I received such positive feedback on Letter to a Teenage Daughter that I wanted to even the playing field and speak to young men as well. There is so much discussion in the current culture, from #MeToo to the new Gillette commercial addressing toxic masculinity. You will face this debate from everything as simple as opening a door for a woman, to being nominated for the Supreme Court. Just because it’s the Women’s March doesn’t mean that young men aren’t just as much in the game and begs the question: Who is teaching them how to play it?
First of all, future men of tomorrow, I love you, but in a supportive spiritual way, not a creepy cougar sort of way. I want you to know that one of the noblest creatures to roam the earth is a truly good man, and I have faith in you. You are on the hero’s journey.
The transition from boyhood to manhood has ritual roots in many religions, cultures, and tribal nations. Here all too often, however, you stumble into it on your own with changing definitions of what it means to be a man, with social media instead of social morals guiding you.
The phrase “nice guys finish last” is one of the most damaging sayings. Nice guys get great girls. Nice guys get good jobs where they don’t end up in federal prison. Nice guys can sleep at night. Nice guys have a moral compass which guides their actions. Know that strength and compassion walk hand in hand. Being nice does not mean letting others step all over you. It means you are confident enough not to have to put someone down to put yourself ahead.
You will be unfairly judged on your athletic prowess. Being healthy and fit is a good life lesson, but if you’re not a star on the sports field, know you have many other qualities which will lead to your success. Many of the “nerds” I went to high school with achieved fulfilling careers or artistic pursuits, while some of the “jocks” did not have popularity that outlasted their letter jacket. Oh, and then you will be judged on how much money you make, so go ahead and build your inner character.
Treat teenage girls with kindness and respect. One day you will fall madly in love with a woman, and how she was treated by boys like you as a teenager will affect her self-esteem and her ability to fully trust and love you. Even if she is not your forever girl, set her on the right path to be someone else’s. There is nothing cool or funny about being mean or abusive to girls or other boys for that matter. Be the boy who stands up for what is right and protects those with less power. This is your first step to being a leader.
A sport coat is worth a thousand words. I actually stole that from someone else, but think it is awesome fashion advice when in doubt.
Feel. Feel deeply. Find someone you trust to share these feelings. The strong, silent type or the brute leads a lonely life. Beware, you may be called a sissy or wimp, but being sensitive is a way to experience fully the world and connect with others in a genuine way. You are not yet in control of your destiny, but if you are in an environment that is not supportive, know one day you can leave and find one that is.
Vanilla is enough. If you can’t enjoy ice cream unless it is Rocky Road with sprinkles, gummy bears, and salted caramel sauce, you are bound to be disappointed or become lactose intolerant. You may be curious about sex, but the internet is filled with images and videos which denigrate what can be a loving act. Studies show this addiction can actually damage your desire and your future. Victoria’s Secret catalogues set up enough unrealistic expectations. Skip the rest.
How men perceive feminism may be confusing. This is not about opening a door, as mentioned above, or seeing a girl gets home safely. That is just respect and chivalry and entirely different from women not getting paid the same wage for the same job as men. Cue Notorious RBG. And if you don’t know RBG, that is a good start to learn about equal rights.
Own it. When it’s great and when it’s bad. Life is a series of decisions. Mistakes are a part of life, but how you deal with them is everything. You can hear the best advice in the world, but your inner voice is ultimately what will guide you. Know that is your destiny.