As a man, I'm not supposed to be this way
I’m not your typical guy.
To be honest, there was a point when I thought I’d never be loved for who I am.
I feel emotions more strongly than most people I know.
Whether that means I’m “sensitive” or not — I don’t know.
I’m not big on labels, although I’ll admit they have their benefits.
They tend to make life easier.
We don’t have to think as hard when we use them.
Sometimes we don’t have to think at all.
But labels cover up the person underneath.
And I’ve always felt different from most guys.
I’d take meaningful conversations about emotions over talking about sports any day of the week.
That doesn’t mean I never played sports. Because I did — almost nonstop — until the age of 18.
It just means there’s always more to the story.
It’s fair to say that the way I felt — the way I loved — was forbidden
I have a tendency to come on too strong — that is, I am a fairly intense individual.
I’m passionate about what I believe, almost to a fault.
My closest male friends are guys with whom I can have deep conversations about life.
If a conversation’s not substantive, it’s hard for me to stay engaged.
It’s also hard for me to write this next line. There were many times growing up that I thought I would end up alone.
It’s not because I was cynical — I just didn’t believe that women really were attracted to the kind of guy I was.
In life and love, men are socialized to be strong
They are indoctrinated to be dominant — to be confident and in control.
Where did that leave me?
I had — and still have — a tendency to want to get to know people on a deep level.
I want to hear their stories.
I want to know their background information so that I can immerse myself in the context of their lives.
The only problem was, when I was younger, that usually left me as “the nice guy” who was fun to talk to — but not much of a romantic interest.
Or the opposite, I attracted people with bad boundaries who were looking for an empathetic, savior type.
Naturally wanting to be loved, I know now that I overextended myself for people who would only drain my energy.
Boys are taught to only show certain emotions
They’re taught that shame and any other “weak” feelings are not an option.
But anger is an option because it falls in line with the roles boys are supposed to play.
It sets them up to be good men.
But that kind of social education almost broke me.
It didn’t feel authentic. Where did I fit in, what with my curiosity, inquisitiveness, and anxiety?
In life and love, I tried to model myself after the examples I saw — but I never did a good job of it.
As a result, I got teased and bullied for being more sensitive than others — for being more bookish when others were more intimidating and self-assured.
Boys, when it comes to love, are told that certain types of action are off-limits
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Growing up, I struggled to find myself. But I eventually did find my place.
I kept listening to my intuition and what my heart was telling me — and I followed the path that I sensed was right.
I used my heightened sensitivity as a strength.
Over the years, as I became more comfortable in my skin, I attracted the kind of people I wanted to be around
I met my wife six-and-a-half years ago in the nerdiest way possible — at a conference focused on the Montana state budget.
She told me much later that she knew she liked me when she heard me utter the words “Community Reinvestment Act.”
I later wooed her with a goofy rendition of “Can you feel the love tonight?” at a local karaoke joint.
Society told me to be a certain way, but I just couldn’t do it.
And, in the case of attracting my now-wife, I didn’t make the calculated decisions that I was supposed to make.
Instead, I followed my gut and hoped I would find love.
It’s human nature to push back when you’re told you shouldn’t be a certain way.
When something’s forbidden, that something has a way of fighting through, of announcing itself more clearly and more bravely than ever before.
I’m not supposed to be this way.
I’m glad I didn’t listen.
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