Tag Archives: relationships

She’s the Beauty, and I’m…Okay, I’m the Beast

My girlfriend, Nicole, is gorgeous! Okay, maybe all boyfriends say that of their girlfriends. But what first attracted me to Nicole was her voice. When I hear her sing, a voice of an angel leaves those red lips and my heart skips a beat. At times, I have to pinch myself–maybe I’ve died and gone to heaven? Maybe I’m dreaming. Maybe. But when I look into her brown eyes, I can’t help but feel at peace. My worries and all the stresses of life seem to not matter, as if they’ve evaporated whenever I meet her gaze. Nicole has long brown hair with a tint of red and her hair drops down just below her shoulders. When the sun shines on it, it only enhances her bright smile. Yes, she’s the sunshine that brightens up my day. Nicole is gorgeous! She’s the Beauty, and standing next to her…I’m…okay, I’m the Beast. That’s fine by me.

I just have one problem. Okay, maybe several come to think of it.  First, she hasn’t met me yet. Perhaps, she doesn’t even know I exist. Which leads me to the cold hard truth: she’s not really my girlfriend–I just wish she was. A guy can dream, right? But before you go on thinking she’s some imaginary beauty–she’s not. Nicole is really Britt Nicole, the singer. And I’d like to imagine that I would meet someone like her. Maybe even marry her. Yah, maybe some day.

As more of my friends are getting married at a young age, I can’t help but think of my own prospects. Am I setting my standards to high? Should I settle? Maybe I’m just too darn picky. And as much as I’d like to think that I’m not shallow, I admit that a woman’s beauty reels me in. Yet beauty can be a deception. I’ve met many beautiful girls who turned out to be…how do I put this nicely? Um, some beautiful girls turn out to be the Wicked Witch of the West–deep down they’re horrible. Beauty gets me in, but it’s her personality, her love for others, and her willingness to put others before herself–that’s what would keep me there.

So as I was reading up on one of my favorite blogs, Bakadesuyo (a blog that contains snippets from various research journals that the author of the site found interesting), I came across an entertaining entry. In a way, it’s a “tip” for marriage, but really, it’s a study on the role of physical attractiveness on marriage:

Physical appearance plays a crucial role in shaping new relationships, but does it continue to affect established relationships, such as marriage? In the current study, the authors examined how observer ratings of each spouse’s facial attractiveness and the difference between those ratings were associated with (a) observations of social support behavior and (b) reports of marital satisfaction. In contrast to the robust and almost universally positive effects of levels of attractiveness on new relationships, the only association between levels of attractiveness and the outcomes of these marriages was that attractive husbands were less satisfied. Further, in contrast to the importance of matched attractiveness to new relationships, similarity in attractiveness was unrelated to spouses’ satisfaction and behavior. Instead, the relative difference between partners’ levels of attractiveness appeared to be most important in predicting marital behavior, such that both spouses behaved more positively in relationships in which wives were more attractive than their husbands, but they behaved more negatively in relationships in which husbands were more attractive than their wives. These results highlight the importance of dyadic examinations of the effects of spouses’ qualities on their marriages. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2009 APA, all rights reserved

It makes sense to me. If the guy is the beauty in the relationship, the girl would feel insecure with her beauty. But if the girl is the beauty, it’s a win-win situation for the guy and the girl.

Anyway, I may not have Brad Pitt’s smile or Taylor Lautner’s body or whatever it is and whoever it is that girls find attractive nowadays. According to the article, that may be a good thing. Now, the real challenge is finding a woman who would settle for this Beast.

However, I do think I look way better than Jack Black. Okay…back to working out.



Filed under Entertainment, Life, Masculinity

Wedding Pressure? Me Too

Photo Credit: Azildalions

Photo Credit: Azildalions

I can hear the church bells. Cue the violins. Don’t forget the candle procession. Oh, and the flowers–the bouquets have to be prominently displayed all around the church. The flower girls better get this right. The ring bearer better not be picking his nose. Where are the crying mothers? Oh, there they are…

I’ve been in a lot of weddings as a child, but also as an adult. Well, the adult part  invokes a tremendous sense of independence and freedom from having to hold a stupid pillow with symbolic rings on it. Strike that, being a groomsman is just as bad. With all the standing I have to do, I have to make sure I won’t pass out from exhaustion as the priest talks on and on about love and how a husband and wife should behave.

