I’ve had the distinct pleasure of working with men while serving as the therapist in one of our local detox centers. That all-male group gave me an enlightened perspective regarding our brothers. One of our regular morning check-ins turned into a discussion about pressure. One by one, the men described the pressure they felt from society to be this “macho male” image of a man that was fearless, successful, strong, wise, caring, and loving. When I asked for them to be more specific as to what section of society, they felt this pressure came from and the resounding response was, home, family, and significant loved ones.
Their words stung as I looked at myself being an African American mother of a young, single, black male. As a therapist, I have always been careful to allow space for my son to express his emotions without criticism or judgement from his youth. At the time, it felt like I was making strives by punishing him and demanding he not cry. Punishment is definitely a time one might feel like crying. However, I did lecture him about opening doors and doing the heavy lifting for women. Had I in some small way applied pressure for him to be “macho” in some sense? It doesn’t sound like much but was it intensified by the things his friends and the media were inadvertently teaching him?
As a woman, I have often complained with friends concerning the pressures of being a businesswoman, housekeeper, wife, mother, and lover. There were time when I felt lost in a sea of titles. The pressure, to be, to do, to have can easily overwhelm. I knew this pressure and it sicken me to think I had forced it on our brothers. Was this a case of the victim victimizing another?
I asked my brothers to forgive us as a society and to attempt to see why some of us may have fell into the trap of pressuring them in the way that we did. We discussed the various pros and cons of how they were reared as well as the level of acceptance they grew into over the years. There was a sense of unity and understanding that flowed from that group discussion. Expressions changed, body language became more relaxed, and the tone of the room was less tense. Those men (and possibly all of the men in our lives) needed a forum in which they felt accepted and heard.
This month I’d like to extend that to all of the men that read this post. June is Men’s Health Month and of course we want you to schedule annual physicals and be sure to have your prostate checked but just as important, is your mental and emotional well-being. You don’t have to be any more than who you authentically are, the loving men in our lives. We love you, even if you’re not strong enough to do all of the heavy lifting and we love you if sometimes you feel drained, hurt, and need to cry.
We got you…We celebrate you…Do you…Be your own man.
Happy Men’s Health Month