Thoughts On Toxic Masculinity

As of late the words Toxic Masculinity is on the tip of everyone’s tongue, from the Gillette ad, to word of mouth. It seems everywhere you go on social media and the internet in general people are analyzing, discussing, and dissecting what toxic masculinity means and how to promote healthy masculinity and what that looks like.

I’m not professing to have all the answers, however, perhaps some discussion about how I look at things can be a worthwhile addition to the conversation.

I think a large part of toxic masculinity stems from a lack of sex positivity, and sex positive parenting. The Idea of sex and power has always been linked to masculinity, more so than femininity, and I think this is where things jumped the shark. When I was growing up, sex was never talked about in my house, but when I got to highschool sex, and sexuality was talked about in hushed whispers. Who was fucking who, who got a blow job from who, and even “the” event where a (then 18) year old girl got filmed having sex with a local sports star – said video still exists somewhere too (even 20 years later).

At that time in my life, I was still a virgin (and would be until I was 19), but I can tell you one of the over-riding thoughts was if you were still a virgin, you were a loser. Men should be desired, athletic, and sexually active. Those of us that deviated from the norm (not into sports, geeky as fuck, and awkward around women on a whole – doubly so if I had a crush). Rather than discussing sex positivity and why it was OK to be sexually active, or even a virgin, it was simply something that was never discussed, and at that age, peer pressure and judgment had a huge effect on how I conducted myself. I thought that if I could just get laid, or have a pretty girl show interest in me, I would suddenly be more of a man. Vanity, ego and a lack of a positive male role model can really skew your perception of things at that age.

Something else I think needs to be considered is encouragement of healthy vulnerability. We’ve gotten to a point in social conversation where many people are talking about sharing of emotions, thoughts and really dissecting root causes of undesirable behavior and other predatory activities. This is a great thing, calling out behavior that is damaging to others, and how we can either receive closure, reparation or other solutions.

What we fail to do with regularity is acknowledge men who go out of thier way to display or discuss more positively socially acceptable traits. I know what some of you are thinking – “why reward behavior or acknowledge it when it should be the norm?” Simply put? because it isn’t the norm. Emotions like sadness, fear, and even some cases love are joked about, made fun of and the men that display these are even jokingly teased.

I am by no means saying we should all become completely emotional creatures, at the mercy of raw emotion. However, should the men in your life talk about these things, a bit of encouragement, or even acceptance can go a long way to making them feel more comfortable about seeking help and discussion about it, rather than bottling it up and having influence over negatively processing them.

I am a survivor of mental, and physical abuse, as well as rape and consent violations from both sexes. when I tried to report these things, the police basically laughed at me, my “friends” at the time ignored and laughed at me, I had a hell of a time processing grief, rage, anger, fear, and felt like less of a man for crying in front of people that were supposed to be my friends. It took me a long time to process and overcome these things by myself, I went through depression, 3 separate suicide attempts, and a battle with addiction before I came out the other side, barely. I can’t help but think looking back, that if I had had a support structure of people willing to deal with, and encourage healthy vulnerability around these things that the length it took me to “get over” and process would have been far less painful and destructive.

Labelling certain things as masculine, feminine, or even childlike in a negative context is also something I feel contributes to toxic masculinity. I think on a whole displaying stereotypically feminine or child like traits as a man is something I think a lot of people label as negative or undesirable.

When I was in my early twenties, and really much of my life up to that point, I didn’t have many traditionally masculine interests or hobbies. I don’t do sports like football or hockey, I read Sci-fi, play video games and get knee deep in all sort of fandoms. I felt ashamed that hundreds of miles from home, trapped in an abusive relationship I turned to online gaming and escapism to deal with my reality. Something I loved and enjoyed, and used to cope, ended up having me labeled as a “faggot”, “loser”, and a sissy. In that reality, these words were negative to me, the few things I still enjoyed and used to define me as a person were weaponized. Not only were they weaponized by my male friends, but by just about every female in my life as well. Women wanted to be around and associate with these “traditional” men. To this day, I can’t enjoy basketball or football the way I used to since I see them as reminders of just how unworthy I was of calling myself a man. (I understand now, how wrong I was, but old habits you know.)

It is refreshing now, to see geek culture and other non-traditional “adult” and Masculine pursuits more widely accepted, but we have a long way to go. Encourage men in your life to pursue and enjoy these things to their fullest. Keep this in mind though: Disliking something out of personal preference is much different than condemning a person negatively due to a biased thought process.

