(Continued from “Why women feel inadequate.”)
“Men feel inadequate because inside they don’t feel like men,” I say. “They feel like boys.”
“Why?” asks Denise.
“Again, socialization. I wrote about this the Four Wounds post series.”
“I read that,” Amy nods.
“I didn’t,” says Bonnie.
“I’ll summarize,” I say. “I said the key to understanding men is to realize that most boys suffer four wounds — four losses — in childhood from which they never recover.
“First they’re forced to give up their mothers before they’re ready. Not just their actual mothers — because, you know, a boy who stays too attached to Mom is a mama’s boy. But we also expect them to give up mothering itself, and everything it represents — softness and nurturing and affection and empathy. Why? Because those are feminine virtues. We expect boys to be stereotypically masculine — tough, brave, aggressive and stoic.
“They also lose their fathers. Once upon a time boys spent time with fathers, working alongside them in fields or workshops. They had a chance to get a sense of what a grown man is and how he behaves, to absorb male energy, so to speak. But nowadays dads go off to work early and come home late, leaving their sons only a vague idea of where Dad is or what he’s doing all day. And the son spends his time in the company of mothers and grandmothers and female teachers and babysitters. He has no internalized male road map to follow out of boyhood.
“Then, on top of being under-parented, boys are forced to give up their feelings. This starts for most of us in grade school, or even earlier. You know what I’m talking about. All that big-boys-don’t-cry crap.”
“Yes,” Denise says. “When my son cries, my husband gets so mad.”
“How old is your son?” asks Emma.
“Six,” Denise says sadly.
“Exactly,” I say. “So first we deprive them of parenting, then we take away their right to complain about it. What do we tell boys who show fear or weakness? Be a man.
“Finally, we expect males to give up their freedom — first to go to school, then to work, and sometimes to war. We expect them to sacrifice themselves for the sake of family and community, whether they want to or not. And again, this is such a given that they’re not allowed to have feelings about it or complain. But if they’re not up to it, god help them.
“All this sends most men into adulthood feeling unprepared, secretly inadequate, and often, deeply angry.”
“My husband’s mad all the time,” muses Caroline. “I never knew why.”
“Most men don’t know why, either,” I say.
“Of course they find ways to medicate these feelings. Some focus on making money or climbing the ladder of success. Some chase women, have lots of sex, marry attractive wives. Some buy stuff and collect stuff. Some run for office. Some bully women, children and others weaker than themselves. And when all this fails many drink, or drug, or overeat, or overwork. Or have heart attacks.
“Yikes,” says Amy.
“So you’re saying all men and all women feel secretly inadequate,” Denise says.
“Pretty much,” I say. “We just don’t talk about it.”
“Because we each think it’s our fault,” says Amy.
I nod. “We think feeling inadequate means we are inadequate. That’s part of the brainwashing.”
“That’s awful,” Emma says. “I don’t want my kids growing up like this.”
The others nod.
“Is the brainwashing inevitable?” asks Amy. “Or can we prevent it?”
“Actually,” I say, “I think you can.”
(To be continued.)