Walking into manhood has felt less like an epic saga and more like stumbling drunkenly and blindly through the valley of death and dying.

I tried to find my strength, fortitude, and the path to manhood on my own; years later, I still come up short. My feelings of inadequacy pointed to where I was wounded and by whom.

My dad made it clear that my mannerisms made me different, and there my obsession began. Years of self-correction amounted to nothing and my effeminate mannerisms gave away my secret shame.

I was not masculine and had no idea how I’d get to the promised land.

I didn’t know there was a way and that it can be revealed to us in other godly men. That there are parts of me, however wild and foolish, that can be safely explored in the company of peers.

After two decades, I finally found myself back to a place where I was free enough to explore the tenets of manhood and masculinity without having to embrace them. If I were to list what I thought those attributes are, I’m sure my list would differ from yours.

I began to understand what I was groomed into believing wasn’t the full truth.

I was a man first, and what I did and did not choose to do flowed from that — not the other way around.

I began to feel a shift. Slowly, the presence of older men and men my age grew more frequent.

Something began to awaken inside of me — and I think it was me.

I had victoriously carved a niche for myself in a culture that demanded I be a Neanderthal (hyperbole intended). Then, as quickly as it began, it was over.

I decided to move several states away, and months later what I lost became clearer — a bit of myself.

In more ways than I know, I was longing for the man I was becoming.

I found myself in a strange new world where once again I felt insufficient.  A world where I wasn’t emotional enough.

Where men were once praised for their strength (none of which I received), men were now being praised for their emotional output. And I found myself in the middle.

I asked myself whether I traded one performance-based culture for another? One where physical performance comes second to emotional performance?

I find myself divulging information that I normally wouldn’t. Not because I feel led but pressured to do so. Unwritten codes that whisper: this is what we do, and if you’re one of us you’d be wise to do it.

Sound familiar?

It is understandable to want to create a new system outside the one that has rejected you. One where every part of you belongs — as a friend of mine put it, the invention of a new machismo.

But I am not interested in a new machismo, finding a new way to be a man, a new way of determining what a real man is and isn’t, a way to separate myself from the worthy and unworthy.

I just want to be me and given the space to explore who he is.

I find myself longing for the Neanderthal.

Have you felt pressured to be more or less of a “physical man” or an “emotional man”? Where do you feel more comfortable or uncomfortable? What does “machismo” mean to you?

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