There are many other issues I think contributes to toxic masculinity, From body image and acceptance, all the way to nature vs. nurture. However, as I see it these are a few things not often talked about, or discussed at large in favor of other more socially visible parts of the issue.

Just adding a few thoughts on a topic that will no doubt be discussed for a long time to come.

Regards,

Syn.

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That Tiny Voice Gets Louder.

Conferences are interesting things.

Classes, people, Organized chaos, family, and friends, new and old.

For me these are just a few of the reasons I go to them. As a wise friend of mine said “That’s my favorite part of conferences, not the classes, the moments spent over a scotch or a meal, just visiting with people important to you.”

There’s the problem for me – My social anxiety lies to me a lot leading up to events like we have in just 9 days. Over the last year and a bit My (our) journey has put me in the path of some of the finest people I have ever met. hg

It’s hard to come back to the middle of nowhere and just sit it out until we can be reunited with Family and Friends again. Disconnection, and social anxiety sometimes has me questioning whether the connections I feel to people are real on their end too.

I’ve learned to write in order to express thoughts and emotions I can’t unpack inside my own head. This is both a good and bad thing though…. I write pretty clinically, I have a lot of time to think, measure, and decide how best to word or say something. It helps me see things in a different way, I can be a very spur of the moment and emotional/extroverted in person. You never really know whats going to come out of my mouth in pursuit of a laugh. After all, if you make ’em laugh, you have a way better chance of making them like you. Because of the disconnect between me as a person, and me as a writer – I absolutely suck at bridging the two together.

I see Dance card threads, people connecting, flirting, all the other stuff that happens around a gathering of us being imminent. It’s a piss off to be stuck between being excited, unable to express that, or involve myself in things I want to, Not to mention feel apart because my head is being an asshole.

Anxiety and awkwardness seem to be the norm for me, it’s less with my girl, but still there too, I’ve always struggled with it, it just seems amplified around conventions and the longer we go without seeing family and friends.

Some days I wish I could be more of a hedonist, more able to express things, and confident enough to do so.

Anxiety is a bitch.

It’s a tiny voice that gets louder some days.

It lies to you.

Patterns.

I’ve written a bit about energy exchange in the past, and the give and take that people have both in the lifestyle and in day to day life. Using positive and negative energy to our advantage or detriment is something that, if you’re unaware of, can dictate your success or failures with partners or even your chosen role.

Which brings me to something I’ve been reflecting on for the last little bit.

Patterns.

Humans thrive on patterns, whether you believe it or not. We hear it every day “They had a pattern of behavior”, “A pattern of abuse”, and other patterns. The trick is recognizing them and learning how to break a negative pattern.

Personally, many moons ago, I had a pattern of the type of partner I would seek out, and honestly I didn’t even realize it at the time. Looking back it’s very clear.

Abusive partner I could “save” them from? Check.

Minimal work on Loving themselves or self eteem? Check.

unhealthy coping skills? Check.

Vapid, Jealous, and mentally or physically abusive? Check.

Now all these things aside, I had my own issues to deal with, which I have gone into at length elsewhere – The important part was realizing my pattern and trying to break it.

Originally I placed the blame for my patterns squarely on others, it’s so much easier to blame others for your circumstances than put the work in to change them. In the end, the truth of the matter is that -I- was (and am) the common denominator.

I took the initiative to change my thinking, and really analyze how I deal with people and situations.

Am I being true to myself?

Am I openly and honestly communicating my needs, wants, and desires?

Am I seeking relationships that will enrich my life and help with personal growth?

Do the people in my life add anything of value, be it joy, friendship or companionship?

Am I being honest with myself about what kind of person I am?

Are my interpersonal/coping skills the problem?

“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.” – Marcus Aurelius

On the path of mastery one of the greatest things I ever made peace with was the fact that human beings on a whole are imperfect by nature (or nurture). I might not be able to control how they choose to act, live, and respond, However, I can choose to compromise with them.

Does my Partner make me happy? Hell yes she does, she adds to my life and my journey, but she does NOT define it, or control it. I see too much of people saying BDSM or power exchange “makes them whole”, or defines them, or their partner is used to define who they are as a person.

I used to think my partner, and my friends defined who I was as a person – that isn’t so, They do enrich my life, and expose me to a connection of something bigger than myself, however, at the end of the day I am the one responsible for my own joy, happiness, and how I view and interact with the world.

Dominant or submissive, it shouldn’t matter, YOU must strive to be the best PERSON you can be, not a label, and not relying on others to define you as a person. If that is the pattern you find yourself in perhaps it’s time to break it.

Patterns can be positive or negative but if you’re caught in a cycle of drama, destructive relationships, or even a cycle that stunts your growth, the only limiting factor is you.

