Hello loves. Happy Fiesta of Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Lucia Day, Hanukkah, Christmas, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa, Omisoka, Yule, and Saturnalia! December is full of celebration and spreading kindness; indulge.
I’d like to focus on men in this column. I work with a lot of young men at my day job as an academic advisor. As they walk out of my office after an appointment I’ll say, “Don’t forget to eat peanut butter, talk kindly to yourself, and get sleep!”… and I usually receive a funny look in response. Some men, (not all), think self-care is fluffy and “girly.” Or they just haven’t thought about it at all. But I truly believe a lot of issues (interpersonal, national, global) could be tempered if more straight, cisgender men took time for self-care. Read below for my tips, boys. (And other readers—this column is not meant to isolate anyone—these tips can apply to all identities.)
F E E D Y O U R B O D Y
I was at a bar with a friend recently, and after explaining this column idea, she encouraged me to ask our male bartenders what they do for self-care. They both stared at me, bemused; one replied, “You mean, like, going to the gym?” So I poked further and asked what he does when at the gym, to which he replied “Weights.”
“Do you enjoy lifting weights?”
He told me he doesn’t think about it; he just wants better biceps for a new tattoo. Fair. Bicep tattoos are sexy. But the “I don’t think about it” is key. I encourage you to think about your body and how it wants to move. Seriously! Stop reading this for a second and ask yourself, “If I could move/exercise right this second, what exercise would I pick?” Maybe it’s golf! Maybe it’s lyra! Maybe it’s the robot. Point being, the opportunities for endorphin release can be so diverse and varied—go for a hike! Urban or mountain. Take your partner/Tinder date/friend out dancing. Or dance in your family room. Or just do pigeon pose for five minutes. Trust me—your hips will thank you.
Hey, maybe the whole point is that you don’t WANT to think about it—you enjoy a blank brain while lifting weights; it’s a de-stressor. And I get that! It’s your journey. I just wonder if by being more present, you’ll discover movements and exercises that are more satisfying and rewarding and that lead to other discoveries and creativity within.
F E E D Y O U R S P I R I T
As mentioned above, I am an academic advisor. I speak with engineering students between the ages of 18-24 about their schedules, academic policies, and campus resources. Engineering means a lot of male students (working on it) and much of the time I’m speaking with stressed students. From my point of view, stress takes the form of silence for young men—they don’t want to open up in fear of being viewed as weak or vulnerable. I’m here to say vulnerability is a pillar of self-care. When you ask for help, you are doing yourself and others a huge service.
I. Know. It’s. Not. Easy. Nor. Comfortable. In which case, how can it be a weakness? It is strength to talk to someone about your problems and fears. And there are options—you don’t have to be vulnerable in front of your academic advisor, your family, your partners, etc., if you’re not ready for that. There are help hotlines, online therapists, and face-to-face therapists in lots of corners of the world. Again, I realize it’s hard to just start talking about yourself. But if there is something (maybe it’s buried deep, maybe it’s something that happened yesterday) that you need to get out, it will only get better if you talk about it and thus process it. If it’s really serious, be patient; healing takes time.
F E E D Y O U R C O M M U N I T I E S
We have all heard of ol’ boys’ clubs. These should be tucked away into the past. I know, I KNOW—a lot of these clubs have given money and service to communities, but the giving tends to mask the misogyny, racism, homophobia, etc. embedded deep into these clubs. Guys, intentionally join a club that has women in it. That has LBGTQIA+ people in it. That has Muslims and Jewish people and Buddhists in it. The wonderful, flavorful, amazing thing about joining a diverse club is that you don’t have to agree with everyone! You just have to be kind and you have to listen and you have to be open. Because there are so many damn people in this world, there are so many opportunities to join a club. Check out the app Meetup if you need ideas. And it’s just a fact that when you support and learn from others, you take care of yourself.
Alright, alright. I’m certain I’ve gotten some eye rolls. I have three brothers—I know the self-care movement is a bit awkward for the men who grew up in a culture telling them that self-love and sadness and emotion (outside of anger) is weak. It’s not, though. You’re allowed to express sadness, excitement, nervousness, etc. freely and openly. Who cares if people judge? That’s their problem, not yours. I was trying to find a quote on vulnerability said by a famous “manly man,” but found none worthy, (a lot of Randy Savage quotes popped up). Instead, I’ll quote the other bartender I met the day mentioned above, who said “I brush my teeth.” BRUSH THEM. Trust your gut. Celebrate your holidays.
And most importantly, take good (self) care.
Email me with questions, concerns, ideas at [email protected]