Masculine Vanities

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I don’t know why my mind keeps wending this way. Narcissistic inner gazing can be entertaining - at least for the perpetrator - and sometimes even edifying.

My feelings about masculinity - gender qualities in general - keep tugging at me because a young man I was both perfectly correct and terribly foolish.

That in some utopia gender distinctions would mostly vanish. Biology aside what would remain would be an appreciation of ways that arcs, curves, slants and other geometric fragments make for pleasing objects. Women would feel free to attire themselves with clinical severity if they wished and men don frippery and finery as they did in the days of Elizabeth I and James I.

At least, self-help book authors and television sitcoms aside, many wrongheaded gender distinctions are if not dead mostly unspoken.

But heck: class consciousness, psychotherapy, prayers to nonexistent gods will never bring paradise on earth. More likely those of us in America, Europe and a few other places have been enjoying a few sunny centuries between darker intervals.

Entertainingly I denied my own sense of myself as a man. Do you know it took me a very long time to be able to call myself a man? It is a comparatively recent evolution. I could use the word guy, fellow, male but flinched at the word man. I’m still not sure what I think of the word. Let us say I’m trying it out for size.

Because it was in a personal ad I can recall if not the first time a very early instance of myself using the word masculine. “Masculine / androgynous” was part of my first personal. The androgyny being all inside. On the exterior I as conventional a male as your average Wal-Mart shopper.

But I started playing the masculinity game as soon as I understood that another male could make me feel warm, weird, giddy and needy.

Unbuttoning an extra shirt button to reveal my chest hair made me smile at myself. But I classed that as akin to a male bird sprouting brighter plumage to attract a mate.

(There was a worry that proved happily baseless but I shan’t be so shameless as to confess it.)

Thankfully it was the days before gym culture so being skinny was OK. I didn’t have muscles but good enough bone structure, the right voice and look.

Having never exercised I wasn’t impressively strong. But my impressively strong father’s genes were a blessing. I could lift and tote. And - vanity - I was damned if I was going to let my face reflect strain and struggle if I could prevent it. Of course the audience matter, who cared what straight people thought.

I reject the idea that a stoic surface has gender. Hiding emotional pain is as much a feminine folly as a masculine vice. We don’t want to be a burden. And I learned it from my mother.

Money in a limited way was a way of being vain. Not that I ever had enough to be flashy. And since there was at least one boy I knew I could’ve caught if I’d had it I did regret the lack.

But I liked to buy presents. Charles relentless cravings for junk would sometimes move me to “no.” But I much preferred to peel off the cash. That felt good.

Especially meals. I always felt I had to pay. And leave a handsome tip. To be the provider.

When I was so broke on Alex’s last visit that I had to actually refuse to splurge it cut me.

I’m sure there were other ways in which I felt a need to - ouch! - be “man” but this is what comes to mind on first thinking about this.

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