is only good for the very young. Multiple partners are not exciting when the challenge is gone. Being in constant pursuit doesn’t allow a man to grow – and if you don’t grow you shrink. As men hold on to their independence women are expanding -- embracing opportunity and success. Men are in a crisis because they don’t understand the consequences of their choices. The new masculine image is not yet defined. Everyone is faced with limitless choices, which only makes life more confusing. Men and women have become adversaries rather than partners. Together men and women bring different skills to the table and a balance of intellect and emotion are achieved. However, if women become men and men lose their edge then there is no balance, just greater loneliness and confusion. The Man Thingwill ignite a conversation, one that needs to be had before a new and more powerful ideal can be embraced by both genders.
It took me over five years of interviewing men to consolidate my findings into three words The Man Thing. Those words sprang spontaneously from me during an interview with a Scotsman named Rory. I was in London and a friend insisted I hear his story. To do so I would have to make an exception, after all, he did not grow up in the U.S.
A jewelry designer, Rory had a successful career. As soon as our smiles met, I knew I liked him. He was full of energy and exuded a zest for life. As I set up my computer on his work desk, a thick slab of wood in the center of the room, he opened a chilled bottle of Chardonnay. He talked, we laughed and I listened, directing the conversation with questions. Like most Scotsmen, his roots were strong and so were his friendships. When a childhood friend moved to London, he followed. The sexual revolution was in full swing and Rory recalled with great pleasure how easy it was to bring home a different beauty every Saturday night. Then he met Sarah. She was intelligent, different and exciting, they moved in together. “Do you have trouble with commitment?” I asked. He was quick to answer, “Hell yes.” “Why,” I persisted, “what were you afraid of?” I never got my answer, but I did get another story, one worth breaking the rules for.
One weekend Rory flew to Dublin to spend time with friends. On that trip he met Malvina and fell instantly in love. I have noticed that when a man experiences soul recognition, he describes the moment by saying, “I felt her.” This dark haired beauty by-passed all his defenses and awakened his spirit in ways he didn’t think possible. She visited him in London and when she left, he broke up with Sarah, or tried to, but she refused to let him go. She fought to keep him and Rory, overwhelmed with guilt, spent the next two years struggling to make a decision.
Malvina was not unencumbered; she had a child out of wedlock and relied on her six brothers and sisters for their support. Moving to London was not an option, so every two weeks Rory flew to Dublin and wished the plane would crash because he couldn’t decide between Malvina or Sarah. In a perfect world love wins, but I had learned over the years that men don’t make emotional choices easily. “Would you like to see her picture?” he asked. I nodded. He removed an old black and white photo from a box; she was beautiful and I wondered how often he looked at it. Finally I asked, “What did you do?” He dropped his gaze and took a deep breath, “I gave her up. I had to.” “But you loved her. Why would you let her go?” Rory began to pace the floor in front of me. “I felt insecure in the relationship. The gold market had crashed and business was terrible. I wasn’t providing the amount of support she needed. I couldn’t be the man I wanted to be. She deserved more.” “Oh no, Rory,” I said. “You did The Man Thing! You put your male pride before love. She would have gladly struggled just to be with you. Together you would have made it work.” Our conversation made Rory anxious and he began looking for an invoice at the other end of the room. I glanced at the clock and closed my computer; it was time to go. Rory saw me prepare to leave and returned to our table. He leaned over in an attempt to keep me there. “Don’t you want to hear about my infidelities?” I smiled, and reopened my computer. I would be late for dinner, but I needed an ending to this story.
Apparently, Sarah would only take him back if he married her. So he said yes, but vowed to himself never to love like that again, it was too painful. His love for Sarah was safe; he didn’t lose all sense of self in her presence. He could be happy and emotionally in control. It worked for a while; he was faithful until Sarah stopped being interested in sex. Perhaps it was his excuse for having an affair or it was the truth, I would never know for sure. Once again the photo box was opened and he handed me a picture of a woman named Adele. She was a lot younger than Rory and another free spirit. As I looked at her picture he asked, “Do you think she looks like Malvina?”
Rory’s dilemma was created by a need to measure up to the impossible masculine ideal. Men only get approval when they win, become successful or take a leadership role. They are under constant pressure to know, act, and not be afraid. If they show emotion, they are shamed. If you’re a sensitive man like Rory, you need other outlets and some find them through creative expression or great friendships. The new generation is in a hurry, they have less patience and different work ethics and yet they are just as lost as those who came before them. The mission of this book is to shed light on the subject of masculinity and help men and women understand the hidden secrets that lie at the core of most men’s souls. Rory called me a taxi and walked me to the car. When I got in, he leaned over and kissed me on the lips. The kiss good-bye took me off-guard, but I knew that it was his way of saying thank you.