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Mental Health And Me: Toxic Masculinity

Sometimes, some images are hard to get rid of. For me, one of the images is when I got verbally abused in a park. It was truly a terrifying experience, and although I came out with no physical injuries, the anxiety and panic that I had then, is still with me today whenever the images come back, and when I am in my flat. This is because the park was near my house and I feared for my safety. I understand that this happened a long time ago now but it still comes back to me now and again.

I decided to go for a walk around the town I am staying in, with my family. I walked around the football pitch a few times, whilst meditating, and two people asked if I was ok. I instantly had a flashback to that horrible event, and started to feel anxious and uncomfortable. I kept on walking and worried that I would have a similar thing happen if I stayed. However, I looked at them and thought, “they are no reason to worry”. They were lying about, stinking of weed and listening to music on their phones. It got me thinking; “why do we live in a society that tells us what a man or woman should do?” This is something I have struggled with my whole adult life.

You might be asking; what is toxic Masculinity? The New York Times describes it as “what can come of teaching boys that they can’t express emotion openly; that they have to be “tough all the time”; that anything other than that makes them “feminine” or weak.” This also goes deeper into what men can or can’t do, because it is “gay” or “feminine” to do so.

Ever since I was a child, I loved theatre, opera and musicals. I loved the rush that you get as an audience member, and also as a performer. The feeling that we are all sharing the same live experience, whatever the emotion is, is addictive and electric for me. I find it a deeply moving experience every single time, and find it very therapeutic, which is why I find the governments handling of the arts industry (in covid-19 and outside) deeply disturbing- maybe that is a blog post for another time? Anyway, I digress!

To some people, going to the theatre as a man would be seen as being odd, or even, they would take the homophobic stance that it is “gay”. Yes, there are a lot of LGBTQ+ men and women in theatre, but the notion that going to the theatre, somehow, makes you attracted to the same sex, or feminine, is simply laughable. Theatre is inclusive in all meanings of the word. This is why the this horrible homophobic, and quite frankly, offensive statement has always fascinated me.

I cry all the time. I cry at movies, music, when I’m upset, when I am happy. This might also be seen as weird, as men are “not aloud to show emotion”. I know that I am not alone when I say that I bottle up my emotions, and really struggle to show how I really feel about certain situations. You may be having a conversation with me and I’ll have a smile on my face, but inside, I am curled up in a ball and crying. I tend to wait until I am alone to show my emotions, as it is easier for me to do so. As a composer, I try and put all my emotions and thoughts into my work.

I’ve never been a sporty person. I like watching rugby and I love sailing, but apart from that I don’t do sport. I work out, and do yoga, to stay healthy. I can’t understand why being more sporty somehow makes you more of a man, but that is a stereotype. The stereotype that the media forces us to believe is of a fit, sporty model of a man, and that that image is what we should all aspire to. I’ve always struggled with this. All throughout my life, I’ve had people make comments like “You can’t eat that- think about your waist line”, or “No wonder you haven’t had a girlfriend”, or “If you loose a few pounds, you would be more date-able”. Yes, of course we should all aspire to be healthy but there is so much pressure to be perfect, that sometimes this is unbearable. I will always be slightly bigger, and not with big muscles, or a six pack, but I like to think I make up for that in my heart and personality. I’m bigger, I cry and yes, I love theatre and musicals as well.

Get used to it! G xx

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