I know a lot about giving my balls away.

And I know nothing about what it means to be a man.

My entire life I have looked outside myself, from Dad to David Deida (author of The Way of the Superior Man), to understand manhood.

When I was boy I was terribly afraid of being seen as a feminine sissy. I became very competitive in sports, partly so nobody would question my masculinity, least of all myself.

But underneath my masquerade of confidence and my intense jock-hood, was the belief that I was not good enough, and woefully inadequate as a male.

As a pre-teen, I was plagued by the fear that I was gay, or would be seen by others as being gay. Where I grew up in Brooklyn in the 1970’s and early 1980’s, being gay was unacceptable.

Lots of shame inside me, and in the culture at large.

By the time I was well into my roaring twenties my sense of male inadequacy was well buried by pretty girlfriends and worldly success. I made money doing what I loved. I made CD’s. I wrote with style, king of wordplay. I had lovers. On the surface of my self-esteem, I was hot shit. Deeper down, insecurity was still running the show.

Then I spent ten years with a woman who wanted me to be more masculine. My childlike qualities turned her off. My emotional awareness and expression of feelings, which I worked hard to develop through decades of therapy, was not a turn-on for her either.

Oh, and my wardrobe needed a makeover. She was more attracted to me when I wore I dark, plain, single-colored manly shirts and pants.

Fair enough. I understood. I could use some growing up, especially in presentation. Peter Pan was receptive and ready for a make-over, I thought.

I thought wrong.

I gave away my fun, colorful clothes and let my woman be my image consultant. She helped me look more ‘normal’ in the eyes of the world.

Normal? Me? What in the hell was I doing?

I was using her eyes to see myself with.

That’s how I gave away my balls. I was using her eyes, not mine, and I was more interested in her approval than in my own sense of integrity.

Then she broke up with me, and all the pain and shame I had been keeping at bay for years came to the surface. I am sure you heard of the dark night of the soul. My latest lasted almost a decade.

It was a productive time for growth. Depressed, grief-stricken, I was humble for healing, and aware that I was using the dark night to purge old feelings and beliefs, to get to the bottom of things, where the major core belief (I’m not enough) ran the show, driving me to be a functional workaholic to overcompensate for my sense of inadequacy.

Hard times, but good work, chipping away at my core wounds.

Eventually I rose out of the underworlds, quit the anti-depressants that were helpful for some temporary relief, and came up for air enjoying a sense of rebirth and renewal.

Part of that rebirth has been being my own creative image consultant, and asking myself, not a woman or society, what makes me a man?

No answers, but oh, what a juicy question to live into.

Lately I have been enjoying a delicious freedom of choice about it all.

Maybe what makes me a man is as simple as exercising my free will, being the chooser of my choices.

Or maybe it means the opposite, surrendering the illusion of choice and giving the steering wheel to my Higher Power Steering.

As you can tell, I claim no authority on this subject. I’m just exploring, same as you.

I do know I make a lousy self-image consultant.

Gee, could it be because I don’t care much about my image?

Ahhh, the invigorating freedom of not caring, not willing to waste any more time seeing myself through the eyes of others, or Confusing my presentation with my authentic essence.

I’m still a work in progress, as this example illustrates:

The year was 2017. I was strolling in my Marin County town of Fairfax, and passed a colorful backpack left on the sidewalk as a give away. It was anything but masculine, mostly pink, and even looked a lot like my daughters backpack.

But I liked it. I wanted it.

Inner voices screamed in my head, “Too childlike! Too feminine! You will be judged.”

“Shut up,” I said, and took that backpack home. I got rid of my plain dark one, and proceeded to have a party within me, enjoying a surge of masculine energy as I danced with my new backpack.

Lining up with what turns me on and having solidarity about it turns out to be vital to my manhood, miles more essential than making sure my presentation or image fits cultural norms or pleases a particular woman.

Two weeks later on another morning stroll, a shirt caught my eye, also a give away. I had no idea if it was a women’s shirt or uni-sex. It seemed very feminine.

But I had to admit, I liked it. I wanted it. I felt the old fear and tension of self-judgement surface, forming a knot in my belly as the ‘rules’ of society began to assert themselves over my heart.

I applied some masculine medicine over my fears:

”Fuck it, this is my life”! I exclaimed out loud, took off my top, picked up the new shirt, and put it on.

I walked further, a bounce in my step, but still some hesitation about the shirt.

Moments later I saw a pretty woman approaching with a twinkle of joy in her eyes, and I boldly asked for a moment of her time.

She took off her music headphones and smiled her consent.

I told her that I just picked up the shirt I was wearing from a give-away, and had my doubts about whether it looked good on me.

Her opinion was that it was indeed uni-sex, and she let me know that she thought I looked very good in it.

Oooohhhhh-Aaaaahhhhh… There was a moment of flirtation between us. I breathed that in, enjoyed the chemistry, and we parted ways, both intuitively clear that this mutual attraction was nothing to act upon.

Ah, but something inside me let go as i let her go, and I went from the powerless boyhood energy of asking permission and needing approval, to owning my new shirt, along with a new sense of confidence.

That night I went to a music party with my new shirt and backpack, feeling more relaxed, playful, and masculine than I had ever felt.

so, brothers and sisters, I really don’t care anymore what it means to be a man. I’m quite content to be clueless about that. I do care about being happy. And if that looks or feels childlike or feminine sometimes, so be it.

it’s none of my business.

I don’t know if David Deida, who has written at least ten million books about being a manly man, would agree or not, but I think my balls are now where they belong.

Hafiz wrote:

Once a young woman asked me,

“How does it feel to be a man?”

And I replied,

“My dear, I am not so sure.”

Then she said. “Well aren’t you a man?”

And this time I replied,

“I view gender as a beautiful animal

That people often take for a walk on a leash,

And might enter in some odd contest

To try to win strange prizes.

My dear,

A better question for Hafiz

Would have been,

‘How does it feel to be a Heart?’

For all I know is love,

And I find my heart Infinite

And everywhere!”

Oh, i almost forgot: Here’s the shirt and backpack……

May be an image of 1 person and standing

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