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The 3 little overheard words that changed my view of masculinity forever

The 3 little overheard words that changed my view of masculinity forever

My eyes and ears were opened anew when my son said I love you to a friend.

What is possible if we can live in a world where men can freely express their emotions? I couldn't imagine it until that moment in my kitchen.

I was in the kitchen putting a chicken schnitzel into the air fryer. My son walked into the house, talking on the phone, making plans for something or other.

He signed off the call with “I love you. Bye.” Endlessly curious about my son’s love life, I asked, “Who was that?”

“Riyaad,” he answered. His large, muscly best friend and primary gym buddy.

An “oh” escaped from me. “What?” he said. And then, with an eye roll, suddenly defensive: “It’s not like that.”

“Nothing, love!” I said, but I was lying. It was something.

I had until that moment never heard him sign off to a male friend like that. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a man sign off like that.

And suddenly, I was sad. What a tragedy to never be able to express your love for your close friends. Women do this easily and without complications.

It can’t be that men don’t feel love in the same way, and yet it’s not common to be able to just say “Hey — love you, man.”

The patriarchal system of belief around what men and women can and should do is internalised by us all. Men and Women.

At that moment, I was the patriarchy. My preconceived ideas about masculine feelings, friendships, expressions, and the depth of the potential connections between men were laid bare.

I was ashamed. I’ve always considered myself a self-aware person who can challenge stereotypes. And yet, here I was, stumbling into one I didn’t even know was there.

I wondered if this ability to say “I love you” is part of what connects women so strongly and creates a sense of belonging.

Could it be that my son, by merely expressing “I love you” to his friend, has woven a web of male bonds that will support him throughout his life? How wonderful.

This is so different from what my father and his friends modelled to me. Their friendships seemed founded on sport and beer and banter.

As he has aged, there seem to be fewer men in his life. An opposite to my mom, who gathers more and more women friends as she goes. Could the ability to say three words have made a difference?

What is possible if we can live in a world where men can freely express their emotions? I couldn’t imagine it until that moment in my kitchen. And now my eyes have been opened.

Since that overheard conversation, I have been watching to see men expressing love. I see it all over the place now, mostly not in words but in small actions.

Andre going to Ryan’s house with beer to play a new online game when Ryan’s girlfriend broke up with him.

Riyaad coming with my son to pick me up from the airport. Charles joking with Mike about his hair loss and middle-aged spread.

The light teasing and the silent side-by-side support that men do. It’s all part of the love.

I see men differently now. It’s beautiful. This tiny moment in my son’s life was a tectonic shift in my understanding of men and the world.

And just like getting an air fryer, once you get it, nothing is ever the same.

Liz Marshall

Change expert, Liz Marshall, believes that the big change equals big opportunity.

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