Aloha and a Happy Wednesday to you my dudes! This is Anime Parlay and I’m the Captain. Today, we’re mixing it once again this week something I’ve wanted to do since I’ve returned to the blogging realm. Originally, I wanted to create a blog that I could use like a journal to serve as my own personal archive. However, when that brainstorm came, Anime was something that had deeply affected me beyond what I had previously realized. More or less, anime has served me as a deep means of communication with other humans and thus it became the main theme for this psudo-mindfulness blog. Today, we’re going to get personal. I am going to share some things that I have only shared with my Wife. Along with the confidence my partner give me on a daily basis, I figured it was finally time to air my feelings on life. Deep breathe! I’ve got this.
Today I wanted talk about my ongoing struggle with my own masculinity. I have NEVER been traditionally masculine. That’s not for lack of trying. I just can’t win. This thought really hit me last week when I went to Home Depot with my father-in-law to grab some lumber for our deck project. Just looking around at all baseball caps, beards, and dirty clothes gave me that rugged vibe that a “MAN” has to strive for. Then, I realized I had grown out my facial and head hair since I quit my last job. I, for all intents and purposed, blended in to a fucking hardware store like a boss. I had an overwhelming sense of pride not because I blended in with the traditional male American culture but because I was faking it enough passively to pass my bluff check. Thank Odin no one conversed with me. That would have sank the whole ruse.
I spent the last week pondering that feeling of accomplishment for essentially being unremarkable to everyone. “Normal” if I can use a word that I don’t feel is appropriate for societal expectations. What is that about? Why am I struggling with this as a 30-year-old? I seriously spent assorted free time contemplating a lot in my head. After some real, down-to-earth self-realization I figured some things out. Allow me to elaborate while I put my feelings out there and attempt to be the best of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.
Who is “The Captain”?
Allow me to paint you a picture of The Captain. Me, the writer here. I’ve been described as the embodiment of contradiction. I have the knack to do the opposite of what people expect of me most of the time. The older I have gotten, the more I have come to appreciate my anonymity which is hilarious when compared to the giant ego I had in my younger 20’s. I hate celebrity. I don’t want the attention. If I can share my words, a story, or my experience with you over a beer/joint (your call, no judgement), I want to hear yours in return. My goal is to learn more about you, the world, because I am not the only one here. Perspectives, ALL OF THEM, matter and help us understand one another. Change my mind.
Now, I wasn’t always so…together. I still don’t consider myself there. I would say I really started molding into a “human” around my 6th grade year. We had just moved from Kansas back to California (my birth state, sorry, not sorry) to my Dad’s hometown. It was small and completely different from the city life I had been accustomed to. How can I describe the vibe of my hometown? Conservative. Republican. Red? Either way, you get the idea. Traditional and unforgiving. When it comes to my own political identity, I am fiercely progressive forged in the heart of conservative ideals. Everything I despised about where I grew up became my reason for wanting to understand, explore, and open my mind. Needless to say, I never fit in there. Don’t get me wrong. I had friends, chance encounters, and have some great stories about growing up. However, not all of them are great.
Something I have LONG considered a weakness in myself is my inherent sensitivity and openness with my emotions. I am a big sensitive guy. I am a softy. Sometime words hurt my feelings and I am not sure how to deal with my emotions. How I got to be this way can be many reasons but my mother always described me as a more feminine boy. I was raised by mom and grandmother (independently at various times) until about middle school. I learned how to cook, clean, and really be self-sufficient by the time I was 10 or so. I loved to show my affections to people and can remember being happy with that childlike wonder until middle school started. That was when my identity started to come under attack.
I can remember the day like it was yesterday. It was 6th grade and I had already been labeled the “Weird Kid”. A title I would come to bear indefinitely for life, oh well. I remember wearing my favorite pink polo shirt my grandmother had gotten for me. It was my jam but my classmates thought otherwise. Two boys from my class followed me as I walked home. This was the first time I heard the word “Faggot”. I hate that word for so many reasons. Beyond the negative connotations it suggests for the LGBTQ community as a whole, just hearing it makes my blood boil. I turned to see who was using the words only to be met with rocks. Motherfuckers threw rocks at me and called me a faggot for wearing a pink shirt. My arm got knocked out of it’s socket by one of the rocks and at that point, I just tried to make it home. My poor mother, called the Principal and the boys got their due justice. Still, the fact of the matter was that I was bullied because the suspected I was gay. It would be one thing if I identified with that sexual orientation but I don’t. Just a sensitive boy in the heart of conservative values.
I’d love to tell you that was the extent of the bullying during school but unfortunately it wasn’t. I got it all. Choked out and pressed against the wall, wedgies (the easiest to deal with, that’s just a thong baby!), and followed home just to have a parent chase them away. This was just “normal”. Expected. Predictable. At least until my sophomore year of high school. One day on my bus ride home, one of the uneducated hicks that had it out for me because he was certain I was gay (why does it matter, dude?). I shit you not, he fashioned a sharp edge out of a rusty nail in our shop class, grabbed my right arm, and told me to admit I was gay. I didn’t at first because why would I do that. Then he slowly slashed my right arm until I gave him some sort of affirmation. I bled. I covered my arm with jacket to stop anyone else from seeing it. My mom eventually did, narked on the dude, got him in trouble, and then had his redneck posse on my case until they graduated. I still have the scar on my right arm. I will have it forever but it has faded a bit over the last decade.
