“Dude, what do you think you’re doing?”

His shocked tone both surprised me and didn’t at the same time. I wanted to come off as curious while not sounding stupid. I simply asked “What?” and watched his eyes widen even further.

“Dude, you took a bath,” Martin exclaimed, eyes now larger than originally thought possible. “How could you take a bath?”

The question seemed ludicrous to me. I walked a lot that day. I was tired. My legs were sore. The bath was hot.

However, I knew where he was coming from. I had interacted with Martin several times before this trip. He would not have been my first choice for a roommate. Or second. Or third. Probably fourth.

He is your typical super straight guy — nice guy, but super straight for sure. Based on my handful of conversations with him, I did deduce he would balk at the idea of taking a bath. However, rooming lists for this trip were assigned, and my other two roommates were awesome. So, I wasn’t going to complain.

I had a few ways to respond to Martin. I figured my initial idea for a response — “Suck my d***” — would not go over well. I also nixed this one: “Guess you’d better guard your loins from the gay bather, then.”

Instead, I went with response number 3: “What’s wrong with a bath?”

“What’s wrong with a — what’s wrong with — what’s WRONG?!” Martin acted like he’d just found out Santa’s not real. “You took a BATH!”

At this point, I couldn’t even respond. I just stared at him, waiting for him to come up with a better argument than stating the obvious.

After a moment, Martin shook his head and said, “Well, I guess I’m just gonna go take a MAN shower before bed.”

Yes, he said “MAN shower.” I couldn’t stand it. I lay in my bed, still somehow relaxed after my soothing bath. I shook my head and said, “Right. It’s just a bath. We’re not in the 1960s, man. Deal with it.”

The conversation diverted from there, thanks to our other two roommates. Martin trudged off to his “MAN shower” — whatever the heck that is — and I continued to feel relaxed and less sore.

It makes me sad, though. This guy is a genuinely nice guy who loves God.

But he’s bought into a delusional sense of masculinity based more on actions than identity. He has given into the lie that men have strict do’s and don’t’s that will somehow contribute or detract from one’s identity and masculinity.

He is living a life led by outside reception and definition rather than by defining himself in Jesus Christ.

And, more importantly, he’s living a life that does’t allow him to enjoy a nice, soothing bath.

And that, dear reader, is the most tragic part of this story.

What are some other things “real men” supposedly do? How do you react whenever your masculinity is called into question?

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  • First of all, I really want to take a bath rn, but can’t because my dorm only has showers :/
    Second, I think this is just a tiny example of the countless things people have labeled as “masculine” and “feminine”. These social norms, I guess, have been a huge part of molding me as I’ve grown up. Looking back, I’m realizing that I would have been a very different person if I had not conformed so much. Even a lot of the things I love ( opera, shopping, cooking, Downton Abbey)/hate (sports, working out, hunting) today, I keep to myself because I know it’s not going to be received well by most of my social circles. It’s sad, i guess, but it’s just become part of my life and I’ve learned to deal with it.

    • Be yourself Daniel because as what Dean said in his article you are defined by being in Christ and that is what really matters in life till the very end. So enjoy your opera, shopping, cooking and Downton Abbey because these are gifts bestowed from God. You should enjoy life and as Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 says, “I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor–it is the gift of God.” So enjoy shopping for the things you need and desire to have, enjoy listening to opera and spending your hard-earned money to watch a performance. Enjoy cooking and the cooking smells that permeate the room. Enjoy Downton Abbey –it’s storylines and period piece costumes–with it’s quality programming that is lacking nowadays on television. You don’t have to deal with keeping those things to yourself. I’m sure those in your social circle don’t keep the things they do to themselves so why should you?

    • I remember being in a dorm that only had showers. It was awful.
      But like Brian said, be yourself and who God created you to be. Enjoy the likes He gave you and use them to glorify Him if you are able. God doesn’t define your masculinity by your hates and loves. He defines you through His Son’s sacrifice.

  • Apparently real men don’t eat quiche either (Kev goes back to munching on his quiche anyway……..).

  • Yes! Dean, I love how short and to-the-point your posts are. And I love this one especially!
    As I was reading the first few paragraphs, I actually thought to myself, “Man, I would have told him to suck my d***!” But then I read the next paragraph and you had the same idea! I’m so glad we know each other!

