Book of Man founder and editor Martin Robinson has recently launched his new book. I get a strong sense that this exploration into masculinity is going to prove extremely timely, for several reasons.
In this blog I don’t intend to give away too much away, but instead I want this to act as a snippet into what to expect in Martin’s book, in part through my own reflections.
The Book of Man is a platform that I hold close to my heart. It was on the platform that I first detailed my story in writing and published it for the world to see. I remember the feeling well, I felt sick and I was worried about how people might react. At that point in my journey, I hadn’t exposed a huge amount of my story, only very top line, but in this account, I really opened up.
As I reflect on my own words in the article, two sentences stand out to me. I wrote, on discussing the passing of my father by suicide:
‘The reaction created an association that I felt was so heavy on my shoulders, that I could never tell anyone about the real me: ‘Who would want to employ/date/be friends with someone like that?’ It sounds ridiculous but this is what was so firmly in my head.’ And ‘I actively tried to bury it so far that I would live most of my days forgetting about it.’
It’s poignant. As a young guy dealing with loss, I felt gripped by a certain way that I had to react. I didn’t want to show anyone that I was impacted by what happened. I never cried. I was adamant to keep going through life, doing everything that I should do as a young guy. I went through each life stage, merely pretending. Life was an act. In some environments I would lie through my teeth about who I was. I was in all forums living up to the way that I was expected to be, as a man. When dating I would create a fantasy ideal, which included saying that my dad was still alive. After all, who would want to date or get close to anyone who had ‘all of that going on?’ This is what I told myself, daily.
It wasn’t until my early twenties that I started to question how I reacted. In all honesty, up until that point, I had never explored the concept of ‘mental health’, let alone my own. It was a journey of personal discovery and in doing so I reshaped my own understanding of what it means to be a guy in my own head. I started to not see vulnerability and emotion as a sign of weakness, instead a characteristic of strength and a characteristic that I was comfortable being associated with. I discovered a concept of ‘self-care’ and I found that it really does work. I explored therapy and would openly tell people how much I benefited from it. In an unintended way, I learnt so much about masculinity, through my own self-reflection.
The themes that I mention here are important. Martin will show that we are moving into an era where multiple shades of being a man can exist, and they can exist without shame or judgment. Well, what a world that could be. Martin embarks on a personal quest to explore masculinity in the twenty-first century. Along the way he visits men’s groups and drag artists, talks to sex gurus and feminists, hangs out with cage fighters and trans men, takes part in touching workshops’ and explores the darkest corners of ‘incel’ chatrooms… all to discover what’s really going on with the modern man.
Martin’s book includes contributions from some true greats: Jason Fox, Professor Green, Jonny Benjamin, Poorna Bell, Ben West, Simon Gunning, Luke Campbell MBE, Freddie Flintoff, Kearnan Myall, The Connor Brothers and many more. And, with reviews like this, I can’t wait to get stuck into it:
‘A sharp but sensitive exploration of the pitfalls of masculinity. Martin writes with an openness that draws you in, unpacking the masculinity myths that we need to tackle, right now, with insight.’ Jeffrey Boakye, author of Hold Tight: Black Masculinity, Millennials, and the Meaning of Grime
To purchase, head over to Bloomsbury for more information here .