As a twenty-three-year-old, I’ve had the pleasure of being in many weddings since I started out as a cute little ring bearer and worked my way up to groomsmen. With so many of my friends getting married so young, I can’t wait to get promoted to Best Man. That was sarcasm–extreme sarcasm. Now, don’t get me wrong–I’m quite happy for my friends who have found true love and happiness. I can’t help the fact that their marriages make me feel like I’m way behind, despite my young age. Darn. And my parents are already asking, “When are you getting married?” Double darn. To all those who are under the same wedding pressure, I feel you. I’m living it. Triple darn.

Why do people get married anyway? Is marriage still relevant in our culture today? Sometimes, it doesn’t look so, as evidence by HBO’s “Californication.” Compared to a hundred years ago, it’s now more acceptable to live with your significant other without the dreaded M word.

Some people argue that marriage is for the children–having them. Sure, it definitely was many years ago when pregnant teens were rejected and were often pushed to marry the guy that got them pregnant in the first place. The thought of an unwed pregnant teen in an era like the 1950s was disturbing; it brought shame to the family. Now, you can argue that the stigma it still  the same today, but there’s definitely more degrees of acceptance. And I’ve seen functioning families where the parents aren’t even married–they live together under the same roof and do as other married couples do. They just don’t have the “marriage” title. Who needs it, right?

Other people argue that marriage shows commitment and validates the relationship. Does that mean we get married to make it harder to leave the other? What about all those divorces? You don’t have to get married to show commitment–you do that just by being committed. Your actions will speak for itself that other people know you are in a committed relationship.

So if we don’t get married for the children or for the commitment or to validate the relationship, why spend those thousands of dollars to say “I do” when you can say it every day of your life?

Again, are marriages even relevant today? I think marriages are even more relevant today than years before. For several hundred years, marriage was inevitable. But in today’s society, that’s still up in the air. Today, we have the choice to get married, or to live together and enjoy all that married life has to offer without the title. That choice makes marriages all that more relevant. But that still leaves the question: why get married today?

Maybe I’m a romantic Christian at heart, but I think marriage makes the relationship spiritually divine. Something bigger than the both of you–the author of love–that same Being has brought you together. God has blessed your relationship. As much as you chose to get married, God has agreed with you and He’s had a hand in it. I think that’s a beautiful view of marriage–that makes me want to get married even more. Alas, the wedding pressure. In the words of my best friend, “It’s time to go wife-hunting.”

Photo Credit: Azildalions


Filed under Life

Targeted By A Cougar

Gloria dancing with her boyfriend. Photo Credit: Examiner.com

Gloria dancing with her boyfriend. Photo Credit: Examiner.com

Last Saturday, my friend’s love interest basically said (and I’m paraphrasing), “Gio, you have quite an old soul. I can see you dating older women.” My jaw dropped. The thought of me and an older woman is like a teacher scratching the chalkboard. It was quite disturbing. But what exactly did she mean? Was she trying to imply that women at my age aren’t mature and thus, I needed a far older women if I wanted compatibility? Was she trying to imply that my love for all kinds of music, especially that of Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and the more modern Michael Buble had somehow aged me? Little did I know that her prediction may somewhat come true.

So yesterday, I caught up with one of my favorite blogs, “Just A Guy Thing.” And it just so happen that on that day, the writer wrote about the Cougar phenomenon. For those that aren’t familiar with the term,  “cougar” is an older woman who dates younger men. On September 1 in Palo Alto, California, the first-ever national Cougar Convention was held. Gloria Navarro, 42, won the title of Miss Cougar America. And she’s quite the experienced cougar, dating men as young as in their 20s. You know what that means? She dates pretty much guys my age! But she definitely isn’t the only one, as evident of the convention. All across America, cougars are on the prowl.

Lyn Berry, 58, dances with Pfc. Leo Alley, 22 during the convention. Photo Credit: San Francisco Gate

Lyn Berry, 58, dances with Pfc. Leo Alley, 22 during the convention. Photo Credit: San Francisco Gate

But why are they on the prowl? People like actress Demi Moore, 46, married to actor Ashton Kutcher, 31, has become an icon for the cougar community. Perhaps writer Melinda Maximova puts it best when she writes, “A younger man represents the youth women fear losing, and the fun they may have already lost. When a woman was 25 an older man was more attractive.  He was strong, confident, paternal and powerful. But as a woman ages she views older men as a little tired, boring perhaps, and grasping at youth, pathetically, just like… Well, she sees herself and doesn’t like it” (Examiner.com). I think it’s pretty much the same reason older men tend to date younger women. Aging scares people, and the thought of being with someone youthful is in a way, making them youthful. So maybe the Fountain of Youth isn’t really a fountain, but dating a young person. Now, various shows about cougars are making their way to our TV screen. Vivica A. Fox hosts, “The Cougar,” a cougar version of “The Bachelorette.” And Courteney Cox plays 40-year-old Jules Cobb in “Cougar Town.”

