All my life, I’ve been a man.
With all that that means, and with all that that carries, I have been a man.
When I was a lot younger, people older than me would call me “young man”, but only humorously. You see, they were forecasting, for I was still a boy, a kid, a youngster. There were no expectations or responsibilities beyond an assumed interest in girls, and an expected interest in sports. But time went by, and I grew older. People called me “young man”, but meant it. Legally no longer a minor, I was now expected to be living life to the fullest, assumed to be drinking heavily, partying harder and generally doing all those things that come naturally to university students and school leavers. I was expected to work hard at my studies, expected to have some form of additional income (other than my parents) and I was expected to be looking to the future whenever I could focus long enough on the present. It was assumed that I would have a steady-ish girlfriend, and I would be expected to have some form of sporting allegiance to a club in some popular sport.
When I next looked, I was being called a “young man” by a few less people, and just “man” by a few more. I know that I am in my thirties, and that to people under 20, I must appear hopelessly old, if not old-fashioned. For those of you that know me personally, you will know that I am not a person who gives overly much credence to the opinions of others, especially when those opinions are about me or my actions. Life is too short to worry about pleasing other people. Focus on pleasing yourself and the ones you love, and the rest will fall into place, or fall out of your life entirely. And those that do… well, they were not worth having in the first place. That said, I know that at the age of 34, I am now roughly halfway through our promised three-score and ten. That makes me middle-aged. And that is an appellation that is uncomfortable in its bearing. You see, there are certain expectations that come with the role of the middle-aged man. I should be settled, I should be providing for a family. Hell, I should HAVE a family of my own. I should be settled into a career and I should be thinking hard about provisions for my retirement and future.
And there’s the rub. You see, I know myself to be old-fashioned. I understand this about myself. I believe that there is still a place in this world for gallantry and I believe (for better or worse) that being a man entails stepping up to responsibilities rather than letting others deal with them. I believe in self-education and betterment, and I believe that there is nothing that someone cannot do if they would only put their mind to it. I believe that honesty really is the best policy, and would rather tell someone an awkward truth than a convenient lie. I expect this all of myself, and I expect it of others. I have a few “old man” quirks to go with all that dogma as well. I cannot abide reality television. I resent having to allow someone else to edit my perception of reality. I cannot abide the shallow tackiness of it all, and I find television 99% garbage. I have hit an age where a lot of the new music really DOES sound alike to me, and I struggle to keep track of new starlets and one-hit-wonder boy bands with more abdominal muscles than lyrical ability. I like to choose my words carefully, and I like to use the word most appropriate to a given situation. That I sometimes confuse a listener (I believe) speaks more about their lack of vocabulary than my poor word choice. I read. A lot. Not always fiction either. I believe in personal choice. In all things.
So you see, I can understand it when younger people look at me as though I am hopelessly outdated, possessed of a bygone ethos and old-fashioned morals. But there is more than that. I’m a follower of science, a disciple of empirically proven, repeatable and documented fact. There is no room in that doctrine for religion, and thus no room in my life for it. I like to think that that makes me something of a liberal, a far cry from an old-fashioned conservative. I use the internet. Frequently. For a hobby. I like to keep up to date on social memes and viral videos. I am online for at least an hour every day, more often two or three hours a day. I enjoy a range of “younger” pastimes, not the least of which are blogging, playing the guitar or playing online games.
And I don’t think that I am alone. I think that there are others like me, men that are trapped somewhere between the manly virtues of the generation before us, and the worldly requirements of the world that they have bequeathed us. I think that there are others who have adapted themselves to a world where political correctness is king, to a world where equality supersedes merit, others who have had to find an acceptable middle road between chivalry and perceived chauvinism.
I believe that being a man means standing by your principles. I believe that being a man means listening to the opinions of others, but making judgement for yourself. I believe that being a man means having no master but yourself, and being subject to nothing but your standards.
Ironically, I believe that believing all of this probably DOES make me middle-aged.
So be it. I am content to be myself.