The impression I got growing up was that males are supposed to be tough. We’re meant to endure a lot of wear and tear—scrapes and bruises on the athletic field, cuts and black eyes from schoolyard fights, doing the chores that involve heavy lifting and dangerous power tools, and eventually going off to war.

And what advantage did we get in return for this? Precious little, as far as I could tell. When I was a boy I was oblivious to the ways women are disadvantaged in society. The only benefit to being tough that I could see was that men’s clothing didn’t have all the frills and lace that was delicate and difficult to keep in repair.

Besides unrealistic and unattainable expectations for myself, this also led to mistaken ideas about others. If men are tough in ways that women aren’t, then this must mean that women are supposed to be fragile. What a lie that is!

I certainly didn’t learn all this from my parents. Must have been peers and television.

As I matured, I learned that it was okay for me not to be tough or not to fit someone else’s idea of what that meant. I still appreciate durable, easy to clean clothing, though.

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