So where does a cougar come into the picture for me? Last night, I went for a run around Westwood, keeping my promise to you and myself that I will get down to 160lbs. I was “warming down,” walking, and sweating everywhere. And that’s when I heard it–a wolf whistle. Now, I assumed it was a guy my age who just saw a beautiful girl walking around the corner. As I looked back, it turned out to be a brunette woman, perhaps in her mid 30s commenting on how strong my arms looked and how cute I was. Then she touched the side of my right arm and went on her way. Was this unwarranted attention? Heck ya. Did I feel uncomfortable? Heck ya. Did I feel good that someone commented on how I looked good? Heck ya. Was she drunk when she saw me? Maybe. It was the evening. As I walked back to the frat house, I couldn’t help but laugh. This is what women must feel when they receive wolf-whistles from guys. And wait a minute, was I just sexually-harassed?

I wonder if older women who date younger men hate the term that’s been given to them. Cougar. Is it a derogatory term? Maybe they like it–it sounds powerful, like a lion. Is there a term for older men who date younger women? I can’t think of any on the top of my head. Maybe because it’s just a normal thing to see–so normal in our society that when women do it, it’s sort of looked down upon. Now, is it a societal concept for men to date younger women or purely a biological one? Maybe, it’s a little bit of both.

According to the Scienceblog article, “Older Men Chasing Young Women: A Good Thing,” it is a necessity for the survival of the species. Cedric Puleston, doctoral candidate in biological sciences at Stanford says that it’s part of evolutionary theory because when our reproductive lives are complete, then we die. To put it more simply, Puleston says, “a man’s fertility is contingent on a woman’s fertility.” Men can produce millions of sperm, whereas women can produce only a limited amount of eggs to be fertilized. Thus, the younger the woman, the more healthy her egg is to be fertilized.

So where does this leave me? Is age really just a number? Maybe. Will I date an older woman? Umm…no–it’s just not my thing. However, I did come to  compromise and I could see myself with someone 2 years older than me at the most. Now, will I watch Courteney Cox in her new TV show? Probably–she’s so funny!

But that’s my identity as a 23-year-old revealed. Got a lot more maturing to do.

Photo Credit: Examiner.com

Photo Credit 2: San Francisco Gate

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Filed under Entertainment, Life, Movies/TV

A Knight of Bromance: How Masculinity Has Changed Over the Past Fifty Years

On a warm spring afternoon, the serene setting of a grassy knoll was interrupted by the sound of clanging swords.  Ten male figures, dressed in medieval garb, each possessing a shield on his left hand, and clenching a sword with his right hand, proceeded to attack each other from opposite sides. As the battle for victory grew more intense, a figure with a crown on his head shouted, “I, King Peter, demand the return of the women you’ve kidnapped and enslaved now!” “Never,” responded the five on the left side as they continued fighting. Minutes into the fight, a middle-aged woman approached the center of the battle and said, “King Peter, the dentist office called. We have to drive now to get there in time.” King Peter looked at the woman and pleaded, “I’m trying to save the women of Narnia from the evil Lord Miraz…mom!” I know what you’re thinking: Phones and cars didn’t exist during the Middle Ages, and Narnia is a place you find in your walk-in wardrobe. You are quite informed.

However, before you report me to the Medieval Historical Society for historical inaccuracies, the events did happen in history—my history. As boys growing up, my friends and I often got lost in our imaginative role-playing games, constantly visiting our Narnias to live out our boyhood. If we weren’t playing Narnians versus Telmarines, we played Cops versus Robbers, Cowboys versus Cattle Thieves, and other similar variations. No matter what the scenario or time period of our games, we instinctively knew our roles as “wannabe” men—it was our duty to save and protect women.  But do American men still believe this today, or is it lost like a raindrop in the ocean? Looking at only the last fifty years, historical, economical, and social factors combined and intertwined have influenced how men are men today—American masculinity is slowly changing.

