WHEN my wife was pregnant with our first baby, we decided not to find out the gender and told people we would be thrilled either way.
But we both quietly hoped it would be a girl.

For my wife, it was a matter of familiarity, having grown with two sisters. My preference was both sociological - boys have more problems in school, are more susceptible to video game addiction and other tech-assisted antisocial tendencies, have an endless supply of abhorrent public role models - and personal.

If we had a girl, I figured, there was a good chance that my wife would wind up handling most of her  gender-inflected issues, and I could be spared from the most painful and awkward phases; the word ''puberty'' is one I generally prefer not to think about.

Raising a boy, however, would force me to re-experience, by proxy, my own adolescence - not always the happiest time of my life - while ushering me into the primary role of teaching how to be a man.

I don't mean ''how to be a man'' in the traditional sense of cleaning a rifle, closing a deal or winning a fair bar fight.  I confess to relative cluelessness when it comes to any of those things. But while I wouldn't want my son to be versed in the behavioral skill set lately [and sometimes lazily] categorized as features of toxic masculinity, I also don't want him to be a pushover.

The ostensibly proper balance - confident and strong but not arrogant and aggressive, sensitive without being a crybaby - is subjective and murky.

If he gets hurt, physically or emotionally, what amount of crying is appropriate? If someone relentless bullies him, is he ever justified to fighting back?

How vulnerable nontoxic should he make himself in a world that preys on the undefended - but whose opposite is the grotesque alpha-male caricature?

After four decades, I am not so sure I know the answers. As a fiction writer living in a liberal enclave in New York, one would think I satisfy every condition of a modern man unafraid of his most naked emotions, but that's not completely true.

When I consider myself attuned to my inner life, my expressions of it tend to be a little guarded. I suspect that has a lot to do with the strictures of my gender, the cultural code mandating how emotionally performative men should be.

Sometimes, I wonder how much I've internalized my even-keeled outward demeanor and numbed myself from authentic feeling.

And yet my behavior still strikes me as practical, the only way to ensure that in life's arena, no chink in the armor will be exposed to another gladiator's spear.

It's facile to blame our current political climate to this dog-eat-dog mind-set. in fact, it afflicts many men, and always has, no matter their station.

Consider, for instance, how uncommon a sight a man weeing in public is for anything short of grief.

The American politician Edmund Muskie's 1973 campaign for president was derailed after he appeared to cry in a speech defending the honor of his wife. [he later said his face was wet from melting snow, but the damage was done].

The Honor and Serving of this brilliant work, continues. The World Students Society thanks author, Teddy Wayne.


Post a Comment

Grace A Comment!