Friday, April 15, 2011

Is the Alpha-Male a Real Person?

This is another guest blog post from a friend whose experience and background is similar to my own. The photos of the boots shown in the post below are from my friend's collection.

By: the Only Booted Man in Town

In a previous guest blog, I talked about why I wear cowboy boots in a US state where doing so is an oddity. Not unheard of; just a rare occurrence. Here I delve into the correlation between boot-wearing and that scary thing called Masculinity.

Let me talk about my own personal story a bit before I jump into generalities. I grew up in a stable home. No dysfunction, or no more dysfunction than is found in typical families. I had a happy childhood. But I was a loner for the most part. I did have friends, but a lot of times, when I got a good friend they moved away. Or they started playing with other kids. I was bullied in elementary school (sound familiar?) because I wasn't that typical boy and didn't do typical boy things, and wasn't good at sports. Picked last on the team, beamed by the ball at dodgeball -- you name it, it happened to me. I was a crybaby -- don't know why I did, but the waterworks opened uncontrollably without warning and oftentimes for no great reason. And the things I where I excelled were things that weren't manly back in the 1970s, like cooking and baking.

I longed to be a guy and to be good at guy things.

As the years went by, I did find my niche among other kids. I stopped dressing like a nerd and had friends. We weren't the most popular kids at school, but I held my own and didn't get picked on any more except by one or two bozos. I learned to play the bagpipes in my 20s, and bonded with a pretty wild bunch of guys -- it takes a lot of balls to wear a kilt in public, and don't mess with a group of rowdy pipers. We carry knives. I learned to weave and work with textiles -- and felt guilty that those things that I liked to do weren't manly enough. It took years before I realized that weaving is okay, and that most professional weavers were men.

I turned out okay. I got married and have two sons. I teach cooking classes at a living history museum where I work. Those classes, filled to capacity, are for boys only. I still can't ride a bike or throw a baseball. But I am starting to realize that that is okay too. Yet, still, there is that part of me still searching for a masculine identity that escaped me as a child. And I don't want my kids to go through what I went through.

How do boots reflect my struggle with Masculinity? When I was younger, I fell in love with boots because of their rough manliness. I remember finding a pair of my dad's rubber boots in the basement one day when I was about 5 and putting them on, and suddenly feeling more manly. I have talked about getting my first pair of cowboy boots in a previous guest blog. When I put them on, I felt more manly too.

And now I wear cowboy boots all the time. I admit that I wear them in part because they make me feel manly and powerful. Like a cowboy. Silly, well, yes, but so be it. But I have come to realize that it is okay to wear boots because they make me feel good. It took a lot of inner struggle to come to this realization. The questions kept popping up in my head: am I being TOO male? Don't only gay guys wear boots? And if a guy looks at my boots in "that way," won't it bother me? All those questions come up in my mind from time to time. The answer is no, gentle reader, to all of the above.

Maybe this whole tale hits a nerve with some of you. Maybe not. But I think we all try as men to be the best men that we can be, regardless of sexuality or whatever. We all struggle with that ideal picture of the great testoterone-filled Alpha Male that we wish we were. Society's latest penchant for male-bashing doesn't help, either.

As I get older, I realize that I am who I am, and will be who I will be. I have started to understand that that testosterone-laden, cigar-chomping, booted leather-clad Alpha Male never was a real person, and only serves to cause us problems when we pretend he IS real.

It isn't bad to wear boots or leather or whatever if it makes you more in touch with Masculinity. But don't let that dreamed-up image overcome reality.

So, we press on.

Be who you are, and be proud of who you are.

Something to ponder in your own struggles in this thing called life...

Note from BHD: thanks again to my friend for sharing great insights and sharing some more photos of his great boot collection. Return to this blog tomorrow for my thoughts on this matter.


John said...

"I admit that I wear them in part because they make me feel manly and powerful. Like a cowboy. Silly, well, yes, but so be it. But I have come to realize that it is okay to wear boots because they make me feel good. It took a lot of inner struggle to come to this realization."

Great posting. Couldn't have said it better. I'm straight, not an alpha male. I don't wear boots full time but like wearing them when I do, for the reasons you describe.

Only Booted Man said...

Hi John.

Thanks for your kind words. I don't wear boots full-time either (especially at work - but I wear boots there sometimes too), but they are my preferred footwear!

Thanks again.