The question of what being an American man means in this day and age intrigued me so much that I conducted an online survey of male and female college students aged eighteen to twenty-three. Although their responses aren’t indicative of the rest of society, the fact that they are college students gives us a snapshot view of a particular stage in life, an in-between stage where they barely left adolescence, and barely entered adulthood. In other words, they are still influenced by society and are still solidifying their identities. One male respondent said the obvious: “Men must have a penis.” But it’s not like we can go around exposing our genitals every time our masculinity is questioned. For all the respondents, having a penis was essential and necessary to being a man, but having a penis wasn’t essential or necessary to being masculine. A couple of females used the words “strong,” “brave,” and “courageous” in their description of an ideal masculine man. One female said that men should be “protecting and putting the best interest of the woman above himself.” Interestingly enough, men responded quite similarly. One male responded simply that men must be “strong, fearless, and confident.” A couple of male respondents commented on how being a man meant doing something active, like “being sweaty, lifting heavy things, [and] not asking for directions.” Both men and women had similar answers to what it means to be a masculine American man.

When I asked my respondents what gave them this impression of manhood, it wasn’t a surprise that the words “parents,” “school,” “books,” “TV,” “movies,” or “Disney” were common answers.  All these words described agents of social construction. Masculinity and femininity are socially constructed, and gender exists based on how people act (Connell 1996). It is for this reason that masculinity varies from culture to culture and across time—what is considered masculine in Madagascar may not be considered masculine in China, or in England, and what is considered un-masculine in 18th century America may be considered very masculine today. It is for this reason that both male and female respondents, being raised in America and holding American values, had similar answers. It is also for this reason that masculinity isn’t just my story or the story of other men. Rather, it is a story that equally affects us all, women included. A man is a woman’s father. How he raises her can affect her perception of herself and how she perceives others. A man might one day be a woman’s husband. How they interact with each other depends on how they perform their roles. A man may one day father her children. How both decide to display their parenting skills affects how their children will turn out today. And of course, every man is a woman’s son. How she raises him will affect how he will treat men and women. Studying masculinity is studying how men relate with women and other men.


Photo Credit: Bout Review

As I step out of the wardrobe to leave my boyhood Narnia, I return as a taller, wiser twenty-three-year-old Indonesian American man. I was astounded to learn that “masculinity” isn’t a homogenous set of characteristics, nor an absolute construct, but rather that multiple masculinities exist (Connell 1996). Individual men don’t “possess” a particular masculinity, but they are constantly and dynamically being constructed based on historical and contextual factors through what they “do” (Frank 1995, 2). Yet, it’s difficult to see that other forms of masculinity do exist in America, when I have to be judged and live up to one particular kind of masculinity—the kind of masculinity that is constantly sweating in the gym, talking non-stop about sports, or when agitated, is ready to pulverize someone with a high level of testosterone. Sociologists have a name for it—they call it hegemonic masculinity, a form of “institutionalized masculinity [that] is ‘culturally exalted’ above all others” (Anderson 2008, 604). Hegemonic masculinity supports heterosexuality; homosexuality is its antithesis. Therefore, when I talk about masculinity, I speak specifically of heterosexual males. Both the male and female respondents in my survey reflect a hegemonic masculine mindset when they answered that men must be “strong.” Hegemonic masculinity places some men with domineering power over others, while simultaneously placing women subordinate to them (Connell 2005). It’s not a surprise that the ratio of female-to-male earnings for full time working is still less than men—77 cents on the dollar (“Press Release”).


Photo Credit: Entourage Episodes

The United States of America contains about 148 million men (“Age and Sex”) Over the past fifty years, each generation of American men has been constantly bombarded and raised with images and icons for hegemonic masculinity. The smooth, ever-so charming and constantly womanizing James Bond is seen bedding his next Bond girl. He’s praised as a player! The broad-shouldered, gun-toting Rambo is seen raising the death toll of bad guys in four movies.  He’s honored as a badass! Then, there’s King Leonidas, the visibly toned and muscular leader of Sparta, who along with his courageous and equally toned and muscular 299 men, hack thousands of bodies like a Friday the 13th wet dream. He’s revered for his brutality! Womanizing, revenge-seeking, violent—they all present aspects of the hegemonic masculine psyche. Hegemonic masculinity also praises men for their self-reliance, sense of adventure, toughness, and aggressiveness (Donaldson 1993), and punishes them for hugging another man, discussing their feelings, or even shedding tears (Coles 2008).

