I’m streaming some music videos and come across this oldie but goodie from Sting, a song about a gay man from the 1980s, one that I love. “Englishman in New York” talks about NYC gay icon Quentin Crisp.
A set of lines in the song strike me particularly, what Sting describes what it means to be a man:
Modesty, propriety can lead to notoriety /
You could end up as the only one /
Gentleness, sobriety are rare in this society /
At night a candle’s brighter than the sun…
Takes more than combat gear to make a man /Sting, “Englishman in New York”
Takes more than a license for a gun /
Confront your enemies, avoid them when you can /
A gentleman will walk but never run.”
It strikes in particular the ideas we all have of what it means to be a man, despite we don’t have the tests of manhood of yore or that modern tribal cultures still enforce. Some ideas (none are universal) include the ability to provide, the ability to produce many children, the embodiment of toughness. Others include land/resource ownership (or capital), social stature, possessing certain skills or behaviors, or achieving certain milestones.
Even funnier is the catch-22 US society puts upon trans men: why we are trying to expand the meaning of masculinity with cissexual men, trans men who don’t act “manly enough” will have their transition or sex change questioned.
I’m not here to challenge notions of sex and gender. I don’t like making jokes about “pizza roles, nor gender roles“. I was someone born female who wanted to become one of the boys, and with time, that’s what I did. I’m the guy that tells my butch friends to be proud of theie own masculinity. I’m the guy that tells women to be themselves, and ignore all the political BS about they should or shouldn’t do.
I’m the guy who holds doors open for everyone, hoping the courtesy gets passed on. I modernize the ideas my own father is trying to catch me up on, what it means to be a man.
Be yourself, no matter what they say.Sting, “Englishman in New York”
What does it mean, to me, to be a man? It’s the archaic way of saying of being an adult: maturity, responsibility, dependability, reliability, honesty. Working an honest job if you’re able to, instead of relying needlessly on welfare, and trying to show up on time without constant excuses. It means providing for those around you, even the bloke down the street if they fall on hard times. It means paying your share of taxes and tithes. It means opening the door for everyone. It means giving respect, and if you’re not sure, asking for guidance in what to do properly.
It means admitting fault when you cause an accident and paying up as necessary. It means knowing when you need help and asking for it. It means not judging others who are different from you.
It means giving respect, asking how others want to be treated, and always trying tour hardest. That’s what it means to be a man…or what it means to adult, in modern parlance.