Note to my boys
A while back I wrote a note to my girls. That was easy because I know what it’s like to be a girl.
Writing this is harder because I’m on the outside.
Nonetheless, there are some things I want you to know.
Firstly, you will be expected to be strong, and you will be. Your body is naturally stronger than a woman’s. Remember this, and remember to be gentle. You will also be expected to be emotionally strong. This is problematic because the human heart is not a gendered thing. Men and women have different bodies but their hearts are the same. People will try to tell you that men feel things differently but that’s a lie.
I believe all hearts share certain characteristics: the capacity to love, combined with the potential to break. The capacity for kindness, as well as cruelty. The ability to open or slam shut.
I have observed a tendency to ‘gang up’ amongst groups of boys. Become a bully or get bullied. Do not fall into this trap. Regardless of which side you’re on, you will become damaged.
Stay away from bullies at all costs. You might be lonely but it’s worth it.
The gang mentality of your peers will be pervasive when you are a teenager. Do this. See this. Watch this. Play this.
If you obey, you are included. If you do not, you are an outcast. This can feel like the worst thing in the world.
The worst thing that can happen is that you waste your precious life. Instead of finding out who you really are, and what you genuinely like, you become enslaved to somebody else’s idea of what you are supposed to be.
Try things. Learn things. Ignite your curiosity about the world. Delight in the strength and vitality of your body.
Understand that there is a long history of men having more civil rights than women. Understand that this time is nearly over. If you pay attention, you will notice that men get treated differently to women. Notice in social situations how women end up clearing plates and baking cakes, while men sit around getting waited on. Notice how women jump up and change nappies, or chase the toddlers, while men sit and watch sport.
Promise me that you will never be so ignorant. If you like cake, bake one. If it’s your kid, change the nappy. If you think it’s unfair that men don’t get equal paternity leave, stand up and fight. I will fight alongside you.
Don’t date women who expect you to pay for things. This is an antiquated notion from a time when women couldn’t or didn’t work. Back then, women had no financial freedom so it was fair that men paid because there was no other practical option.
The concept of men paying will be sold to you as chivalry and good manners, much like opening doors or lifting heavy things. But if a woman has her own money and still expects you to pay for everything, things are out of whack.
If something doesn’t seem fair, it probably isn’t.
Don’t chase wealth. Choose a career that interests you and builds on your innate talents. Money will come and money will go. If you are in it to become wealthy – not because you like it – you will end up spending your money on distractions. If you enjoy your work, you won’t want to be distracted. Focus, pride of workmanship, integrity, skill and service to others will bring you much more joy than money ever will.
Understand that you only need enough; no more than that. This world is full of miserable people who have too much, and guard it jealously, fearful that someone will take it away. Don’t be like this. If you have too much, give it away. The one mysterious rule of this universe is that givers get. Money is a tool. Use it kindly.
Promise me that you will use your strength to strengthen others. While ever you have an advantage, use that advantage to help others.
If you want to dance, or cry, or knit, or play rugby for Australia, I am right beside you. Wear pink. Wear blue. I don’t care.
But please, wear what you like. Become your own man. This is the easiest and the hardest thing to do because there’s a lot of misinformation around about what a man is, and should be.
And above all, look to people like Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, The Dalai Lama and Bob Hawke when you’re ready to find an idol. These men made real change in the world, and they did it through perseverance, personality and above all, peacefulness. You don’t have to shoot, blow up or mow down anyone to make progress.
Instead, hold people’s hands and raise them up with you. It’s the only way forward.