We raise men in a culture where “boys don’t cry.” If a little girl falls down, gets injured, and starts to cry, we let her cry. We may even try to comfort her. If a little boy falls down, on the other hand, we tell him that crying is a sign of weakness, and if he wants to grow up to be strong and tough and be a real boy, he cannot cry. Tom*, a twenty-three-year-old political science major is tall and skinny, but he can handle the physical aspects of playing football. He recalls how he cried when his high school football team hazed him. From then on, he lost the respect of the team and was constantly ridiculed for his weakness until Tom finally decided to quit the team. Tom said, “Men don’t tolerate crying, unless you get kicked in the balls or a loved one dies. Anything else shows weakness, and real men don’t show weakness.” When Tom cried, he broke a rule from the “Guy Code” and “Man Laws.” These are sets of rules for how men are to behave in their interactions with other people, and especially with other men. It is somehow passed down and understood by all men. “Bros before ho’s,” which is putting your brothers first before a woman is part of these rules. Knowing bathroom etiquette, such as knowing where to stand and urinate at the urinal when in the presence of other men is another (Kimmel 2008). Though these rules for accepted manly behavior may seem ridiculous, they can also lead to dangerous consequences.

There is a dark side to “culturally exalting” hegemonic masculinity. With men chastised for showing or sharing their emotions with others, they become depressed. They bottle up their frustrations, until one day, the bottle develops too much pressure and bursts. Hegemonic masculinity is partly responsible for making suicide the eighth leading cause of death for men. It’s only the sixteenth leading cause of death for women (“Suicide in the U.S.”). Hegemonic masculinity glorifies violence and the subordination, and unfortunately, men are responsible for 92% of all domestic violence incidents against women (“Domestic Violence”). Good and bad, it is a glimpse of the masculinity we venerate; one that is visibly alive and well. However, men are no longer made up of “frogs and snails and puppy dogs’ tails.” Out of the sunrise, new forms of masculinity are being illuminated, enlightening us of men’s potential masculinities.

As I observe a group of ten-year-old boys playing in my aunt’s backyard, I discovered that boyhood games hardly changed since my childhood. The fighting, the aggression, and all the elements to hegemonic masculinity are still all there. Yet, the ending to these games is quite different. Damsels are no longer in distress—they do their own saving! Thus, as American women and femininity has changed over the last fifty years, becoming more “Supergirl” and displaying more “Girl power,” American men and masculinity is slowly changing in response. Hegemonic masculinity is taking a back seat for once, allowing an anti-hegemonic masculinity to finally be noticed.

Sociologists don’t have a word yet to describe this new kind of masculine phenomena, but I like to call it the “snuggle-softener” masculinity. Metrosexuals are under the umbrella of this type of masculinity. Webster’s Dictionary defines metrosexuality as a “heterosexual male given to enhancing his personal appearance by fastidious grooming, beauty treatments, and fashionable clothes.”  In 1994, British journalist Mark Simpson first coined the word to respond to the growing advertisements geared towards men, stating that “masculinity is more mediated, more commoditized, more exhibitionistic, more self-conscious, and more tarty than ever” (Simpson 2005). Men are becoming more vain, more concerned about how they physically look and how they dress. However, men are also becoming more soft-hearted, more sensitive, and more open to their feelings. In fact, new words are added to our vernacular to document these changing masculinities, and Hollywood pokes fun at them.