YOU control your fate:

Not your Family.

Not your Friends.

Not your Dominant or Submissive.

Take the responsibility to analyze your patterns, and change them if you need to, ask for help, find a mentor, do what you need to.

Be authentic, be true to yourself, be courageous enough to break the patterns, and courageous enough to stop pointing fingers and start changing yourself for the better.

Regards,

 

Syn

19 Years.

19 years is a long time.

In 19 years you can get married and raise kids to be young adults.

In 19 years you Can be conceived, born, and finish public schooling.

In 19 years You can find a best friend and experience a lifetime with them, and that’s what happened to me.

Two days ago I said goodbye to Daisy, my Cat who was that best friend for 19 years.

When I was younger and in my first serious relationship as an adult, my partner was missing her cat from home, and she wanted to go to the local humane society to visit the kitties. Truth be told, I didn’t want to go, I was NOT a cat person, my family had always owned dogs, I loved our dogs, so obviously I was a dog person, not a cat person.

That all changed when we went down and I saw my Daisy. She was out of her kennel for playtime, because she only had certain cats she could be put out with – She’d beat the hell out of weaker cats. A pure white cat with emerald green eyes was actually something I had never seen before, so I walked over to say hello and giver her a pet if she’d let me. She accepted and was even affectionate, which according to the staff there was very strange, She usually just ignored most people unless they had food – something I understand all too well honestly. for our entire visit, she followed me around the room – crawling on my shoulders and back. To say the volunteers were surprised was an understatement. By the end of our visit, I had made my mind up that I wanted to adopt her. So much for being a dog person. Adoption from the humane society actually requires a few things here; Obviously an adoption fee, but you needed to answer a two or three-page questionnaire,  AND have references. I got lucky on all accounts as I had a close friend whose mom worked for a neighbouring town’s humane society, and on the strength of her reference, I was able to take Daisy home with me less than two days later.

Our first few years were spent with that serious relationship in two different cities, I learned very quickly that Daisy was two things: 1 – not like other cats at all, and 2 that she was my child and I would do anything to protect her, keep her safe, and keep her with me… these lessons were in part thanks to Daisy’s “aggressive” training methods for her human.

The relationship ended thanks to abuse, and other things I have talked about at length – and won’t revisit. However when I moved home I had nowhere to go but my parents place – broke, an alcoholic and unsure of what to do. Daisy had to stay with my now ex for a month at our apartment a province away until the rent ran out and I could get something together for her and I. We agreed I would take her because I could “afford her” and she might be sent to the humane society if I couldn’t take her. I vowed this wouldn’t happen ever – so I made deals, scrimped, saved, and hustled to make sure I had a place for Daisy and I, she couldn’t come to mom and dad’s because they had a dog.

I want to relate a story about the next few years of my life with her because it’s only one of a thousand that I have, but one of the few that really means more than I can put into words.

After that failed relationship – I fell into a deep depression, my rebound relationship ended just as poorly – a fight to end all fights with my pregnant ex – her using our child as ammunition against me, and I sank further into my alcoholism as I slipped quietly out of her life. One night, in particular, I went out to the bar I used to work at and got so shit-faced drunk I barely remember getting home. I got in, and usually I fed Daisy her soft food, and we curled up in bed together. That night for whatever reason I decided to pass out on my kitchen floor and NOT feed her. The last thing I remember is her crouching next to me, and softly headbutting me as I passed out. about 9 hours later when i came to the first thing I saw was my Daisy laying right next to my face and watching me. I am pretty sure (or choose to believe) that she didn’t leave my side, even though I was a drunk bastard who couldn’t even take care of her properly. This continued a few more times, but eventually I Sobered up, and while still clinically depressed, I was doing better, through all of this, she was my constant companion, even when I pushed others away and “hermiting” in my house for years (yes years), she was there providing a smile, a laugh or just a tiny furry presence to keep me company while I was gaming.

Eventually, We reconnected with Dot and most know how that has gone – there was some jealousy at first, but Daisy accepted her and even began to show her affection.

In those years together leading up to us combining houses, I must admit I took Daisy for granted. She was always there, and I ignored the lost teeth from age, I ignored the longer and longer naps, and finally the lack of her ability to clean some harder to reach spots. She had been with me a long time and I knew she was getting older – but she’d be around for a long time yet, right?

