Men’s Health Month in New Zealand is in June, I also happen to be back in New Zealand for half of it. You see, I’m not usually in NZ at any time that I consider ‘cold’, which, for me, is most of the year. So my wife and I spend the rest of our time in the south of Mexico in a town called Puerto Escondido.
Puerto is a stunning little piece of paradise with great food, great people, cheap prices and unbelievable surf. (Google it if you want to see some scary wipeouts!) (That’s a beach break right there!)
Puerto is pretty amazing, but New Zealand it is not… especially culturally.
Now, I’m about to talk in generalisations and stereotypes, but the Mexican men here have a culture called ‘machismo’. Basically, it means:
“Having an unusually high or exaggerated sense of masculinity. Including an attitude that aggression, strength, sexual prowess, power and control is the measure of someone’s manliness. Also, a machismo man feels having these traits entitles him to respect and obedience from men and women around him.”
Or, said in another way; “New Zealand a few decades ago…”
My favourite colour is pink, always has been. That doesn’t fit in here.
I like to spray-paint / paint my nails. That doesn’t fit in here.
I like to talk about my feelings. That doesn’t fit in here.
Anecdotally and from what I have personally seen, men here cheat on their wives and partners. A lot. Fortunately, there are no cartels in our state but all the violence I hear about around here seems to stem from one man fighting/stabbing/killing another because of a woman or because his sense of ‘machismo’ was questioned or harmed. This ‘machismo’ carries over into the streets, bars and waves.
All of this has given me a wonderful perspective of just how far we, as NZ men, have come.
As with most gradual changes you may not have even noticed it, but we have changed, slowly. YOU have changed.
So why not change a little more? Or a LOT more? And why not start that change right now?
It’s Men’s Health Month. It’s our month to give a shit about us. To care not only about ourselves but the other men in our lives. To make changes that will improve our own lives and the lives of the women and children around us.
Mexican men are dying young. The #1 cause of premature death? Interpersonal violence. Followed by heart disease, kidney disease, and diabetes.
In both countries, the biggest problems for men are actually being a man. They are ‘machismo’, ‘manning up’ or ‘hardening up’ and these are outdated constructs that we no longer have to adhere to.
Do you want to lead a happier and healthier life so that you can be there for your partner, your kids and your grandkids as long as possible?
Well, then you probably need to make some changes. And those changes start with removing some of those stereotypes we’ve been adhering to our entire lives because we were told that was how we were supposed to be.
Feeling even just a little bit sick, or strangely in pain? Don’t ‘man up’. Go and see the doctor, it might actually be something serious.
Feeling like you can’t get out of bed today? And it’s been going on for a while? Don’t ‘take a concrete pill and harden up’. Talk to someone about it.
See a friend looking like that? Talk to him. But not in the old blokey way, actually sit down and show some compassion, empathy and kindness, let him know that he is not alone and that if he needs help then you are here to do exactly that, help him.
See your waistline slowly expanding? Hit up some mates to start a new hobby that gets you outside and exercising whilst having loads of fun.
Getting a bit angry at your loved ones or anyone that annoys you? Look into the real reason why and see how you can start making changes to stop that happening. You probably can’t tackle that by yourself, so ask for help, it’s available.
Here’s the thing… You are in charge my friend.
Your health, your happiness, is 100% your responsibility, not your doctor’s or your partner’s or anyone else’s.
We have to continue to challenge what it means to be ‘a man’. To look after yourself, to go see a doctor, to drink a little less, to care a little more, to take pride in your appearance or your health does not make you less of a man. It actually makes you someone who cares about themselves and those around them, it makes you someone who wants to live a better quality of life for you and those close to you.
It’s Men’s Health Month. Maybe today is the day to start your new definition of what it means to be a man.