Two weeks ago I cried. Twice. The best part, neither time was out of sorrow, stress or anxiety. It was happiness, excitement, and pride. The first time I cried was while I was sitting on my porch and reflecting on a recent conversation I had where I really defined my why and how. It wasn’t just the conversation but a reflection of how far I had come in the last few years. I have gone through a lot, and still have a long way to go, but stopping and thinking about all the victories you have had recently is important for growth. The second time I cried was more based on current ongoings. A lot of things have been going well for me and in no small part has that been due to the people in my life. I was in my car driving and listening to a song that triggered some memories from my travels in South Africa and made me think of all those relationships I will always have. I have always been one of the people to have a few really good and close friend’s vs having a ton of friends.

Why do I tell you this? What do you care about my emotional outbursts? Why should you care? This week I wanted to talk about something that I have been hearing a lot about and wanted to take my shot at trying to define what it means to me. Masculinity. What is it? Is it good? Is it bad? What does someone need to do to be masculine?

To answer these questions, I need to give a proper background of myself. I am a 30 year old bisexual middle-class white maile that is ½ of The NA Happy Hour (more on that later), an IT professional, an individual who is challenged by anxiety, and a sarcastic, dry humored SOB. I am all that and more. I am masculine. I am Christopher Riley!

Now, to define what masculinity means, I wanted to turn to the dictionary to give the exact definition, then expand upon that. Google dictionary (polling form Oxford Languages) defines masculinity as being: “qualities or attributes regarded as characteristic of men.” Well, that definition sucks. At least in my opinion, while that is a true statement of what masculinity is, it doesn’t dive into what I think is the most important part: What does it mean to be a man?

Being a man, to me, doesn’t mean you need to bury your emotions, hide your fears, bench twice your bodyweight and deadlift three times your body weight. It means standing up for what’s right when it’s hard, especially when it’s with someone you care about. It means being tough as nails when needed but also allowing your inner teddy bear to come out and hang. Like Gordon Ramsay judging adults vs kids. 

I saw an Instagram post the other week from @KelleyBode that talked about some key societal traits of being a man/masculine that I wanted to share. The main one is: “dominance, competitiveness, single-focus, sexual drive and pride are not inherently toxic, they are natural.” The author goes on to say that any of these can be out of balance at any point and for any reason. That is what it means to be human. They also define an imbalance in any of these not as toxic but as shadow masculinity. Well, I had no idea what shadow masculinity was so I kept reading. Shadow masculinity can come out as being non-consensually dominant, over aggressive, or not holding to his word. When any of these traits are too far out of balance then yes, we approach an unhealthy level of imbalance.

To finish off, the author defines balance as a man who has integrated masculinity. This is when a man honors his word, connects to his word/goals, is open and honest, has protector energy but isn’t over-protective, has a strong sense of self AND is loving, kind, and gentle without taking anyone bullshit.

I am working towards this equilibrium. I fall, I stumble, I cry, I swear, but I always keep moving forward. That isn’t to say I ignore the misfortune. On the contrary, I embrace it and allow myself time to process. I am a work in progress and have miles to go before I sleep but that doesn’t mean I’m going to slow down or stop. I’ll mess up again, I’ll hit a home run in the bottom of the 9th again. I am human. I am bisexual. I am masculine. To all the other men out there: Are you masculine? How do you see yourself in the world of masculinity and becoming the best man you can be? Who are your role models?