Photo Credit: YouGotTea

By adding the word “man” or its many variations to a word traditionally ascribed to the female gender, or by being a portmanteau of words, the new word becomes accessible to men. It becomes “manly;” something men do. This process led to the creation of Menglish, which is “a language used of, by, to, and about men” (Bingler 2006). Man bag is one, simply a shoulder bag worn to the side by a man (Longley 2004). Man date is another, which encompasses two straight men that meet up for a social outing away from a traditionally masculine setting, like drinking at a sports bar (Lee 2005). When men travel together on vacation, they go on a mancation (Morago 2006).  When a man gets paid to take care of other people’s children, he is a manny, a male nanny. (Fray 2005).  To manscape is to shave and trim a man’s body hair (Horiuchi 2003). Male rock stars use guyliner, eyeliner that is designed and specifically used for men (Hall 2006). Most men would be afraid of having a boyzilian, a Brazilian bikini wax for guys (Wee 2007), but apparently some men get it done. And then there’s the ever popular bromance, a merging of the words “bro[ther]” and “romance,” which the Collins English Dictionary defines as, “a close but nonsexual relationship between two men.” Skateboard magazine editor David Carnie coined the word in the 1990s when he observed the kind of relationships that were flourishing between skaters who spend many aspects of their lives together (Elliot 2007). The word has since taken a Hollywood spin. The MTV show, “Bromance,” features Brody Jenner, son of U.S. Olympic swimmer Bruce Jenner. He goes on several man dates with each male contestant and mancations with all the contestants to search for his new best friend in a style akin to “The Bachelor.”  Paul Rudd and Jason Segel star in 2009’s “I Love You, Man,” pokes fun at bromance as Rudd searches for a male best friend to be the best man at his wedding. There are also real life examples of bromances in Tinsel Town: Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, George Clooney and Brad Pitt, and Matthew McConaughey and Lance Armstrong—they’ve become Hollywood’s new power couples. All these new socially constructed words would not have existed if traditional masculinity (hegemonic masculinity) was not being challenged. Why is masculinity changing now—what is the driving force? As mentioned earlier, Professor Blye Frank (Frank 1995) of Dalhousie University states that masculinity is constructed based on historical and contextual factors. Over the past fifty years, significant historical, economical, and social changes have occurred which had a direct affect on men and their masculinities.

In the 1960s and early 1970s, America was experiencing various forms of revolution. Among them was the famous Civil Rights movement, which protested racial discrimination and racism against African Americans. While racial discrimination was being fought, simultaneously, a sexual revolution was growing.  Sex, a traditionally taboo subject, was now openly discussed. And with the invention of the birth control pill, women were sexually liberated as sex outside of marriage became more and more socially acceptable (Allyn 2001). Some women resorted to burning their own bras as a form of protest. They clothed themselves with feminism, demanding for equality.  They were Wonder Woman in the flesh: strong, independent, and able to compete with men. While women were becoming more equal, men were left with anxiety, confused with what it meant to be a man. The Feminist Movement was the rock thrown into a pond causing ripples, leading to a chain of events that affected both economical and social factors, and ultimately changing men and masculinity.

The places where men could validate their masculinity with other men are dwindling as women compete for the same jobs. Over the past fifty years, “virtually every all-male college went coed, the military integrated, as did police stations, and fire houses, and every single profession and occupation” (Kimmel 2008, 18). When I was a boy, my dad said that as a man, I would one day have to provide for my own family. But, like many men, women’s independence has threatened the traditional gender roles. Women became competing “bread earners.” According to professor of sociology Michael Kimmel, of State University of New York, Stony Brook, “men who once found meaning and social value in their work are increasingly pushed into lower-wage service occupations…men experience their masculinity less as providers and protectors, and more as consumers or ‘ornaments’” (Kimmel 2008, 17-18).

However, there are unattended consequences to women’s newfound freedoms. With women working, there is a delay of childbirth. With the invention of contraceptives and condoms and with premarital sex being socially acceptable, men and women are able to have sex without consequences with whoever they want, whenever they want (excluding sexually transmitted diseases of course). “Hooking up,” having a relationship without any obligations or expectations, has become the new norm. These abilities allow both men and women to delay marriage to their 30s. According to the 2007 report by National Marriage Project at Rutgers University, the average marriage age for men is 27, which is also caused by men and women who pursue higher education (Bindley 2008). Divorce is another reason for the delay in marriage.  Men and women lack positive role models for marriage, and as a result, marriage lacks its appeal. Why are divorce, a delay in marriage, and the rise of singlehood important in studying the changing American masculinity? One word: consequences.


Photo Credit: RyanSeacrest.com

The consequences lead many men drifting in life. Without marriage or children, men aren’t forced to grow up and take adult responsibility (Dugan 2009). John*, a twenty-two-year-old history major from Orange County, loves spending time with his male friends. He’s a muscular-built, football jock-type, with ocean blue eyes and dark brown hair, whose casual sports style runs to a blue LA Dodgers cap and Rainbow sandals. He wants to get married in his early 30s, when he’s done with school and has a stable job that could support a wife and children. Although his own parents are still married, he’s seen a lot more examples of marriages ending in divorce. Every time he hears of another friend’s parents divorcing, John questions whether marriage is really worth it when so many marriages he’s seen end up in divorce.  He and his friends enjoy surfing at the beach, taking a hike, or playing video games to escape the “real world,” a life full of responsibilities and stresses. Men are in a perpetual state of boyhood, stuck in the wardrobe of Narnia with other man-boys because to be a man is to take responsibility, and to provide for a family is taking on a responsibility. Men want to avoid this as long as possible, and thus, “hanging out with the boys” becomes a necessity. Their relationship with other men becomes more important than finding a potential mate. As a result, friendship with other men becomes a sought out commodity during singlehood. This is the rise of bromance.