    • Thank you, Kevin! That means a lot coming from an accomplished writer as yourself!
      And I find it funny that your reaction was similar to mine. I think you would have actually said it out loud is the only difference between us in that situation! 😉

      • I’m not so sure if I would have actually said it. I’ve thought it plenty of times, but I realize that being unnecessarily vulgar, even if right, can do more harm than good for my ultimate cause. Still, I would have stood by you and held that ground with you. I might have even joined you for your next bath if I’d been there. :-p

  • I don’t think that very many men would question the masculinity or manliness of Winston Churchill yet he took hot baths practically every day — oftentimes multiple times a day. He even went so far as to blatantly violate regulations by bringing some sort of apparatus with him into the field during the first World War so he could have hot baths. His favorite pastime was painting pictures, and he wore custom made silk underwear.

  • I had to laugh as I read this. But still, I thought back to the many times I over compensated, trying to be the ideal man. I personally remodeled my home, doing all the carpentry, roofing, electrical work, sheetrock, plumbing, etc; just because I thought I had something to prove. I would also change the oil and the brakes on the car, all just to prove that I could be a normal man. I can and still do all these things, plus keeping the house and cooking (there’s that gay side of me (LOL!)). but now I realize that I was just overcompensating, and trying to be something I’m not. But I most assuredly never took a bath! Showers for me only, as they are what is manly…oooh bubble bath!

    • Oh, I was laughing my head off as I was writing it! But, like you, I have also done things to appear more masculine to compensate for my personal feelings/struggles. Its taken quite a bit of time to truly understand my motivations for the things I do to ensure I’m not unfairly judging myself in a way others are not or should not.
      Also, bubble baths are amazing.

  • As to your question Dean conversely, what are some things “real men” supposedly don’t do. My dad likes to bring me along when he goes “shopping.” Hardware store or grocery store, it doesn’t matter. What for? Simple, I stop and ask for “directions.” Where do you keep the screwdrivers, lightbulbs, milk, bread, eggs, etc.? Guys don’t ask these questions because they want to exert their dominance and independence over their terrain. They want to “figure it out” for themselves and not have to rely on another for assistance. Alternatively, I am of the opinion that my time is too valuable playing hide and seek with what I’m after, therefore, I stop, ask, obtain then proceed to checkout. As far as baths are concerned, my own “manly” dad is a strong believer in baths as he sees them as both effective/practical and cost efficient. Baths allow the water to soak away the grime while using less water to get the job done. Thus baths are less costly than showers as hot water is used up more quickly with the shower option. This may be of little concern at the gym or college setting and showers may be what Martin has grown accustom to being in such settings himself.

    • That’s interesting that your dad has such a belief so deep he refuses to ask for directions in the grocery store. Men, it seems, will make interesting choices to remain seen as masculine. Also, your dad’s belief about baths shows that men don’t always agree on what is “masculine” and what is not (which honestly causes doubt to me on actions truly defining our gender.) And he has pretty good reasons for preferring baths! And that is a good insight as for why Martin typically prefers showers.

  • I like baths and I see nothing wrong with them. There’s nothing masculine or feminine about a bath. It’s just a BATH! Taking a bath allows me time to think — think about what I need to do for the day or the next, items I need for groceries, to think about certain plots/characters for my stories, to evaluate my life and future plans/goals. And taking a bath just allows me to sit down after a hard, rough day and take those memories of it and wash them away.

    • I agree, Brian. I love a good, long bath to unwind after a long day. It is definitely relaxing. Its genderization is as much a mystery to me as it is to you!

    • Thank you for sharing the Bible study! I agree that men should look for their identity in Christ. One of my deeper beliefs about self-development.

  • I’ve had my share of those. I remember a time when my Dad was adamant that real men don’t use body wash and said men use a plain bar of soap instead. I’m not entirely sure where he got this preconception from, as I’ve never heard of it before of since he told me that. There have also been a lot of things in the media that I’ve had to divorce my thoughts on. A lot of times in comedies if a male character ends up naked in front of another male character, the clothed one will often act like seeing another naked man is the most disgusting thing in the world. Or if two men end up physically close they’ll act like its awkward or uncomfortable.

