Weekly Update: 3/13 – 3/19

This was the week where everything had to get done.

I finished revisions on “Juicers” by Monday and submitted it for critique at Paradise Lost. Keeping it under 5000 words ham-strung me a bit — an extra 300 words would have done me good — but it ended up just fine. Considering that I started it last December, this is surprisingly quick turnaround on one of my short stories.

I led services twice this week, once for Vespers on Wednesday night, and again this morning for regular service. I hadn’t intended on leading Vespers, but I had been prepping for the Sunday service for several weeks. We hosted a speaker from CAIR Florida, an advocacy group that’s been very busy for what should be obvious reasons. I mumbled a few times through the service, but otherwise I spoke well.

I’ve also read some interesting books lately. I’m re-reading Uprooting Racism by Paul Kivel for a workshop, a great resource for my fellow white allies. I also read Resilience by Eric Greitens, a fantastic book about dealing with pain and forming identity. I’m also listening to Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates during my daily workouts.

On a whim, earlier this week I watched The Mask You Live In, a documentary about toxic masculinity in modern culture. Masculinity in itself isn’t toxic; only when combined with objectification of women and rejection of “feminine” traits (such as showing emotion or being attracted to men) does it become harmful.

I’ve long had trouble with identifying with my “maleness” because I buck many of the norms of masculine behavior. I have poor dexterity and wasn’t athletic as a child; I’ve always been thin-skinned and “sensitive”; I prefer domestic hobbies like cooking and reading to working on cars. However, I don’t identify as non-binary or as a woman. “Male” is the closest signpost.

I thought about this when, earlier today, I was showing a newcomer — a woman — around our church. I was initially following her, but she asked if I could “lead the way,” so I did. It felt good being put in charge, so to speak. It’s what men are expected to do, and yet, even though I’m almost certain it’s a societal construct and not a biological imperative, I still felt good doing it.

I listen to the podcast The Art of Manliness, not because the hosts have the true, “gnostic” knowledge of manhood, but because I fit in better with gender roles when I follow their advice. Some of it, incidentally, is genuinely helpful, such as their recent discussion on flow state. But the fact that some men grow mustaches is a cultural norm, and the “right way” to trim one can only be purely subjective.

Given all this, I’ve been taking an interesting approach for the past couple years: I’m mimicking Steve Rogers, aka Captain America.

Rogers grew up as a skinny kid in Brooklyn in the 1930s. Desperate to join the Army and fight Nazi Germany in WWII, he agreed to be a guinea pig for a super-soldier serum. He emerged from the process a transformed man, with the body of Chris Evans, but still with the good heart of that short, sickly kid from depression-era New York. After some adventures in Europe, he gets frozen in the Arctic, then resurrected in 2011, where he has to confront modern culture.

Except that he fits in just fine.

Rogers has become my primary role model for manhood. He’s an FDR patriot who brings 1930s idealism to 21st century problems. He knows that, for example, drone warfare is wrong because no one can be held accountable for when it inevitably goes wrong (CA: The Winter Soldier!) He’s loyal to a fault, even if it means standing against his friends for what he feels is right (CA: Civil War). And instead of retreating to “the way things were” after he’s freed from the ice, he fills a notepad with things he needs to learn about, including Star Wars and Disco. In short, Rogers is a man who believes in progress.

Anyway, I’m tired, and my laundry is finished drying. Until next time.