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Macho Men Die Early: The Destructive Rules of Traditional Masculinity

One of the defenses of the macho ethic is that it encourages men to be tough to protect their families. Even if that were true, you can’t protect if you’re not there.

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In just a few months, I will have outlived my father’s father. That’s a haunting thought, especially as I have a very young daughter. Heloise is only 2; my wife and I took a long sweet time to become parents. If I am to see my little girl grow middle-aged, I am keenly aware I need to make different decisions than my father and grandfathers made before me. I can’t prevent every accident, of course, and even the most careful attention to diet, exercise, and doctor visits isn’t a perfect prophylaxis against untimely death. All any of us can do is improve our odds. And improving those odds means letting go of the foolish masculine ideal that demands we treat our bodies as if they were indestructible.

One of the defenses of the macho ethic is that it encourages men to be strong and tough to protect and defend their families and communities. Even if that were true, you can’t protect if you’re not present. The tragedy of traditional masculinity is that it shortens men’s lives; the scandal is that it does so in the name of making them better husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons.

We need to remind men that part of being a “real man” is being mentally, emotionally, and physically present for the people who love and rely upon us. Being present—and staying present—requires us to be better stewards of our bodies and our spirits. It doesn’t mean hypochondria or endless introspection. It means remembering that our value doesn’t lie only in our capacity to defend or to provide. It lies in our capacity to love, to connect, and to nurture.

We can do none of those things if we aren’t there.

 

 
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