An Open Letter to the Masculine Man.
I was a tomboy growing up. I am one still today.
It has always been okay for me to act strong. To wear backwards trucker hats. To lead meetings in the boardroom. To bench press among you.
It has always been okay for me to cry in public. To ask for help in hard times. To express myself openly among my friends.
Then there are times I can’t help but wonder what it is like to be you — the masculine man.
To be raised in a society that tells you to Suck it up or Rub some dirt in it.
To be told that no matter how bad something hurts, you should never show that pain. To anyone.
To be pushed morning and night at your sport even when it wasn’t your choice.
To be defined as Masculine by the size of your deltoids and your ability to hide emotions.
So here I am. Attempting to piece together what it’s like to be you, men. Apologizing to you, men.
I’m sorry if I ever prevented you from sharing openly with me.
I’m sorry if I ever made it unsafe for you to let down your walls.
I’m sorry if I turned you down because you Just weren’t alpha enough for me.
I’m sorry if I played a part in forcing you into the confined box of Masculinity.
As a millennial female, I am encouraged by society to be everything… to try everything. Once the underdogs, we females are rising strong. We have started a movement we cannot stop (and do not intend to stop). The world is my oyster.
A man can play basketball? So can you. A man can hunt? You can too. As a female, I was raised to believe that it is okay to be strong and courageous while it is also natural to cry or feel emotions. I was encouraged to talk through my feelings and was accepted just the same. As a millennial female, I was brought up with programs offering me the chance to earn badges via communal activities.
I was offered a wide range of skills I could choose to learn, from sewing to woodworking. In this same setting, boys are given specific tools — practical life and survival skills, and individual merits in order to advance. They are taught to be tough and think for themselves – not to ask for help and not to rely on others.
Growing up, I remember hearing some of the men in my life say, “It’s not a real sport unless you wear a helmet.” They’d tell stories of working out until their bodies gave out. I can hear my father explain that his role in my life was not for emotional support — that he was here to help me change a tire, to talk business or finance, and that it was my mom who I should go to for emotional support, boys, etc.
I can remember lying in bed with you as you told a story about how sometimes when you’re alone you think about the years you’ve been away from your family pursuing what you love, and that it brings a tear to your eye — thinking of all that you’ve missed back home.
“That is the most I’ve ever opened up to anyone,” you say after.
That’s the most you’ve ever opened up to anyone?
I can still hear it in my head today. How did we all fail you so badly that that was the most you’ve opened up? That saying sometimes you feel sad because you’ve missed every single one of your family Christmases is making yourself overly vulnerable? That admitting that you have moments that make you weep makes you less of a man? That asking for help makes you weak?
How did it happen?
How did we force men to be confined as house-fixing, Taliban-hunting, deadlift-maxing creatures?
How do we operate now?
How do we give men the chance to explore every part of themselves without taking away their Man Card?
What is our role?
How do we as women give men the space to express emotions without turning them down as less of a man?
I’ve seen the tools in your toolshed you use to bury your unwelcome emotions…
Your cousin is killed in a car accident: the bottom of the glass of scotch.
Suck it up.
Your mom is diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer: the other end of the barbell.
Be a man.
Your first wife files for divorce: the scope of the rifle.
Don’t let it show.
Your best friend ends his own life: the inside of your hockey gloves.
I can’t help but wonder if burying these emotions prevents us from getting closer. That maybe, if you were able to allow these moments to pour out of you naturally, openly, and without abandonment, then we might get to know each other’s soul-prints. That as you get to know sadness, you might also shake hands with humility.
And just maybe then you’ll feel the warmth of unrestrained, unconditional love… and that love will no longer frighten you because you’ll no longer be afraid of the pain that could come from love lost, but excited at the prospect of love explored.
I question what kind of lover you would be if I let you feel deeply. If I let you be whole. If I stopped asking you to be quiet, and instead gave you the space and the freedom to express yourself fully.
I question what kind of businessman you would be if I let you explore a softer side — if you’d be unafraid to take on a social challenge in your day-to-day, and if this would allow an even greater, more impactful footprint economically. I question what kind of leaders you would create if I gave you space to raise our sons with courage and kindness. With strength and humility. With confidence and vulnerability.
So here is my declaration to your masculinity:
It’s okay to fight with the guy at the bar who grabbed my ass.
It’s okay to cry when you remember missing your cousin’s funeral.
It’s okay to go shooting with the guys.
It’s okay to admit you’re afraid of losing your job.
It’s okay to hit the gym on bad days.
It’s okay to release your emotions in front of me.
It’s okay to not be okay.
I promise to give you the space to be entirely you.
I promise to stay right here as we reshape masculinity together — that we might start a movement among you to be courageous and strong, yet comfortable in being fully human.
I promise to support you in guiding other men on this path to wholeness.
I promise to help you weave strength and vulnerability together until it creates an incredible tapestry of a man who can authentically wrap his arms around me.
Thank you, men, for your strength and service.
Now is your time to be everything.
Alison Dupra was born at the corner of practicality and unrestrained love. She has a fear of small talk, and falls in love with the vulnerability in others more every day. Alison is a fitness enthusiast, videographer and tech nerd, all in one. She is a believer in second chances and consistent follow-through. Alison lives life with her heart on her sleeve, and wants to make a safe space for everyone around her to do the same. You can find her getting lost in the mountains somewhere on the East coast with her german shepherd dog, Tikka.