toddler boy's faceIt’s hard being a boy sometimes. Or a man. Brought up and socialized to check their feelings at the door, guys learn to mute their emotions, and to look askance at those who don’t. But then, a few years later, these same guys are being admonished by moms or girlfriends who (surprise!) are now finding their sons and boyfriends too emotionally remote. Turns out these women had been hoping to see a little more emotional IQ peeking out from underneath their shirtsleeves, a few more convincing signs of modern-day guy sensitivity—that is, of course, as long as their guys are not too obvious about it. Unless they’re gay, in which case it’s okay. Guys who don’t curb their emotionality just right earn unwelcomed comments such as, Oh, my fiancé is such a girl—he cries every time we go to the movies.

What a conundrum for guys who want simply to grow up and be emotionally genuine without worrying about how far they have strayed from the masculine “ideal,” polarized preposterously from its feminine twin in the form of the über-macho man, a living parody of gender. Let’s work toward freeing both males and females from these rigid gender stereotypes, where non-traditional comments, expressions, or reactions are seen as potential violations of long-standing cultural norms rather than as expressions of unencumbered authenticity.

— Janet Sasson Edgette