Growing up, I realize I wasn’t always as expressive as I am now. Around girls? Super shy, even when my heart was all in. Sure, I had a bunch of friends and was even close with my sister, but with girls, it was a whole different ball game. It felt like no one ever gave me a playbook on how to chat with them. The focus was always on studying – anything else was just a distraction. As a result, I measured my worth in grades, totally unaware there was another way to exist.
Fast forward a bit, and it’s clear I never fit the ‘alpha male’ type. Not the man’s man or the boy’s boy. You know, those boys who were, well, boys. You know who exactly who I am talking about. Sometimes, I was fascinated by them, thinking, ‘Man, they seem to have all the fun.’ But other times? I was downright scared, worried I wouldn’t stand a chance if things got physical. So, I tried to stay on their good side, just in case. Even the movies reinforced this – the hero always beating the bad guys, and there I was, excelling in academics but feeling less ‘manly’. I realized violence wasn’t my definition of manliness. Sure, I felt anger, but the thought of harming someone? That was never me. I even remember asking a friend once if something like bad happened on the street, if someone harassed her and I got into a fight with that person, would you like that? She said no, I would feel it’s stupid if I got into a fight. Maybe movies teach us to get into a fight and beat them up? Or it might draw questions to your love for that person? What kind of masculinity is this? I feel like Gandhi ji was a real man. Absolutely. Endure and say nothing.
Now, let’s talk about how boys talked about girls in school or college. It was like a bad sitcom script. You’d hear stuff like ‘Girls only want guys with cars,’ and I’d think, ‘Seriously?’ We were all fumbling around, trying to piece together what sex and relationships were about from jokes and overheard conversations. The day I first learned about sex by overhearing others was a shocker. I thought, ‘No, that can’t be real’. You channel it in a way that you think your parents have done this, that’s why you are here. YOUR LIFE CHANGES POST THAT DAY. Suddenly, you see the world, even your parents, in a new light. I remember feeling like a pervert for just having normal thoughts and desires. Fifteen years later, people say, ‘You’ve evolved so much’. The person is the same. So, we have those judgments constructed withing us that if you think like this, you are a pervert or something is wrong with you, so I kept it to yourself.
There was no outlet for this because growing up as a nerd, hardly anyone gives you attention, you are not somebody who will have a girlfriend or someone who will be interested in you. And then it takes a lot of women to come into your life and make you feel wanted, and for you to start getting over that idea that somebody can like me, that somebody can be attracted to me, that somebody can want me. It took a lot of amazing women in my life to change that perception, to make me feel desirable. And guess what? Every time I shared my deepest thoughts, I’d find others who felt the same way. So many shared feelings, but we never talk about them.
Here’s what I’ve learned: there’s no one way to be a boy, there’s no one way to be a man, there’s no one way to be a human. There are many ways, all the experiences are valid, and all our thoughts are valid, it’s just that we can’t talk about these things, so we end up feeling alone.