Every so often I hear the treacherous phrase, “Chivalry is dead.” While some areas of media would have us to believe this is true, I simply refuse to accept it. I am a strong supporter of chivalrous acts. Some may view the concept as outdated, limiting, or simply too traditional. But, this has become the age of #BlackLove and #relationshipgoals. It seems there has been a resurgence in relationships and the general feeling toward them. So much so there are creative engagements happening and being posted to social media all the time. All you have to do is go to Instagram and search the hashtags, you will find an overabundance of pictures displaying pure love.
Many idolize couples who seemingly exhibit healthy relationships, such as Ciara and Russell Wilson. Their love story has been the root of many women jokingly asking Ciara what prayer she prayed to get Russell Wilson as a spouse. That being said, I don’t think chivalry is dead! I still see men open store and car doors for women, pull out women’s chairs before they seat themselves, I’ve witnessed men move their women to the inner side of the sidewalk when walking down the street, men help women put their coats on, and there are even women at my job who randomly receive flowers or edible arrangements from their spouses or significant others. While of course women don’t NEED men to do these things, the efforts are greatly appreciated.
In an age where kindness and common courtesy are becoming less common it is refreshing to see these chivalrous actions still taking place. As a woman it is a fantastic feeling to have a man be thoughtful and courteous enough to do these things. It makes you no less independent to allow a man to help you with any of these acts! Even more, doing these things does not make you “weak” as I’ve heard before. If anything, it simply makes you a gentleman! These very small actions promote a trend of warmth that is unmatched.
By far, the best decision I’ve ever made for myself was to FINALLY start therapy. After years of wanting and needing to, but putting it off because of fear, I’m so happy that I did. Seriously, therapy saved my life. Since then, I’ve been on an endless crusade to get more of US to try it out. In all my experience of trying to encourage others to seek help for the everyday struggles life may bring, I’ve learned the group who needs an extra push when it comes to considering therapy are Black Men. I’ve had conversations with Black Men in therapy who have expressed shame about being in treatment. They often don’t want to tell their loved ones about it. I’ve also had conversations with Black Men who have considered therapy but have not taken that step. Being seen as weak is a real fear for you and I totally understand why. You’ve been conditioned to see any form of admitting a struggle shows weakness.
I can try to convince you to seek therapy all day long. But, I thought it would be more beneficial for you to hear from other Black Men who’ve sought therapy. I asked the men to describe their overall therapy experience and to give advice to other Black Men. Most of my readers are women but if you have a Black Man in your life who’s skeptical about therapy, share this with them.
Experience: Positive. Draining. But overall pointing me in the right direction.
Advice: Go with an open mind. Stick with it. It takes time and several sessions to start to get to heart of what ails you.
Anonymous, 32, in therapy for 4 months
E: Amazing to look at another person’s perspective of your situation and come to the realization that you do have layers of undiscovered things in your psyche.
A: Get rid of every stigma that may make you feel less of a man if you go.
Anonymous, 32, off and on for 5 months
E: Helpful and calming
A: Let the preconceived notions go. It does not mean you are crazy or make you less of a man. It can be helpful and sometimes essential in you maintaining your mental health.
Andre, 41, 6 months
E: I thought it was helpful to gain perspective, reflection, and at times indirect guidance.
A: Seek therapy, other folks are doing. Also, I think therapy advocates should consider the benefits of incorporating routine therapy or therapy-like activities in elementary, middle, and high schools….and not just reserve it for the students that are cutting themselves etc.
Anonymous, 33, 2 years off and on
E: I was very happy with the experience. It helped me learned about a lot of issues I had concerning my father and insecurities and my father has been married to my mother since 1982. It was tough at first but it definitely helped my relationship with my father and we are doing better. My relationship with significant other has gotten better to because I communicate better and have learned how to take criticism without feeling attacked.
