Can We Stop With The #BoysAndTheirToys in 2018?

VENUS_MARS

Relationship experts, Internet proverbs, and magazines at the dentist’s all tell us the same thing. Men are from Mars, women are from Venus. Men are from Mars, women are from Venus. Men are from Mars, and women… well, you get the gist. Two planets apart, millions of miles away — now repeat it till you believe it.

But that’s the thing, it’s a myth. Men don’t necessarily need to come from Mars – they can come from Venus, Saturn, Neptune or even Ganymede (that’s Jupiter’s biggest moon for the astronomically unaware). In fact, they can come from anywhere they want, just like they can be whoever they want to be.

We might have been conditioned to believe that men need to be (or behave) a certain way, but the dictionary has never told anyone to be a classic d***hebag who smokes like a chimney and eats like a pig. Like I discussed last time, men aren’t a result of their toys, tempers and tastes, they are a result of their manners and their mottos.

Years of conditioning aside, it all usually starts as soon as you come kicking and screaming into the world. See, as a child you don’t understand the ramifications of what you say or the fact that one day, you’ll be embarrassed by what you’ve done – it’s like an Archiesversion of being sh*t-faced drunk and uninhibited – and no one has taught you that you have to behave a certain way just because, so you usually screw that up. You say the wrong things. You act the wrong way. You ask for the wrong toy.

As a child, I’d never had a kitchen set of my own – I had a lot of clowns, cars, books and GI Joes – and any time that I found these miniature cooking utensils freely available was a revelation. I would usually snatch an hour or two with them at my cousin’s, or play house with them with the girl next door.

It was pure, unadulterated joy, and I used all of it to bake make-believe macarons. It was big joke in my extended family, but I didn’t really care (also I really didn’t know). So finally, on my seventh birthday when my parents asked me what I wanted, I thought I’d jump at the idea – the only sort of jumping I would ever do.

I remember being really nervous about not getting anything at all, but I was also nervous that I’d be laughed at, so I checked and double-checked to see whether I really could ask for anything I wanted.

“Yes, please,” they said.

So I asked for a kitchen set. I don’t really remember the exact reaction, but it was politely explained to me that I couldn’t have one because kitchen sets were for girls.

I was crushed. So I asked for books. Video games. Toy cars. Spaceship models. The complete He-Man collection (side note: I got greedy).

For me, playing house wasn’t just about clanking those tiny utensils together; I wanted to act out all the ideas in my head – scripts I’d never be able to live but knew by heart. My crazy imagination was dying to see all the stories I scrawled in my little notebooks come to life.

And then Lego came along, and changed everything.

Conventionally, there was nothing wrong with a boy playing with his Lego set – I could build houses, and cafes and parks, without being disturbed. But the attempt to ‘Masc’ things up wasn’t far away – I got the fire station starter pack one birthday, but I ended up making a fancy condo (albeit with poles) with that as well.

The boys toys stopped coming my way though, and my bedroom filled up with books (and even more Lego sets), but it was a distraction from the seemingly endless amazement that I wasn’t macho enough – not playing sports or climbing trees. As long as I had my nose deep in a book, no one asked me why it wasn’t looking up football strategies online.

Eventually, my fascination with building homes and stories helped; I went on to become an architect, and then a writer, so I could say it all worked out for me – but my childhood remained the same.

A lie.

There’s been some progress, at least in moving away from the ‘pinkification’ of girl’s toys and allowing them the freedom to play with what would traditionally be called boy’s toys – their cars, dinosaurs, cowboys and all that.

It’s an important fight and we need it, but when it comes to the other side of the coin – little boys just dying to pick up a play doll or a play house – it’s a harder sell. Not to mention that in 2018, gender is not just about ‘boys and girls’. Everyone is finding their own way. Boys can play with girl’s toys and girls can play with boy’s toys. Heck, there’s no such thing as boy’s toys and girl’s toys anymore, just like there’s no such thing as a man’s job and a woman’s job.

How can I be so sure?

A few weeks ago, as I played house with my nephew, I asked him what he wanted to be when he grows up. He wanted to be a superhero, his grandmother, a policeman and a race car driver, in that order (He also said he wanted to be ‘happy’, but he’s always been a bright kid). He’s four years old.

His reasons for wanting to be his grandmother were simple. She made all the decisions at home. He wanted to do the same thing. We both high-fived and had tea with the underlying matriarchy in our makeshift hall.

My four-year-old nephew might be a doll (no pun intended), but the rest of us still have a long way to go. Countless dreams (and bones) get crushed every day because men are supposed to be breaking their heads (and their backs) at the workplace, or the gym. So here’s something for you to take away – do what interests you, not something that ticks all the boxes for becoming the quintessential man.

