Yes, I’m turning 40 this year. And I realize that this past year – the last one in my 30’s – I have gone through a minor midlife crisis. Lacking the funds to purchase a sports car and being too in love with my wife and kids to start flirting with anything that would cause them harm, I have nonetheless changed in an interesting way. Some might say I’ve devolved.
Bookish and sensitive as a youth, I was a rather nerdy, wimpy kid. I avoided confrontation and liked to please everyone. I never got in a fight. I was quiet and got good grades. Even when I got older, I loved philosophy, literature, culture, etc. I was a student of the higher things in life, and this continued through my twenties and thirties.
In the past year, I have regressed to a somewhat more rugged demeanor. I’m finally in decent physical shape, I’ve shaved my head, I speak my mind more often and don’t shrink away from acting, even if others (my long-suffering wife) think it’s hasty or might give some offense. And I realize that, along with this, is a slight reduction in my “finer” sensibilities. I’d still choose a symphony over a ball game, but I’m much more inclined to participate in sports than do other things. I’m a little more reckless, and a little less concerned about obeying rules. And I’m considering a tattoo.
Along with this has come a certain measure of appreciation for stereotypically masculine behavior – the sort that Christianity has spent 2000 years trying to subdue, if the religious ed teachers from my youth are to be believed. The quiet, contemplative, asexual, rosary-praying, wrong-bearing, cheek-turning doormat was held as the paradigm of Christian living. What I’ve realized experientially is that being this way tends to enable wrongdoers to continue acting wrongly, so if bearing wrongs violates justice, I’m not as inclined to bear them anymore. Sometimes, people need a good spanking. And assertively demanding that others maintain good behavior in public, while offensive to modern sensibilities, is something I’m more inclined to do.
I believe Christianity in America needs a good dose of masculinity, so I’m starting with “the Man in the Mirror” (that reference just undercut my whole thesis, didn’t it?). Any suggestions for an authentic Catholic masculine spirituality would be appreciated.