    • Ah, yes, the “humor” that is cast on any sort of male affection. Always fun. I also know about the body wash vs. bar os soap argument. I grew up with that actually. Wasn’t until Men’s body wash (via Axe commercials) became a huge thing that I switch from soap bars to body wash. It is sad that pop culture feeds so much into this all.

  • I was once playing Catchphrase with a bunch of people and got both the answers of Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber. They made some remarks implying that I shouldn’t know such things as a guy and I was just thinking, “Um… I’m sorry I know two of the most popular artists of the decade??”
    Personally, I think there’s a lot more “Don’t”s for guys than “Do”s, especially in modern society where guns, tools, and cars are less popular than they used to be.

    • Good job pointing out that sometimes knowing regular information is neither masculine nor feminine! And I agree- there definitely does seem to be a lot more items on the “Don’t” list. Not sure I like that.

  • This story is hilarious. Thanks for sharing! From now on, the only kind of shower I’m ever going to take will be a MAN shower. lol

  • Hmm…sounds like his masculinity is hanging by a thread…
    I would have responded: “At least I don’t have to bend over in a bath to pick up my bar of soap!

  • We did not have a shower when I was growing up. Only bathtubs. I started using showers in college and always had one after that. I preferred them, but I did not realize they were supposed to make one manly. Apparently it didn’t work :^)
    I have a Jacuzzi tub now; about 4 feet deep and 5 feet long. I get it as hot as I can possibly stand and soak in it for about an hour every day. Leaves me feeling glorious.
    My Dad passed away recently and I found his shot guns hidden a way in a crawl space of the storage room in the basement of his house. The last time I had seen those, I was 10 years old. He tried to teach me how to shoot. I thought we had a nice time. Apparently he did not because he never took me shooting again. Anyway, I gathered up those shotguns and me and a pastor friend went out shooting last week. He’s a gun nut. He also knows about my SSA as does the church we serve. Anyway, I jokingly asked for my man card back. It generated quite a laugh from my straighter than straight friend. I also fired his AR-15. It was all a good time. But it’s one of those things that is supposed to be masculine, or as they say on the Irish Spring commercial, “manly yes, but I like it too”….
    I have also loved fishing for most of my life. Many see that as a manly pursuit. I do it because I have always enjoyed it and I’m pretty good at it. It’s fun for me. I like being outdoors and in a boat on the water.

  • This is odd timing by reading the post before taking a soak. My joints ache, my muscles hurt, I’m tired, and I don’t give a hoot what anybody else thinks about my masculinity–that attitude is probably what made me finally realize I’m happier when I aim to please Christ first and not men. The first step (he never saw it coming) when I told a friend during dude night that I’m gay (“Shut up–you lie!”) to now coming out and admitting I soak/take a bath. Now that I’ve come out and admitted to him that I have a lot of wounds from growing up and am ready to be open with him, letting my friend know I take a bath seemed mild. So please excuse me while I go fill the tub….

    • Reading while bathing- now you’re getting into dangerous territory, friend! In all honesty, I love reading while bathing. Such a luxurious thing to enjoy.

  • Oh, dang, I didn’t know baths were gay! I’ll add that to the list of things I can’t admit to enjoying, like theater, clothes shopping, period dramas, affection from other guys, etc. Wouldn’t want anyone to know that I actually have feelings or something!

  • Sometimes I just want a nice long soak in a hot bath. I put in some epsom salts to soothe my aching muscles. I will soak for maybe an hour before getting out. It’s nice. Didn’t know it was un-manly. But I have a friend (and maybe this is a Southern thing, now that I live in Tennessee and no longer Southern California), and he is always telling me that “men” don’t do this and that. He first told me that men don’t ask other men out for coffee. Now, I go out with my best friend all the time. We are always going to eat someplace. We think nothing of it. Do people see us eating together and talking and automatically think we are gay or a couple? Because… men don’t ask other men for coffee? And then he told me to stop hugging him with two arms.. just one arm.. the one arm bro hug. When you hug with two arms.. it looks gay. Huh. Well, I told him in California, we hug in church all the time… full hugs. Nobody thinks someone is gay in church. We’re just loving Christians. Then, the other day we were talking and I was telling him about one of my clients…. who calls me a lot. I said, “he’s a sweet guy…. but..” and he said.. “don’t call him a sweet guy… that’s not manly… call him a nice guy.” Well… I just don’t know this stuff.