Am I gay because I played with dolls and kitchen sets, or despite the fact that I really couldn’t? Would it have really made any difference? With ‘traditionally masculine’ sports’ stars now coming out of the closet, there really is no fail-safe to stop your child from becoming ‘less macho’ (not even a good ol’ football can save him. Sorry about that.)

If you’d rather your child grow up sad and ashamed, the toy really isn’t the problem here. If they grow up to come out as gay or bi or trans or seem “less of a man”, it’s not because you bought them a Barbie doll when they were seven (it’s probably because they are built in a different way then you are.)

And even if it turns out to be true, so what? Be proud of them and pat yourself on your back for being such a great influence!

Just buy that kitchen set. You’d only thank yourself later when your son (or brother) gets you Eggs Benedict in bed.

You are welcome.

PS: My parents are, and have always been, great and very accepting and shielded me from a lot of bullsh*t (homophobic or otherwise) in life. They eventually did get me that kitchen set, only they pretended it was for my sister.

The Guysexual’s Guide to What Happens After #PrideMonth

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#PrideMonth is finally over today, boys and girls.

Which means that as you read this sentence, thousands of companies are taking down their rainbow flags and pushing their glitter glue supplies back into their office store rooms.

But it doesn’t end here. 19 years ago, on 2 July 1999, something revolutionary happened. The country held its first Pride March in Calcutta, and India walked on the streets, out and proud for the very first time.

And it hasn’t stopped ever since. See, 2 July is a day that is important for many reasons. It also marks the ninth anniversary of the historic judgment of 2009, which decriminalised gay sex by reading down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.

Which makes today (almost) Indian Coming Out Day.

I’ll tell you something: Whether you are 14 or 40, coming out can be an ordeal, but that’s a story for another time. If your friend is lucky, everything will go well, and the two of you will be downing shots at the bar later tonight.

But if it doesn’t, you – yes, YOU – owe it to him to make his life a whole lot easier. To help you in ‘your’ journey of acceptance, here are a few things you shouldn’t say when a friend (or a sibling) comes out to you any time soon:

1. “Oh that’s amazing, dude. But wait a minute, you won’t hit on me now, will you, ha-ha?”

No, because you clearly aren’t my type. If you were, we would not be friends in the first place – I’d just be gushing about you to my best friend.

2. “You know what? I always knew it.”

When someone comes out to you, it’s an exhilarating feeling – it’s full of the giddiness that comes with riding a rollercoaster. Telling someone that you already knew (even if you did) is like pulling the handbrakes.

3. “Maybe if you only started playing more sport, you never know…”

This is when I make a list of all the sportsmen in the world who are gay. Stop with the stereotyping – it wasn’t cool back in 1966, it isn’t cool in 2018.

4. “Haha, is this just because you’ve not had a girlfriend yet?”

Ditch the biology book when you are wondering what your gay friend does behind closed doors – love has nothing to do with how things fit, because it’s not the big 5000-piece jigsaw puzzle that we all assume it to be.

5. “I don’t really know what to say right now, bro.”

If you don’t, sometimes a hug would do – there’s nothing worse than radio silence. Be normal, the best reactions aren’t even worth remembering because they felt so natural.

6. “So, are you the guy or the girl?”

Get out.

7. “Whoa, when did you decide you want to be gay?”

The same time that you decided to be straight.

8. “But bro, do you have AIDS?”

Let’s get it straight (pun intended). AIDS is not a gay disease. On the other hand, sir, you suffer from something far worse: ignorance.

9. “Well, duh!”

Read point number two, but only slap yourself around your head this time.

10. “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

Making someone’s coming out process about you is usually not the best idea. Focusing on them and their experience instead? Let’s get out those medals of honour.

11. “Man, now you can help me with my shopping!”

The fact that gay men love to shop is probably the worst stereotype that ever exists. That, and the jazz hands.

Just wear what you want to, you’ll look great.

12. “No, you are not.”

Do you know what you are not? A nice person.

13. “Let’s go hit the clubs, mate!”

Yes, thank you. But that’s not why I just told you something this important, right?

14. “Are you really sure about this? Maybe it’s just a phase, you never know? Remember, back when I was younger and I…”

Being able to finally feel comfortable in your skin is the best feeling in the world. Someone wanting to share that feeling with you is like wanting to share a large ice cream sundae on a hot summer day. Cherish it.

15. “You mean you are bisexual, right?”

No. Gay. G-A-Y. Get that?

