Love In Lines, Relationships

[Love In Lines] In Appreciation of the Manly Man – Denise Li

Denise Li never expected to fall in love with an alpha-male, but he turned out to be The One.

Tom Hardy in Warrior: Definitely the shining example of a manly man

Tom Hardy’s Tommy Conlon in Warrior: Definitely the shining example of a manly man

Before I met Alain years ago, I never expected my life partner to turn out to be a jock. I tended to go for bookish types who were more inclined to talk about politics and philosophical ideas than the latest title fight in UFC, more likely to suggest watching The Artist over Expendables 2, whose idea of a good time was to sit down at a cafe talking about postmodern literature, not sweating it out in a gym working those heavy bags.

Of course, to merely pigeonhole or stereotype Alain as a jock would be an insult to the nth degree. But I’m running ahead of myself.

But I’ll be upfront right now and just state for the record that I first noticed his rippling biceps and washboard abs before I realised that he also had a sparkling personality to boot. I mean, the dude is the physical embodiment of “alpha male” (as friends continue to remind me to this day), and (SHAME ON ME), in my mind, I immediately associated with him all the negative stereotypes of alpha-maleness: More brawn than brain, full of machismo … probably a sexist dude who expects his girlfriend to be skinny, have big boobs and long hair, and make him a “sammich”.

It wasn’t long before I was to discover how wrong I was. He would turn out to be the sweetest, most considerate guy I’ve ever gone out with. And yes, the man can hold his own in a discussion about feminism and gay rights (thank GOD).

But I am someone who takes more than a passing interest in gender politics and identity, and I soon realised that Alain has actually taught me a few lessons about what it means to “be a man”, above and beyond physical appearances and stereotypical Hollywood-esque depictions of masculinity.

(Disclaimer: It’s not that I think these are traits exclusive to the male gender or that only men should have these traits. Rather, they are traits are seem to be associated more strongly with males during the process of gender socialisation, although I’m of the opinion that they are good ones to have, regardless of which gender you identify with.)

1. He walks the talk

I would be impressed if I found out that a guy has read The Vagina Monologues, The Beauty Myth, or The Feminine Mystique. But you know what I find even more impressive? If a dude is able to call out sexist/bigoted bullshit as and when he sees it happen. Many people – and I count myself as guilty on occasion – would just let these things slide, especially if such views are expressed by their friends in order to “maintain the peace” and not create an awkward situation. But I’ve seen first-hand that Alain is not afraid to point out misogynistic/homophobic/racist statements uttered by people he knows and challenge them on it.

2. He is remarkably self-assured

While we both consider ourselves to be introverts, I admire the way Alain conducts himself in unfamiliar group settings. In a roomful of strangers, I am more likely to be a shrinking violet; I keep quiet and pretend to be invisible, whereas he has a way of making himself memorable to new people he meets. He doesn’t do this by being loud or dominating conversations – he just has a way of overcoming shyness quickly and projecting a confident demeanour that doesn’t feel fake or come across like he’s overcompensating.

3. He is decisive and committed

Call me unlucky but before meeting Alain, all I seemed to meet were guys who were happy to string me along or deliberately leave their feelings for me open-ended. But I never had to second-guess Alain from the start. Where our long-distance relationship is concerned, he’s always more than held up his share of the bargain: Coming to Singapore regularly for visits, making sure he’s around for our Skype calls. I’ve seen this decisiveness spill over into other areas of his life as well. Recently, he went for a skills-upgrading course in the field of logistics and I liked how he didn’t settle for average grades – he always wanted to among the top of his class, and worked hard on the aspects he was weaker in. I find that kind of commitment really sexy, for some reason.

4. He’s big enough to admit it when he’s wrong

If women are guilty of saying “sorry” too much (Pantene recently released an amazing ad that highlighted the tendency of women to say “sorry” when they really mean “excuse me”), I think some men are guilty of the exact opposite: Getting overly defensive when it’s become clear that they are in the wrong. To many men, saying “I’m sorry” is akin to showing weakness, but I think nothing can be further from the truth. I think it takes incredible courage to admit you’re wrong and adjust your viewpoints accordingly. Alain is someone who’s open-minded enough to think things through, and able to step into someone else’s shoes to see their point of view. When he says “sorry” during an argument to me, I find myself respecting him even more for it.

Anyway, I’m interested to find out what are some of the other traits you find attractive in a man. Leave a comment to let me know!

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