International Men’s Day 2022

My gorgeous three month old grandson is having a wonderful time with a brand new
activity. He has just started with Tummy Time on a mat on the floor, lifting his head, looking
around and all the time building his strength.
I wonder what the world will look like for him when he eventually gets to his feet and
becomes a boy and then a man.
You see it is a strange place out there for all of us, of course, but especially for men.
I read this week about the Becoming the Man initiative, which started in the US and is now
over here. It is a fantastic idea to develop safe spaces – physically and mentally – for young
men to talk, learn and move forward.
As such it mirrors the work of a variety of movements that have developed in this country
like Men’s Sheds, which have been memorably described as places to converse, connect
and create.

Closer to home, I had the great privilege of attending a face to face event yesterday with a
large group from a Cumbrian company. In a very interesting and wide ranging discussion
someone spoke very eloquently about the power of conversations between men springing
out of seemingly practical unrelated chat.
However we manage it, whatever pretext we create to get the conversation started this
is vital work. We often remain stuck as men with self-appointed roles to be strong, be
practical, avoid emotions and never let the mask slip, let alone talk.
What all the initiatives highlighted above from the very informal to the highly structured
are saying is there is another way. And there needs to be. We lose far too many men to
suicide, far too many relationships founder and break because men can’t open up and
there are too many men struggling in silence.

Talking is tough, opening up about feelings requires a massive leap of faith and trust.
Our perception is that it will diminish us in the eyes of others – a very male
preoccupation. However the evidence shows talking works – people will respect and
respond, they will mostly be kind (and frankly we can do without the unkind ones) and
what is more the act of sharing helps all involved.
But what it requires is something more. The world of cage fighting has passed me by
until now. Never seen a fight. Don’t know a thing about it.
But now I have a favourite fighter. He is called Cameron Conaway and he said ‘ultimate
vulnerability, that’s manly.’
One of the things I hope to help teach my little grandson long after he has graduated
from the joys of Tummy Time is that he can safely ‘show his tummy’ to those around
him. It is a safe and strong thing to do. We will love him for telling us how he feels and
what makes him sad as well as happy. He will always have permission to be himself, to
be human, and frail sometimes, because that’s manly.

Michael Boaden
Carlisle Eden Mind