Today, we have a confessional from ihaveabadsenseofhumor. She talks masculinity, middle child struggles, and hiding her emotions.
Please note: This is an edited version of the original post on her blog.
On Friday night I watched a documentary, it’s called “The Mask You Live In,” and it’s about what it means to be a man, society’s and our view of what masculinity is, and how the pressure to “be a man” can do a lot of damage. Just as a lot of girls are feeling the pressure to be feminine and skinny; boys are having some issues of their own, and this movie explores those, the reasons behind them, the results of them, etc.
I actually really liked it and found it very interesting to watch. It was really interesting to me how the words “be a man,” “grow some balls,” “don’t cry,” and “don’t be a p***y” are some of the most destructive words a guy can hear.
Though this movie is an exploration of American masculinity, I could see myself in a lot of the things they said. At some points I was actually rather touched (as in I felt like I could cry but I didn’t.)
It also reminded me of this song I’m obsessed with at the moment called “Fragile” because the first line in the song is basically “Crazy to think that a man can’t hurt.”
At one point in the movie, this group of guys around 15-16 years old sat down together with this teacher, who was also a youth advocate at the school, and did an exercise. They all got a piece of paper with a picture of a mask; the teacher told them to write what they thought represented them on the front — things they let people see — and the things they didn’t let people see on the back.
As expected, the words on the front were “funny,” “happy,” “kindness,” “smile,”
“friendly,” and generally positive words. On the back, it was a little different. Words like “sadness,” “pain,” “anger,” and “fear” kept repeating themselves, and I really related to that.
I’ve always had trouble expressing my feelings (though I’ve gotten a lot better.) I would always (and I still do sometimes) suppress the pain, sadness, and anger to the point where I was physically hurting.
To me, crying was a sign of weakness, so I did everything I could to shield myself and never do that. I mean, other people crying was fine, but there was no way I was doing it.
This might have something to do with the fact that I’m the middle child, with an older sister and younger brother. Honestly, I thought my brother was a wuss. He cried all the time, couldn’t deal with physical pain, and he didn’t understand sarcasm so he was easy to mock. (All of this makes me seem like a bad sister, and to be honest I kind of was.) I think this is where I get some of my hate of crying from. I loathed the fact that he was so sensitive, so I tried my best to be the opposite.
Another thing I think also played a role has again something to do with my being the child in the middle. My brother and sister are much alike and while they’d throw tantrums, never do their chores and so on, I’ve always been the steady, reliable, and “perfect” child in the middle. They had more problems as well, in school with friends, so whenever I had a problem, I thought was “less important” than them; I didn’t want to bother my parents with it.
I’d mastered how to fool people, I knew exactly which mask to put on and how to act. The only person who has always been able to see through it has been my mom. She’d always crack my tough exterior, and I’d end up crying for hours.
Somehow she’s always just been able to see right through me, call it mother’s intuition. Though I told her I was fine, she’d keep pushing and pushing until I broke. Eventually, I always did. I think it was the thought of someone actually caring enough that they’d want to listen to me and my “small” problems that always got me to crack in the end. I guess you could say that I was starving myself (not in the literal sense) of the experience of someone listening.
When I think about all of this now, I realize that showing emotions, crying and feeling, isn’t a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength and courage. I’m amazed by my younger self. Back then I didn’t really see it as a problem, I was sometimes even proud to say that “I never cried” and somehow being cold and lying about how I felt became synonymous with being “badass” or “cool.”