Fear not, family and friends really came through every time and I consider myself blessed to have known such kindness in newly realized dark times. I would have been nothing without them. They encouraged me to keep being myself and marching to the beat of my own drum. It’s a lesson I try to adhere to as much as I can moving forward in life. By the time my Junior and Senior year came around I was a campus celebrity. I was in the drama club, I was the lead singer for our school’s rock band class, and graduated a respected(-ish) classmate, maybe. I had made it through or so I thought. My next challenge came in the form of the military.
Masculinity in the Military
Three months after graduating high school, I shipped off to boot camp and began my new life. Strange sentence. I would love to tell you I had some form of patriotism drove my decision to enlist but I’d be lying. I wanted a chance to go to college (and my family was/is POOR) and I wanted to get the hell out of where I grew up. The Navy recruiter had a spot and the rest is history. I adapted well to my new lifestyle. It helped me learn discipline, both appropriate and personal, it gave me a paycheck with the challenge of not spending it in one spot, and it gave me a chance to reinvent myself. I was a newly minted sailor The Captain who had never set foot on a real ship and thought he was an adult. I wore what I wanted, I bought what I wanted, I stood for what I wanted. Mistake!
Within my first few months of my training school, a weekend trip to the thrift shop had fellow personnel calling me that spiteful “F” word. Seriously?! By the time I had established some items and clothes outside of what gets issued to you in boot camp, I was feeling like myself. Floral print shirts, pink Nintendo DS Lite (because details), and listening to Scissor Sisters without the faintest clue that the band itself had gay overtones. Just doing me. Then someone, without knowing me, made a judgement call, assumed who I was, and started a rumor. I thought this type of shit would be over after high school. Luckily, reality called just in time to deliver me a check! The hardest part of that whole situation was not having my former support group of family and friends to back me up. However, new settings means new friends. I found my confidence in their acceptance for feminine nature despite our overly masculine occupation.
I began to land on my two-feet more often than not after some time in the service. It even became predictable to know when someone was going to take a shot at me for something that wasn’t blatantly masculine. One of my favorite interactions that happened way too much went something like this:
Nice pink Gameboy! What are you, gay or something?
Yep. The fact that my coral rose (not pink, you dofus-of-a-troglodyte) means that I prefer dick. Nailed it! Astute observation! You know, I have been spending a lot of time at the “Think Before You Speak Market” and I think you would really like it there. Seriously. That dude has a pink video game system, safe to assume he likes dudes. I don’t understand it. I also didn’t understand how they would call me gay while watching two grown shirtless men grapple each other for hours for the sake of mixed martial arts. Never mind. By the end of my tenure in the military, I had started doing stand-up comedy and making a small name for myself where I was stationed. Turns out with the immediate support of my battle brothers and sisters (who only ruffled my feathers for fun), I was capable of doing anything.
Steer into the Skid
After being discharged, I moved back to my ignorant hometown with hopes that it had a chance to improve. It did not and I was met with the same adversity I had dealt with in high school. Without too much delay, I moved north to the very liberal Pacific North West. Since then, the only comments on my masculinity come from my wife. It usually how her more masculine nature compliments my feminine nature. Either way, I learned really quick after moving back to where I grew up that no matter what you have done or accomplished, predisposed opinions of people will always hold folks back from understanding their counterparts. Part of me wonders if they care about stuff like that anyway. Still, I find myself happiest now that I can express myself, especially on the blog here, with all of the things that make me ME. Just be yourself and you’ll do amazing! I always have a case of the “Fuck Its” as of late.
As I think back to anime and who inspired me to keep moving forward, it was Ayame Sohma. Ayame is just feminine in everything he does. The way he keeps his hair, the absurd style of dress, and his mannerisms. My high school friends swore he was gay. I swore he was not because I saw too much of myself in Ayame. His connection with Mine, the girl who works at his (fetish) shop, is one that gave me hope. I know I am strange. I know I’m “out there”. Someone, someday, will love me for who I am. If it can happen to Ayame, it could happen to me. Wouldn’t you know it, it totally did!
I am a “girly” man. I accept what I am and I am proud of it. I know that what I see as the measure of a “man” has nothing to do with masculinity. I am a good man with a good heart and intend on fixing as much with this wonky world as I can.
I don’t like to talk about being bullied when I was younger. It is one of those things that I buried deep in my soul and chose to never talk about. I am only now giving those experiences more credit because they shaped me into myself. I have also always wanted to discuss it with members of the LBGTQ community to see if they experienced anything similar. And if so, fuck that. Why do people behave like that to things, people, and ideas that are different? I’m not into it. My instances of bullying are why I avidly want to support the gay community as a whole. I want to be an ally because no one should ever have to get their arm sliced open on the bus ride home.
Thank you for reading this emotional roller coaster comprised in words. It feels great to send out that negativity into the aether of the interwebs. If you’re looking for an ally against toxic masculinity, count me in. I had my fill when I was younger and I am ready to stamp it out.