Women have their pressures, God knows. But there’s something even sadder about the pressures faced by men to be tough, to push down vulnerability — not just on the street, but in our families and homes. “Sack up.” “Be a man.” “Don’t be such a pussy.” I talked once to a guy who could not get over the fact that he ignored what his young son was telling him about being in pain and made him ice skate on a broken ankle. He was berating himself because he, a shrink, had fallen into that same trap of defining masculinity as toughness.
And what makes someone a sports hero? Someone who plays in pain, someone who has blood running down his sock.
But this craziness is passed father to son. (Many women talk about men who cried in their arms over the pain their fathers caused them.) Far too many men treat even little boys as competition, and set out to break their spirits — “to prepare them for real life.” So many broken people, who then take out their problems on the people around them. No wonder there’s so much violence in the world.
I’ve never yet known a grown man to say, “I wish my father had been harder on me.”