Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Language of Boys or of Men

The Language of Boys or of Men

Rejection is a word I learned to fear over the years.  I am a people pleaser, and to be rejected used to be next to death for me, and was a problem most of my life

I often felt like I never fit in. I remember two boys at school who I thought were my friends.  After a few days of the new-found friendship however, they told me to leave them alone.  I didn’t understand why.  And as a kid, I was devastated.  When this type of thing happened at various times over the years, I reasoned they had a problem and that I just needed to find others.  But deep down I knew I was different from the other boys.  In time, I learned to distance myself from boys in general.  My relationships with other boys waned even though I deeply longed to find some good male friends!  Unfortunately, I over-analyzed the situation and determined that I was going to be better off without good male companions. 

The problem was that I was not learning how to be around boys, and I needed that in my life.  I didn’t learn to speak what I perceived to be ‘their language’.  I’ll call this an ‘emotional language’.  It’s the unspoken way to be what I believed (note the past tense)  a boy should be.  Call it hormones, nature, or instinct, it’s something that a person understands - sometimes without even knowing it.  I missed out on what I thought so many boys were able to learn naturally - how to be a boy; how to speak the ‘emotional language’ of boys.  

As I analyze my life I have to question what it is that I really missed out on?  I’m going to be VERY stereotypical here on what boys are like.  However, these are basic things that I felt boys knew that the boy me didn’t have a comfort level for.  I emphasize that these WERE my perceptions as a child and young adult: 

  1. The language of sports
  2. The language of cars and basic mechanical things
  3. The language of fighting
  4. The language of mathematics

I wasn’t drawn to the same kinds of things that I believed other boys my age were traditionally drawn to.  I liked music and fine art.  I was not adventurously looking for ways to break my bones.  While boys would go into the forest to conquer nature, I was out in the forest observing the change in season, and noting the differences in the plants from day to day.  I liked to watch animals - not hunt them.  While the other boys would be off playing with sticks and pretending to kill each other, I would watch from a distance. I am not gifted athletically.  I tried, but usually failed.  This led to further rejection.  While the boys at church were playing basketball, I was that boy who left everyone and played the piano alone so I would avoid that rejection. 

And I was afraid of boys much the way I imagine boys will often be afraid of a girl.  If I was attracted to a boy, or later in my life to a man, I was afraid of being hurt by the boy or man I liked.  I believed I would ultimately be rejected.  It wasn’t just a rejection of friendship.  It was the rejection of my attraction. 

So when it came to other boys, and later, men, when I would start to have a good, friendly relationship with another man, I always questioned that relationship.  I analyzed it to the point that I rejected it before I could be rejected.  I learned to push others away.  It was easier to be the rejector rather than the rejected. Consequently, I had many acquaintances but few to no close male friends. 

As I got older I realized that if my desire was to be around, and have healthy relationships with other men, I needed to learn how to speak the language of men.  What I found out is the language of boys versus men can be very different.  While there are similarities, a man has hopefully broadened his horizons.  Life experiences teach him about more than just his own interests.  The language of boys that I yearned to learn as a boy was simply not the ‘emotional language’ all men speak.  

Human language and speech is varied and beautiful.  The language of human emotion is likewise varied and beautiful.  I learned that ‘boy language’ is as varied as there are interests.  You just need to find people that speak the same language.  

Some men grow up and speak the same ‘emotional language’ they did as boys.  Some could argue that this is a problem.  I personally have no issue with that.  They were comfortable in that ‘emotional language’ during their youth and they are comfortable with it now.  I have learned that I can be friendly with them, but I may never have a fluency level in their ‘emotional language’ to be really close to them.  That’s alright.  They won’t have the same level of fluency in my language perhaps to feel close to me.  But we can coexist with mutual respect. 

Some men are able to flawlessly merge the language of boy and man and somehow bask in the joy of both.  I admit that I do harbor a tinge of jealousy for those who can magically balance the inner boy with that of the man.  I’ll call that jealousy, respect. 

I feel that I matured to discover my own male emotional languages later on in life.  I learned that there are other men who enjoy music, art, who are introverted overthinkers, and/or who enjoy being in nature and observing what’s around them.  I learned that there are people who love to be athletic in the same way I do.  I learned that there are people who enjoy doing many other things I enjoy doing. 

I also discovered that I can learn to speak another ‘emotional language’.   Out of necessity, I needed to be somewhat skilled in the language of basic mathematics.  I will never be able to converse on a fluent level with a doctor or math, but I can do some wicked estimation and come up with some great calculations on things like budgets and projected expenditures.  I found that my analytical side was suited for these things.  It was just a matter of opening myself up to it. 

I learned the language of athleticism.  But just as with real language, there are dialects of a language.  While I may never learn the dialect of football or baseball, I do love to watch a good basketball game.  And while I may never be a great basketball player, I enjoy the March Madness bracket!  I learned other athletic dialects as well.  They just had to be on my terms.  I learned the love of running, hiking, and generally being physically fit.  I will never listen to sports radio and follow every stat for every game.  I don’t need to.  There are other men who speak my ‘emotional dialect’ of the ‘language of athleticism’ that has nothing to do with football or sports radio.  I just needed to find them. 

Out of necessity I learned to be somewhat handy.  When you have a house, you either have to learn to do the work, or pay someone to do it.  I learned to do the work I could.  There are plenty of other men who are in my shoes - additional common ground. 

I probably won’t ever learn the language of fighting in the sense of physical fights between boys on the playground.  However, I learned the language of manly fighting in the sense that I learned to never give up when it counts.  I learned to work hard for what I have.  I learned to struggle through difficulties and come out smiling.  

I have also learned that through mutual experiences and struggles, a common language can be built, even if the two initially don’t appear to speak the same language.  Groups of men that go out together to serve others or who experience life-changing events may grow bonds that will last. I hear the stories of men who served together in the armed forces during combat who grow a bond like that of brothers.   In other words, they create a new ‘emotional language’ that binds them. 

As I find other men with whom I share common ‘emotional languages’, I am able to build true bonds of friendship and deep meaningful relationships on a level that I wanted as a youth.  I have also learned that while these men may share some of the ‘emotional languages’ I do, they may also speak others that I don’t.  This is a good thing.  That only helps to enrich me if I let it. And hopefully I am able to enrich their lives.  But that bond of a common language helps to build the needed friendship initially.  

Because I can have a strong foundation of good male friendships, when I am rejected by others, the pain is not as great.  I move forward knowing that the rejection isn’t personal.  It could simply be that I don’t relate to them or speak the same ‘emotional language’.  After all, maybe I have unintentionally rejected others who I believed didn’t share the same ‘emotional language’ I did.  


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  1. This is one of my favorite posts of this blog. Thank you so much for sharing. I totally relate.

  2. This is one of my favorite posts of this blog. Thank you so much for sharing. I totally relate.