FInally Dot and I bought a house, and with the new house, came the “joy” of introducing Daisy to the Boys – you see at the time Dot had 4 cats – so Zeus, Einstien, Darwin, and Skitz, got to meet the grumpy old lady. Truth be told during that first week together in the house, I realized how Old my little girl had gotten. She used to be as big as, if not slightly bigger than Zeus and Skitz, and now although still full of the fire and brimstone of her younger years, she lacked the size of previous years to back up the “yelling”.

Still, nightly, even in a king size bed – Daisy slept with me (and Dot) between our head, she affectionately became known to us as “Jesus Cat” – Remember the old Sayings at School Dances? “Leave space for Jesus while dancing”? Daisy was our Cat equivalent for sleeping. She gave absolutely zero fucks in her old age, she was there and that was that. Want sexy time? She ain’t moving, so get used to it. Lol

By this point also My little girl had no teeth left, so she was strictly on soft food which Dot and I would feed her 3 times a day. Life continued.

Until this Past Saturday.

I won’t go into details, but I will say her health started deteriorating rapidly, and I had to make a choice. After a talk with Dot – I made the call to a local vet with the decision that it was time to help my little girl move on. (truth be told I detest the rainbow bridge analogy people use, but to each thier own).

My last night with Daisy was spent Cuddling on the couch crying with her and when she wobbled off to try and drink or eat, sitting on the floor with her and holding her up because she simply didn’t have the strength to do so on her own. She was so Light, and I could feel every rib, and her little heart beating against my palm.

When the fuck did that happen? I thought. Just the other day I brought her home from the humane society and she promptly curled up and slept. Wasn’t it just last week I picked her up from the ex? It seemed like no time at all had passed. She wasn’t old, I was holding on for a miracle. But why the fuck couldn’t I stop crying? Just because she had never laid on my chest in my arms before, didn’t really mean I was saying goodbye to my little girl did it?

I said goodbye to my little girl on the first day of spring, in a quiet room, with My mom and Dot present. I asked them politely to leave while I was still crying, I wasn’t ready to leave her. Even though she was already gone, I kissed her head one last time, touched her nose and told her what a good girl she had been – and then left her there.

She will be coming back to me in about two weeks time. I chose a lovely Ceramic urn for her – because I will ALWAYS take her with us where ever I go from here.

Today is a better day than yesterday, and I’m not OK, but I will be.

19 years isn’t a long time.

19 years is enough to live seconds with the ones you love.

19 years is enough to truly realize what you have.

19 years is long enough to find a best friend, a lover, and a family, but is it ever long enough to show them how much they mean to you?

Goodbye Little Girl, thank you for taking care of me when I couldn’t even take care of myself. I’ll never be able to repay you, but I can remember you.

Always.

 

 

Live, Thrive, Be Better.

This day started on a completely different trajectory than it ended on.

Woke up, had some time with my little fae, went to work, and started writing. I had a clear and definitive topic, I spewed out the initial thoughts, and they do need to be expanded on and cleaned up, but that will likely happen tomorrow.

So work ended and I headed to the gym, just like I do 4 times a week, I was pretty excited since I was too sick to go last week. Chest day went very well and I have to admit, immediately after setting a Personal Record in bench press I was thrilled!

However, sometime between my last rep and pulling the weight off to start my assistance work – Something happened. I was hit with the biggest wave of futility I’ve experienced in years. I usually work out with as much intensity as I can muster, I focus and work until I can barely do another exercise, and I love it.

Today my depression came back more vicious than I’ve experienced in years.

My sauna time, shower and walk home have been filled with me revisiting things I long ago made peace with, from old embarrassing moments to arguing with myself about why I go to the gym every day since it’s obviously (to me) not doing shit. I originally started this with 90% vanity and 10% lifestyle in mind, and I’d be lying if I didn’t still feel like a fat asshole pretending to be a powerlifter. Logically I KNOW my body composition is changing, I KNOW I’m getting stronger (the number tell me so). but my weight hasn’t moved (the scale is bullshit, I know, however 260lbs at 5’9…. :/).

I KNOW it’s a long game, not a sprint.

I KNOW it’s my depression coming back like it does every year.

I KNOW once it goes back to a small voice in my head I’ll realize I’m being silly.

I KNOW I’m my own worst critic, and depression helps out with the criticism.

I KNOW I have room to improve.

I KNOW it’s not an excuse to be mentally abusive to myself.

I don’t KNOW why I do it every year.

I don’t KNOW what triggers depression.

And I don’t KNOW if tomorrow will be a better day.

I do KNOW that it will be better eventually.

And that is life with depression.

That is better than I was when this started.

That is the process of living with it, Be better than you were.

That’s life. That’s Mental Illness, That’s me.

Regards,

 

Syn.