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“Patriarchy is the expression of the immature masculine. It is the expression of Boy psychology, and, in part, the shadow—or crazy—side of masculinity. It expresses the stunted masculine, fixated at immature levels.” ~ Robert Moore & Doug Gillette
The fridge was filled with 70 eggs and packs of bacon as well as multiple beer types. The counter contained handles for liquor and energy drinks. There were many snacks on the dining table: popcorn, cheese-its, chips, Oreos and Doritos as well as dozens upon nips of Fireball.
I’ve been to many bachelor parties, and it’s not surprising that health is never a priority. But this time things were different. Or at least it should. Many of those present were men over forty. Everybody was married with respectable careers and lives in well-maintained homes throughout the US.
It was clear that this weekend wouldn’t be a free-for-all of strip clubs. Our teen years were gone. We didn’t have the same beer-sipping metabolism or youth naivete. What if it wasn’t late-night drinking? The idea of this weekend being about accepting that we were old and at a different stage in our lives seemed in conflict with it.
Unspoken, and unexamined expectations loomed over us all. It was expected that we would act like decades older than our college years. The story we were unconsciously telling ourselves was that honoring a man’s last single days was to be full of drinking and debauchery.
We didn’t come here to be emotionally vulnerable and eat salads. It was our intention to be rowdy.
My question is, is there enough space within our masculinity paradigm to allow us both?
* As grown men, do we have to revert to childish ways of interacting?
* Do we have to reduce ourselves to the lowest common denominator of health and wellness to have fun together?
* Are there not other ways of being together that better fit our present realities as mature, adults?
My mind wandered further into unknown territory.
* Can we take a responsible approach to caring for our body and still make room to party?
* Can we find a balance between celebrating our friend’s last days of being single without making marriage out to be a ball and chain?
* Can we eat salads together and still be “manly enough”?
Although I think we can achieve all these things, it is necessary to dismantle some social norms that dictate how men interact with each other in groups.
Unspoken Rules for Bachelor Parties
There are no rules at bachelor parties. Get wild. Get f*cked up. Have as much fun as possible because you’re about to lose all your freedom. Or at least that’s how the story goes.
Where did the story originate?
Is it possible that all these guys have escaped responsibility by creating this bachelor party template?
What’s more, how did we end up with this notion of marriage as impending shackles or the stereotype of men running away from long-term relationships?
What is it like to see older generations going through broken relationships or marriages that failed?
It is possible that all or some of these are true.
Our current reality is saddened by the stereotype of men acting as boys. The mythic story of men acting as powerful, responsible actors in the world has been abandoned and we have settled for a flawed version of manhood.
Perhaps the most noteworthy archetype framing masculinity is that of a hero’s journey. This is the ultimate growing-up adventure where men find their strength in adventure and adversity. You can find endless films from Star WarsYou can find more information here Harry PotterThis classic model of human development is being ripped apart.
The hero is not a man who is responsible for the family and world he lives in. The heroic quests are what we love, and the domestic life is not our passion.
One makes a better movie, I agree. But it is the void in our current mythology that keeps men stuck with incomplete and boyish ideas about what it takes to become a mature man. What is the best way for a father-turned-hero to integrate in society, create a family and connect with others men while taking responsibility for the good of the world?
If the hero’s journey is the fundamental process by which a boy becomes a man, the question of how to actually enact manhood remains.
When men gather together, this void can be exacerbated. This expectation encourages unhealthy behavior. The bachelor party is just one manifestation of this—groups of men acting like teenage boys… hedonistic, rebellious, and immature.
Yet the world doesn’t need more rowdy teenagers. The world needs healthy, strong men. Men, it’s time we grow the f*ck up. The problem as I see it, is that we don’t know how.
No Models, no Vision, and certainly not a Manhood
If I try to find good examples of how men can spend their time together, I only see fraternities and sports. While there is nothing wrong with these models, it leaves a lot of room for improvement.
Although bachelor parties or sports clubs may appeal to singles aged 20-something, what role models are there for guys trying to find a wife and make ends meet?
I desire more meaning and depth than the current cultural structures allow. My desire is to have a relationship with my fellow men that draws on our highest qualities and not the lower.
Yet I fear that the little boy in me so badly wants to be accepted by the other guys that I will continue to squeeze myself into outdated beliefs and unhealthy ideals that have me ripping shots of fireball just feel accepted—the policing of the proverbial “man box.”
Men must dismantle this box in order to allow themselves the freedom to do different. This applies to
* Learning to have drink without being irresponsible to our body, our friends, or our partners.
* Learning to talk about our feelings as much as we talk about football.
* Allowing ourselves to strive professionally without feeling like our self-worth is dependent on our ability to provide.
* Feeling comfortable sharing our struggles with other men, so we don’t unconsciously accept that suffering alone is an inevitable part of being a man.
New Templates to Help Men Be Together
It is a growing problem that people feel lonely. And for men, the feeling that you’ve got to “man up” and deal with all of life’s challenges on your own is a legacy of patriarchy that needs to be released.
Our relationship is dependent on each other. It is important to understand how to live together without losing sight of the fact that beer and sport are not the only options.
Do you think it would be possible for men to meet up and become stronger, more healthy, and healthier?
It’s possible. It’s not only possible, it is necessary.
You can see the men’s eye rolls. “That’s why there’s men’s groups. Don’t take away my bachelor parties or Sunday football.”
To be clear, I’m not at all against bachelor parties. The “wild and free” mindset makes sense as a time-bounded final hurrah.
I’m not advocating for less fun. I’m advocating for more opportunities for men (and women) to gather in a way that challenges the scripts and roles that have kept us prisoners to immature ways of interacting.
The current social pressure not only makes it difficult for men to be emotionally available, it also squashes so many of the joyful parts of our inner child—the playfulness, adventure, and energy of boyhood. It’s keeping us from our embodied selves.
We must also learn to integrate this into new rites for passage, so that men can avoid accepting blindly patriarchal norms.
I don’t want to have to hide my softer, more vulnerable parts. It is possible to discuss the impact of our male social habits on our minds and bodies, and also talk about our favourite cars and fantasy choices. There’s room for it all if we can let go of outdated notions about how men can spend time together.
If we can help each other evolve into a more integrated expression of what it means to be a healthy man, everyone will benefit—the boys who are coming of age, the men who are struggling to find their place in the world, and the women who deserve men that are nurturing and generative, not hostile and destructive.
Together, we can learn to become a better man.
About Jeff Siegel
Jeff Siegel, a coach for health and well-being, helps men to live a healthy lifestyle that allows them to be their best selves. Harvard University also offers mindfulness and meditation classes. Connect with Jeff on Facebook or Instagram and learn more about coaching on his website: www.jeffsiegelwellness.com.
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Tiny Buddha’s first post, Rethinking Masculinity. Why I Want More than Bachelor Parties and Football appeared on Tiny Buddha.