    • That is sadly a common thing amongst a lot of guys I have met. I want to encourage you to not let that stop you- keep doing what you want to do in those areas and don’t let other people’s limited perspectives deter you.
      Also, you should totally buy that guy a Starbucks gift card for you guys to use to “get coffee” together. See how he reacts to that. 😉

    • I go out for coffee or lunch with my friends all the time! I do live in California, though, so maybe it is a cultural difference. And don’t get me started on the side hug. Side hugs must die.

      • I got a full hug from him today… but we were in the privacy of his home and he was even in just his underwear!! But he really does have a thing about how things are perceived. He told me no full on hugs at the park or out in public. He told me today a man from his church saw us at the park and he came up to him at church and said, “I saw you at the greenway with your gay friend.” He quickly made up some story about how I was not gay, just an old friend he had not seen for years and wanted to get together and walk and talk. (I guess that would partly explain the big hug that he may have seen.) I guess he did not want to tell the guy that I was his hiking buddy.

  • Why is it gay to take a bath by yourself but it’s ok to hit the whirlpool with the guys? I had a client who was straight as all get out, he ran a shipbuilding company, and he took 2 baths a day. He had us design his tub with computer hookups so he could run his business from his tub.
    My tub is too shallow and too short and it’s not relaxing to me unless you can get submerged, but on vacation, yeah, it’s like the best thing. Kudos to everyone who can read in the tub. I’ve dozed off and ruined a book that way.
    Happy St. Patrick’s Day y’all!

    • Don’t get me started about the “whirlpool with the guys.” A local YMCA here has a Jacuzzi/whirlpool located in the men’s’ locker room that is “clothing optional.” Guys can enter (after taking a mandatory shower) in the buff. Sometimes you might be by yourself while other times you might be sharing the space. I never felt uncomfortable getting in the pool with another guy in the nude. Just seemed rather awkward when you step into the pool and they’re stand in your way at the staircase. As far as reading in the tub, no thanks. Too afraid I’d drop the book in the water. I would rather listen to the radio, an audiobook or YOB podcast broadcasted from my phone in a safe and secure location/distance.

      • There was a Y near work and some of us would play racquetball at lunch and there was a public whirlpool off the pool where clothing was mandatory but the shower wasn’t. There was also a steam room where no one ever wore a towel. I’d hit the steam room with guys from work but when I tried it on my own, found sitting around naked with strangers in a dark room & no one talking was awkward and creepy.
        Props to you Eddie on the plug for the podcast.

          • Thank you, Eddie! I wasn’t sure how much this topic would engage you guys- I honestly more wanted to share a story that I found rather funny and enjoyable. However, I love that it has spurred on so many incredible conversations and comments! That is a huge blessing to me! Thank you for helping continue building this community!

        • yeah, bluzhawk. I agree about the sitting around naked with strangers and no one talking creepy thing. I’ve been to a couple Korean spas lately as was disappointed that NO ONE wanted to talk. Why can’t we just relax, talk like human beings and be ourselves in these settings, right?

    • That is a good point you bring up about the whirlpools/saunas. Those are seen as “manly” somehow though baths are not seen that way. Again, just shows some of the contradictions of perceiving masculinity incorrectly.

      • Eddie’s right, good topic. But it takes good writing to make it engaging, so kudos to you. I’ll bet there could be a series of posts on double standards we accept without thinking about or pushing back on. In both culture and church, sometimes things are just crazy dumb. Too often lifestyle choices get judged as character issues and flaws. Add in everyone’s kinda blind to something and it’s a good surprise – and a mystery to me – how things change for the better.

  • My response would have been, “You do know even manly men like Norsemen, and Western Pioneers took baths, right? Hell, Japanese men still do it to this day in bath houses!”

    • I would venture that Martin is (with all due respect) speaking from his own ethnocentric perspective from one of a modern western civilization standpoint. This can be quite problematic and conflictual when at odds from another part of the world or for that matter another culture entirely. The failing with harboring an ethnocentric attitude is the myopic belief that your way is the right way in all cases. It is a shortsighted and narrowminded viewpoint that can lead to disharmonious results and outcomes.

      • LOL! So baths aren’t part of “modern western civilization” now? When did that happen, I didn’t get the memo? Why don’t I ever the get the memo?

    • Yeah, and what about them Romans? Building and taking baths all over creation–such weenies!

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