To All the Men I’ve Ever Known & to Those I Haven’t Met Yet: I Want You To Know 10 Things.
You are good. If you ever question whether or not you are good, you are good. If you are tired, if you are trying, if you ever feel like you are a fish on a bicycle and just want to have legs and be on land—we understand. We feel that too. But you must understand this: You are good, and you deserve to be loved. I agree with Hafiz. I know: Your love has an eloquent tone. The sky and I want to hear it. So speak up.
You are pretty. Not just handsome, not just strong, or burly, or hairy backed man-pretty but you are pretty.
Your eyes are the only shade of aquamarine I’ve ever seen. The red birthmark on your cheek makes you look like you’ve always just been kissed. Your smile is the perfect light to read by, and yes, your biceps do look great by that midnight Mac computer screen light.
Never let a woman tell you you are too fat or too skinny or too weak or ugly or stupid or that you can’t dance. Never let a man tell you these things. Never, ever tell them to yourself.
And when you do (which you will), refer back to one and two, then go to the closest mirror, look yourself in the eye, and say, out loud, “Don’t you ever talk to me like that.” Speak up.
Dance. Or write. Move, or sing or play. Offer to babysit your best friend’s child for a few hours just so you can play with Legos.
I bet you’ll build something cool.
This does not mean that we will agree with all of your feelings.
Talk about your feelings, for god’s sake, with other men. Your lovers are not your teachers, we are not your mothers, we are not your sounding boards, your bosses, your therapists or your punching bags. Consider your relationship to blogging. Get your feelings out there, somewhere.
But come home to your lovers with the honey from your day, just the sweetness that’s been taken in, processed, and made into sticky stuff flavoured with deadlines, love notes, lavender, the unique sweat of fear, and whatever else comes home with you.
We want to hear it. Just not all of it.
Get to know and love your body. Touch, with your hands, the parts of yourself that you hate, the love handles, the armpit hair, the double chin, the receding hairline, and touch them with your hands. Touch them the way you would want the love of your life to touch them, with affection and acceptance, and that little wing out of dizzy when you know you love someone because they are real, and they are here, and they have the most perfect receding hairline. Let this loving touch turn you on. Then touch whatever you want to touch.
Stop having sex with people you don’t want to have sex with. It is just as okay for you to say “no” as it is for women to say “no.” Speak up, man, and learn the word “no.” Treat your body like a gift you only give to lovers. Understand the difference between lovers and strangers.
Consider your relationship to body hair removal systems. Think about how much they hurt and how they make you feel. Consider that chest hair, soft on a cheek, is sweet and kind and warmer in winter. Consider that stubble is sharp, and you—as you are—are sweet, and soft on my cheek.
Stand up for your damn self. Believe in something. Want something. Women have no problem with nice guys, unless “nice” means having no opinion and doing everything we say. It is sexy when you stand up for yourself. It is sexy when you tell us what you want. It is sexy when you make decisions.
This does not mean that we will agree with all of your decisions.
I am sorry.
I am sorry for all the times I treated you like you were less than a gift. I am sorry for taking the feminist torch into a locked room and silencing you outside that door. I am sorry for all the times I said that “women are like this,” and “men are like that,” and for treating you and me as any less than a human and a human. That’s all we are, and we’ve always been good at it.
This world can get Lego-block better. This world can be softer on our cheeks, warmer in winter, and your smile can light our houses better. But we have to do this together. And we can’t until we both, you and me human, can burn lists like these outside our jailhouse doors, stand up on podiums, on writing desks, bar stools, dance floors, and in front of bathroom mirrors and speak up, not as men or as women or as strangers, but as lovers, as humans, good, and getting better all the time.
Editor: Kate Bartolotta.