Now that you’ve finished reading the guide, how about you go help your friend with the closet door instead? Those shackles can be tough to pry open, and they could use all the help they could get.

Move along.

But make sure you do it with pride.

The Guysexual’s Guide To Making A Man in 2018

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There are all kinds of men in this world. Thin men. Fat men. Tall men. Short men. Skinny men. Hairy men. Loud men. Obnoxious men. Timid men. Flamboyant men. Ferocious men. Hipster men. Daredevils. Douchebags. Atheists. Diehard romantics. Righteous. Vigilantes. Right wing. Left wing. Gay. Straight. Bisexual. Self-made. Self-taught. Self-aware.

But what makes a man?

See, we all know that if you mix sugar, spice and everything nice (plus a large helping of Chemical X), you’d get a Powerpuff Girl. Can you make a man the same way? Replace Chemical X with Chromosome Y?  Or is it all testosterone, cigarette fumes, single malt, revved up engines and golf clubs?

Obviously not, because where would you find a golf club in India?

I asked a few of my friends instead.

‘Balls and a penis,’ said one well-meaning pal.

‘The Y Chromosome,’ another one joked. He’s a professor.

‘A well groomed beard,’ someone else chipped in.

His actions. How he works his tools. How he handles his women (don’t ask, my friends are a mixed bunch). His survival skills. His scent. His character. His job. Confidence. Integrity. Wisdom. The answers trickled in through messages, and slid into my DMs like d*ck pics (and some of them were equally flaccid). They were characteristics, yes, but not the ingredients for the quintessential man. Could you source them locally? Would I have to go to the supermarket? Farm those seeds myself? Bid at an auction? Would I find a recipe online or would the store-bought microwaveable version work?

I didn’t have a clue, so I did the only thing that made sense.

I scoured the internet.

Page after page popped up, till I was swamped under a sea of bits, bytes, memes and GIFs. The internet, I realised, had a lot to say about what makes the perfect man. From the heartwarming (What makes a man really happy?) to the eye opening (What makes man a man in the eyes of God?), from the titillating (what makes a man AMAZING in bed?) to the downright depressing (What makes a man an alpha male?), there were secret hacks for everything.

But yet, after scanning through hundreds (okay, six) of pages full of listicles, blogs and popup ads for penis-enlargement pills, I still didn’t have a solid answer (how to last all night long, yes).

I’ll tell you the problem. They all told you to be larger than life. They all told you to ooze confidence like toothpaste. They all told you to dab copious amounts of charisma like it were hair mousse (this was no beauty tutorial though). But most importantly, they all told you to man up.

Man up. It’s a funny phrase. What could it mean? I first heard the term almost two decades ago, and found it endearing. It’s the natural successor, I guess to ‘grow a pair’, which itself took ‘get a backbone’ away from the spinal cord right to the nether depths of your groin.

Getting a backbone, however, didn’t associate courage or toughness with being a man. But now, even if you aren’t coping very well with something, are down with the flu, or simply don’t want to do something daredevilry (or debauchery) — that is every situation that can illicit the phrase from a well-meaning passerby — you are simply seen as the opposite of masculine. See, sometimes you might just want to say: ‘I’m sad. I’m depressed. I’m drowning. I am dying. Am I lonely? Am I going to be all right?’ but you can’t — because no one cares.  You’re a dude, baby. Not a baby, dude. These crown jewels are for showing, aren’t they?

It seems that we’ve finally reached that point in our life where you can only be more masculine if you stick to the norms. Have that double measure of single malt. Play golf with the crew. Yell at the waiter in the restaurant. Deadlift 150 kg. Micro-manage an entire office floor. Fight a tiger with your bare hands. As you get older, the rules of masculinity become tougher and tougher (just like people expect you to be), but no one tells you what makes you more machismo.

But that’s the thing, boys don’t become men when they strut out their muscled chests and pick tabs (or sometimes, even fights) at the bar — on a side note, I only pick up my drinks at the bar —boys become men when they become themselves.

Because the truth is, the world (and most men I know) would be happier if people could just be who they want to be. So dress the way you like. Do what you want to do. Take that dance class. Go study French. Sing a Miley Cyrus song at karaoke (‘Party In The USA‘ is a great way to test out your vocals). Bake that cake. Knit that sweater. Read that self-help book. Go for a recital. Don’t drive if you can’t.

And if someone tells you to ‘man up’? Just tell them to man off. This isn’t Sparta.

So what makes a man then?

You’ll have to wait for the sequel to find the answer to that question.

Until then, I’ll go prepare for my Pilates class.