I have been writing a book on-and-off for the last few years, and it has given me a lot of opportunity to think about how I feel about a variety of matters and learn more about myself.
I won’t go into too many details regarding the story but there was something that I wrote years ago that I stumbled across in my current revisions:
“He is such the well-mannered gentleman,” he said.
I smiled politely.
It actually caught my attention that he described me liked that because it had been something that I’ve heard all too often. It wasn’t that I minded, as I understood that they meant it with care, but it had this connotation, almost like I was too sensitive.
I was sure that he meant it with the good intention but for me it seemed like anytime someone used while I was growing up, they were placating me or child-handling me; like I needed to be sheltered. I was aware that I may have been overanalyzing a polite compliment but…
Basically, going by the above text, it revealed to me this way of thinking that had started permeating within my consciousness, which is that being called gentleman became this thing that had a bad connotation to it.
We live in a world where so many men are growing up under the pressure of “what a real man is” and “men are supposed to be xyz” and often times that creates this limited definition of what a man is, and that if you don’t live up to that expectation or perform masculinity in a certain way then, you are not a man.
For example, if you don’t like sports –you’re not a man. If you don’t like cars – you are not a man. If you’re not promiscuous – you’re not a man. If you don’t know how to fight – you’re not a man. If you can’t control your partner – you’re not a man. If your wife earns more money than you – you’re not a man. If you cry – you’re not a man.
And the list goes on…
One of the things that started messing with my head was that whenever people would call me a gentleman, they do so in a way that made it feel like less of a compliment and more of “he is such a gentle soul” or “he is so sensitive” and because I grew up with this limited notion of masculinity, it would make me feel like I was weak.
I got to a stage where I thought that being a gentleman was made me less of a man.
Now I’m at the stage where I don’t care about makes me look weak because I’m not here to perform “what a man is supposed to be” for anyone.
I am my own man and sometimes I cry because life is shit, sometimes I want to break shit because I get angry, and instead of bottling my feelings or shutting down, I tend to pour it out onto a page or speak to a friend and it helps me process and deal.
I’m also re-learning that being called a gentleman is not a bad thing.
I was recently referred to as a gentleman by two other men, both queer, in relation to a instance of how I treated someone and I had felt bad for a second, until I realised that they had meant it as compliment.
They had meant it as compliment to the type of person I am. They had given me this compliment when they had previously had no need. They had told me something to build me up and for me to learn that while I’m not perfect or always do the right thing, I have good intentions and try to treat others kindly.
That was in hindsight, a beautiful thing for them to say.
I need to learn that I should just accept the compliment, because that was what it was.
They were telling me that I was being a nice guy and I was doing the courteous thing.
While I am aware that not everyone will always have good intentions, and might mean it as a way to placate others or with ill intentions, there are a large number whom for the most part mean it well, and I need to remember that.
Sometimes we need to learn to accept a compliment, because as jaded as life has made us, there are people who want you to succeed.
Theo. Over and Out.