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  • Writer's pictureNathan

Things I've been taught to never do, because I'm an American man

Updated: Nov 23, 2019


Hug my friends.

Cuddle my friends.

Hold hands with my friends.

Have female friends.

Tell my friends I love them, straightforwardly, in a context that is neither joking nor drunk.

Behave as if I love my friends.


Talk about vulnerable emotions, like sadness or self-doubt.

Feel vulnerable emotions.

Cry in public.

Cry in front of romantic partners.

Cry while sober.


Smile too much, especially at other men, or at myself in a mirror.

Use emojis to reflect what I'm earnestly feeling. :)


Wear any jewelry that is not a tungsten ceramic carbide matte steel masculinity shard carved from the penis bone of the First Man.

View my body as a home, as something beautiful, as something ancient, as something complex, or as anything other than a perpetually unsatisfactory tool for crudely executing the will of my mind.

Dress in ways that make me feel happy.

Examine myself with empathy or compassion.


Be silly.

Be uncertain.

Change my mind.

Admit I was completely wrong. (There must always be a caveat.)

Admit that I have never thought about something before.

Recognize when I have no opinion on the topic.

Publicly write things like this.


Accept that men can be abused.

Accept that I can be abused. (Even if other men can be, I'm different.)

Accept that I was abused, and more than once.

Accept that I have abused, and more than once.

Accept that many very normal behaviors are abusive.


Everyone has a list

Not every man is taught the same list of taboos. Not every man learns the list in the same way. But we all have a list like this.

Maybe we don't even know what's on it, because we've never even written it out. This was my first time writing my list for anyone else to see.

This is not my full list

There are things I forgot while writing this.

There are things I couldn't decide how to phrase.

There are things I didn't want to share publicly.

And the list itself is always growing.

But even if this is not my full list, it's a start. In the end, that's exactly where each of us needs to begin.

We should all write our lists

If you have never written your list, I encourage you to try it.

Which parts of your list have you known about for a while, and which ones are more recent?

Which items did you learn about for the first time only while writing your list?

It might be interesting to see which of your items match those on my list, and which are different. Then have a friend write their list, and compare yours to theirs. If you can get friends of multiple genders involved, even better.

I think exercises like this do a lot. They help us become more cognizant of our own personalities and habits, as well as those of our friends. This helps us empathize more with each other and with ourselves. And that reduces conflict and increases happiness all around. Men in America need 10,000 times more nurturing and experience in all of this.

And men have to do the nurturing and experiential modelling. It can't continue to come only from women as is the case currently. That is neither equitable, nor particularly effective in a society where men are taught to pay attention to other men but not to women.

The detail in the harm

Discovering the items on this list has been a decade-long process. Sometimes it seems my entire adult life has been one long attempt to recognize, understand, and undo these norms in myself. I'm always finding new ones, and missing even more.

I have been helped in my efforts by many people who aren't men, and just a very few who are. Hopefully my efforts here can help that second category become just a little bigger. We do not have enough men leading a healthy way for other men.

In subsequent pieces, I will talk about some of the harms I have caused to myself and others by enacting the masculine norms that have guided my growth throughout my life, from birth through the present.

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