I recently heard a radio interview with Joseph T. Cox headmaster of the Haverford School who was wrote an article Why men don’t hold hands in which he very matter of flatly states, “We need to develop an understanding of masculinity that respects the emotional lives of boys and men, recognizing their demonstrations of emotional depth as natural and, in the long run, healthy. We need to be vigilant about the lessons we teach our sons. My father was a survivor of the Great Depression and a veteran wounded in World War II – a tough man who lived a tough life. I remember when he refused my kiss good night, telling his 5-year-old son, “Men don’t kiss. I don’t think I ever tried again until that moment in the intensive-care unit when I made the decision to shut off his life support. I kissed him goodbye and told him I loved him, and I don’t think he minded.”
All I can say is, as I listened to this man express the need for us parents and as a society in general to allow our boys to experience and show their emotional lives, as opposed to suppressing them, I couldn’t help but think of my own ten year old son, and whether I was robbing him of this inalienable right, because I feared society would frown upon him if he showed too much of a feminine streak.
As mothers so many of us , whether in jest or reality are accused of or warned against raising mamas boys– in other words, boys, who cling to us, who are overly emotional, who express their feelings and who would think nothing of kissing us in public. And yet at some point during their formative years, so many of these boys, who were once so openly affectionate, begin to pull back. They no longer share their inner most thoughts with us, or embrace us, or allow us to step inside their emotional lives. In a sense they become hollow inside- and I wonder how much of a chance any of us mothers and or fathers have at preventing our boys from developing into men who wouldn’t be caught dead, holding another male’s hand- after a sports victory or even hugging in an embrace or kissing another on the cheek. Is it because we’re such a homophobic society that we don’t allow or sons to exhibit those behaviors in public? Or is it that we feel our sons will be perceived as less masculine and virile- if we allow them to display their emotions.
Or maybe it’s cultural? In Italian and Latin cultures, it’s very common for men to greet/congratulate each other with a hug or even a kiss. Perhaps it’s a combination of social/cultural factors, how one was raised, and general self confidence. It’s also important to note there are many women that are not touchy-feely either. According to Mr. Cox- the consequence of us not allowing our boys, and men to demonstrate these behaviors is disastrous for them not only on an emotional level but on a physical level too. But honestly do any of us have the emotional fortitude to be that parent who encourages and endorses our son’s public display of emotions? Do we risk allowing him to be the butt of ridicule and bullying? Or does it start with each and everyone one of us. Because honestly, it’s time for a change, our boys (and men) deserve it.