Row of Lockers

Never Trust a Boy to Tell You How to Be a Man

Row of Lockers
Row of Lockers, by Stephanie Nicholas

Dear Son,

As an aside to my last letter, and an observation of the culture of teenaged boys.  Teen boys will always try and play you on the Masculinity angle.  Teenaged boys are desperate to be seen as Men, and they know that about one another.

Accordingly, they will try and tell you what “real men” do and do not do all the time.  They will make fun of you for being a “boy”.

Remember that they have no goddamn clue what they are talking about.  Ever.  They are as much men-in-training as you are.  Whenever a teenaged boy tries to convince you to stop something because it is embarassingly boyish, immature or juvenile, or tries to convince you to do something because it is the thing a grown man would do, ti is because he is trying to control you.

Half the time he is doing it because once you let him play that game once, suddenly he gets to be the arbiter of manliness, and that puts him in power over you in his mind.  About a quarter of the time, he stands to make himself look bigger in front of other boys by being the one to tell you how to be a man (actual grown Men don’t give a damn whether other men think they are manly.)  About an eighth of the time they will do it because they really want to feel like a man, and getting others to do what they think is manly will make them feel like they are on the right track.  The last eighth of the time, these boys are going to be selling you something (really or metaphorically) that they know you won’t buy if they don;t play with your feelings first.

Don’t buy it.  Do what you want, or ask a real grown man you trust what he thinks.

For that matter, this is good advice for grown men, too.  For grown men, when another man tries to tell you how to be a man, what he really ants is for you to be an inferior copy of himself.  Judge accordingly.

With love,


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