What is a Man?

Content Warning; This story contains vulgar language, and discussion of societal gender constructs.

Have we met? I’m the very tall, bulky man in the back of the room. The one that sticks out above the sea of NPCs between me and you. I’m six feet, seven inches tall. That is one inch shy of standard doorways. From there I look like I could kill things. Easily. I have a full beard, purposefully groomed to look unkempt. I’m broad and I have resting a-hole face. Will I kill you if you approach me? You can’t know. I know. But, at this point you don’t. You just see a tree of a man, am I a man? What is a man anyway? You don’t care, cause I look like a mighty oak from your point-of-view. Could you take me down a notch? With the proper elements of surprise?


As you get closer, the picture of me becomes clearer. I’m tall, yes, and gruff, but you can see a tenderness in my pale eyes, and softness to my shape. I’m not carved from wood. My hands less sledge hammers, more rubber mallets. The end of each finger is decorated and glossy, a Christmas tree perhaps? I’m less intimidating somehow. The closer you get, the more you realize I’m harmless. I’m trying to avoid eye contact now, for fear you’ll see the truth, the reality that my visage is a facade. A strong wind could send me end-over-end just out of frame.

I’ve long feared someone would penetrate my illusion. The armor I’ve crafted. Find out that behind the curtain lies a person much more demure and fragile. A man? What is a man? I’m certainly not a man by any socially common definition. And if you were to discover this secret, I’d have to disappear.

Growing up in the late nineteen hundreds I was smothered in the propaganda of masculinity and regaled of men better than I ever could hope to be. A trauma to my ego. At five I knew I’d never be a man’s man. Hell, I didn’t even like being around other men. Pissing contests and shoving matches par for the course, I needed a detour through the construction zone of puberty.

“Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche” is a book that came out when I was a child, I didn’t understand the concept of satire then—fuck I’m not sure I do now. The title always struck me as odd. Why would anyone, let alone strictly men be averse to such a delicious breakfast pie? It made no sense. And that was a joke. The real stuff I’d hear about manhood, and living up to one’s potential, especially one granted the body of a man before his time, those were the real destroyers of innocence, the damaging and intrusive thoughts. The ones that held me back from my truth, my reality.

I was born male. I identify as male-ish. But I don’t identify as a “Man”. Machismo’s not my bag son.

It took me nearly forty-seven years to come to terms with the idea that masculinity wasn’t a set of predefined, rock-hard rules. That it’s OK to live outside the lines. To be a man as you see fit. To define masculinity as you see it, live it. I spent a great deal of my youth worrying about being joyously and violently exposed for not fitting the mold. I’ve broken the mold, and I’m all out of fucks.

Hi, I’m James it’s good to finally meet you.