Okay, before we get into this, I need to lay my cards face up on the table.
I like fast cars and motorbikes – especially loud ones. I enjoy hot curry. I listen to indie bands and prog rock. I don’t get the skinny jeans thing and prefer to wear my trousers around my waist and not hanging off my rear. I own an air rifle. I like toys and gadgets and one of my favourite films is Rocky II (arguably the best of the lot of ‘em).
I also like top 10 lists, facts and stats about any sort of vehicle, building or structure and like to see things explode – especially caravans. I lift weights, go fishing, enjoy a sporting challenge that hurts (I’m running the Snowdonia marathon in a few months’ time) and don’t like clothes shopping or musicals. I mean, why sing when you can have a conversation? I love hanging out with the blokes and enjoy real ale and good wine. I am a cliché of a man.
Or so you would think.
I’m also married and have two daughters. This means I watch chick flicks. I’m not stereotyping women, it’s a fact that they like them, so I watch them with them because I like their company. I have to say that another one of my favourite films is Sleepless in Seattle (every man needs a guilty pleasure). Gets me every time. It also means I get to cast opinions on clothes, make-up, self image, romance dilemmas and demonstrate tenderness and gentleness towards my daughters. I hug my kids, and tell all the girls in my life every day that I love them. In fact, I love nothing more than a night in with my family. I also dabble in playing both classical piano and guitar, read history books, enjoy star-gazing and have published some poems. Go figure. Unbelievably, I also love to cook for my family and tidy up afterwards. I’m also an animal lover with a big soft spot for dogs. (I have something of a small zoo). I also have a thing about nature in general and a little-known fact is that I like trees and was once a member of the Woodland Trust.
The point being, we are all deeper and more complex than might appear on the surface.
Don’t make the mistake of pigeon-holing someone because they like certain things or talk a certain way. It’s discrimination. This often happens to me. As an example, I was once introduced as:
“This is Carl Beech, don’t let his accent and appearance fool you, he’s actually quite bright underneath it all.”
On another occasion, someone said:
“You don’t look and sound like someone with two degrees.”
If it wasn’t funny, words like that can really wind a guy from Essex up. The thing is that by the same token, telling me what I should or shouldn’t be in order to be a man is equally as offensive. And nor should I, as the leader of an international men’s ministry define what a so called ‘real man’ should look and sound like.
It mildly amuses me that for the most part it’s women who are commentating on what real masculinity is. I could cite many articles written by women on this issue. Now think about it. If I as a man was to publish an article on ‘femininity’, I would probably be rounded up and kicked out of Dodge before you could say ‘internal combustion engine’. Leave us be. We’ll work it out.
Back to the heading; personally, I think fruit tea is a bit weird. It’s a bit like drinking hot blackcurrant juice but paying a lot more for it. Why bother? But if that’s ya poison, fill ya boots. In my opinion, the same goes for the way some men choose to express their masculinity. The bottom line is this: be your own man. Things go wrong when men feel they have to order a beer at a bar, just because everyone else is. If you want an orange juice then have one. Babycham is a different story. The same goes for sport. I don’t massively follow football. Surprised you now, haven’t I? I get interested because millions of men are interested and it’s a great way to reach out. I feel no pressure to conform though. You like playing the harp and tapestry as a man? Fine by me. You like loud engines and real ale? Fine by me. You like skinny jeans? Bit weird, but fine by me! And so it should be for all of us.
What I will do is challenge negative aspects of masculinity. Violence against women, propagating sex trafficking by visiting brothels, buying porn etc. I won’t knock testosterone though. And nor should you. That there are men willing to use their testosterone to keep us safe and lay down their lives is always ignored when men are criticised for their aggression. It can be harnessed for good and not ill. The world needs strong and fearless men on a number of different levels. Radical love through to radical ‘life on the line’ action.
Anyway, as far as I am concerned, there are millions of men in the UK who like the ‘man stuff’ who don’t know Jesus. Christian Vision for Men and I meet them on their turf and in a way that they understand. The Church needs to grasp this idea as well and ban streamers and God snog songs. Maybe I’m a cliché in your eyes, but for the sake of the millions of men dying without Jesus, I’m happy to be one. Just don’t buy me a fruit tea if we ever meet.