Men explain toxic masculinity to me
1. At a coffee shop in Chicago not long ago, while quietly reading through the memoir I had spent the previous five years writing, I was interrupted by a man with long grey hair pulled back into a ponytail. He looked to be in his mid-50s and had the sun-weathered face of a man who'd probably spent a good deal of time working outdoors. "Are those galleys?" he asked, leaning over the table to eyeball the pages spread out before me.
I looked up at him, surprised and somewhat taken aback by the intrusion, but I forced a smile and said they were indeed galleys. He moved in closer and asked what the book was about. "It's a reckoning with toxic masculinity," I answered.
His eyes narrowed. "I hate that term," he said, using his hands to emphasize his disdain. "You shouldn't write about toxic masculinity because it doesn't exist. You should write about nourishing masculinity. You should write about ..."
The man's instructions came emphatically and rapid fire, one after the other, about all the things I should write about instead of toxic masculinity, a thing he seemed to be insisting didn't exist while simultaneously proving that it did.
2. According to the American Psychological Association, "masculinity ideology" is a certain set of descriptive, prescriptive, and small-minded perceptions about boys and men. There are, of course, differences in masculinity ideologies—some that are less small-minded, less restrictive than others—but there is also a particular constellation of standards that have held sway over large segments of the population for quite some time. Often, this particular ideology idealizes anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence. Collectively, these are now referred to as "traditional masculinity ideology."
3. I set out to write a story that I had been trying to tell for 20 years, a story about losing a father and becoming a father, about violence and rebellion, about work and friendship and loss, about trying to disappear myself—over and over again—with cocaine and vodka and pills.