Feminist mothers or at least some aspects of feminism raised up many of the men in my generation (born in the 1980’s and after). They raised us to believe it’s acceptable for us to talk about our feelings, to cry, and even to hug. Steve*, a twenty-year-old computer science major from San Jose has what I call a “Clark Kent-Superman complex.” He wears glasses and studies a subject considered to be for “nerds,” but take off those glasses and place him at the gym and you’ll notice how athletic, strong, toned, and muscular he really is, especially when he can out-bench men bigger than him. He’s also my workout partner. On my birthday, I met up with him at the James Wooden Center, the gym at UCLA, to work out. I expected him to greet me with a “Happy Birthday!” and a one-armed side hug, the appropriate “man hug” according to hegemonic masculinity. You would hug in an “A-frame” position, where the body contact is mainly in the shoulders. Your right hand pulls in the other man’s right hand as a handshake and acts as a barrier for both bodies from actually touching, while your left hand goes over the shoulder of the other man, slapping his back twice. It may also include a grunting noise to assert your masculinity (Hubert 2007). This hug is brief, has minimal contact, and there isn’t a risk of two crotches touching. I expected this kind of hug from Steve, especially since we were in the gym, a stereotypically masculine setting. Instead, Steve comes to me with a full-frontal hug, saying “Happy Birthday.”

After we hugged, I looked around the gym. Were people staring? Was my manliness being questioned? According to Kory Floyd, associate professor of communication at Arizona State, affectionate behavior “isn’t part of the masculine gender role” because “we socialize men to compete, not to be affectionate” (Hubert 2007). This is where we know hegemonic masculinity is still alive.  Men are still a bit wary with showing any form of affection or emotion, especially in public because their manhood is being judged through hegemonic masculinity. However, a man being affectionate with other men is slowly becoming the new black, so to speak.  Perhaps it’s a positive thing after all. According to Geoffrey Grief, a Maryland-based psychologist, “men who are comfortable sharing their feelings with other men may actually make better partners” (Ogunnaike 2009). That’s great news for women.

Masculinity is socially constructed; it depends on the historical and cultural context of the time, and thus constantly changing. And multiple masculinities exist, despite hegemonic masculinity being the most widespread. Hegemonic masculinity still affects how men behave as men, challenging them to maintain the status quo. As a result, men must constantly prove to themselves and each other that they are men, fostering a culture of men surrounded in aggression and violence. But this kind of masculinity isn’t all bad—the need to protect and provide may be seen as admirable qualities. The knight in shining armor still exists. He wears his armor to protect himself from others because he loathes, yet fears vulnerability. It took a social movement and about fifty years for him to finally remove all the heavy metal. Beneath the armored exterior is a human man, made of flesh and blood, brimming with life and emotions. All he needed was for the time to be right to show a different side to his masculinity. That time is now.

On a warm spring afternoon, the serene setting of a grassy knoll was interrupted by the sound of footsteps. A crowd of people, dressed in modern clothes, each possessing a backpack on their backs, and clenching a cell phone in their hands proceeded to walk up and down Bruin Walk. As the battle to dodge flyers grew more and more intense, a figure with a notebook in his hand began quietly observing the scene unfold.  Looking first at the women, and then at the men, he began writing down his observations of their behaviors and interactions. Minutes into writing, a young and beautiful brunette woman approaches him and says, “Giovanny, the psychologist office called. They think you’re insane! You look like a crazy stalker or serial killer writing down notes about people.” She laughs and continues, “Are you done with your masculinity paper yet?” I shrug my shoulders. If masculinity constantly changes, I don’t think I can ever be done. I looked at the woman and smiled. Then, I glanced at my watch. I’m late for my bromantic man date with Steve. He’s taking me to eat steak—a very manly meal indeed.

© Copyright 2009, Giovanny Panginda

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