A: You have to do this for yourself! The hardest part is just showing up. Once you show up you’ll be glad you did. There is nothing wrong with wanting to find out more about yourself and wanting help it doesn’t make you weak there’s nothing wrong with that either.
Christopher, 31, 3 months
E: My first time going was while I was in a relationship and my girlfriend at the time wanted me to see her in that setting, and listen as the therapist translated things for us. Luckily for me, I was able to see the type of therapy that would be most effective for me. The doctor was a very non traditional therapist, and during that visit she even recommended MDMA to get us over a vulnerability hump in our relationship. After seeing how amazing she was with my girlfriend, I decided to find my own therapist who was similar to work on maintaining my happiness, finding ways to be vulnerable in all my settings, and figure out where I needed fine tuning. I’ve never felt I had any mental illnesses, but I do strongly believe that all Black folks should see someone to deal with underlying issues we think are a part of life. Like the anxiety we get from systemic racism, and the depression and stress that sometimes comes with that. Since seeing therapists of all types, some very traditional, some far from traditional, I’ve been my happiest, knowing I’ve been given the tools to keep myself on track and help others as well. I’ve since become a mental health first aid professional, helping others in their emergencies and giving resources.
A: It’s imperative that we talk to folks who aren’t emotionally invested in us to get their unbiased thoughts and feedback. Being strong isn’t being silent, it’s talking and sharing and being vulnerable.
Darnell, 34, 6 years
E: The experience in therapy was generally positive. I was able to identify some neurosis and anxiety developed from early trauma. It was helpful to have that knowledge of self.
A: I would say that while frightening to be vulnerable, please do it. You can take your time working with a therapist of your choice. It can be helpful to find a therapist of similar to background. I had an additional barrier working with an affluent white woman therapist. She was fine, but her practice was in her home and I was met with aggression and suspicion when coming to my sessions by her neighbors. I was afraid because of that.
Taj, 30, 6 months
E: I’ll be straight up, I did not like my therapist. She was an older white lady, helpful and very succinct but I couldn’t help but feel like she couldn’t fully understand me. I used my sessions as times to vent and check-in/ update my therapist on the progress I made since the previous visit. We talked about finding balance in my life overall, my irrational spending habits, anger, and family issues I was having at the time. My therapist advised me to get more sleep, include more physical activity into my everyday routine (because endorphins matter), eat real food, and spend more time doing things I love.
A: When I left therapy I realized that my therapist had only confirmed what my friends and family had been telling me for years. For some reason it just clicked because it was a stranger telling me. It had to be right if EVERYONE was saying the same thing. Going to therapy never killed anybody. If you absolutely hate it you don’t have to go back. In my opinion the whole objective of therapy is to learn coping skills so that you don’t have to continue seeing a therapist. Try it.
Sugar. Spice. And everything nice. These are the ingredients used to make young women and not young men…This is one of the major issues in the Black community that perpetuates a constant stigma on how Black Men should act to be considered as “straight Black Men”. I want to mention a disclaimer to the fact that this isn’t to bash anyone that is homosexual but rather to emphasize and/or shed light on the things that we consider to be feminine or “gay” that make Black Men feel as though they cannot be themselves.
Let’s start from the beginning. In order to not only give a Black Woman’s perspective on Black Men and femininity, but I also did my due diligence and spoke with a variety of Black Men. It’s safe to say that most of them have grown up with parent(s) that did not approve of their actions. Those parents have their own bias and may even be homophobic and in raising their children, they wanted to make sure that their Black sons did not grow up to be gay or bisexual or even trans. Their children may not have even wanted to be any of those things but instead wanted to do certain things that would allow them to express their true identity. They were taught that in order to be a straight black male, you have to dress and act a certain way. They were taught that blue is for boys and pink is for girls. Some men were even beaten because they showed feminine tendencies and their fathers and/or mothers did not want them to grow up and become “gay.” Outrageous, right?
There is a big correlation between feminine actions as a child and being gay as an adult. This is something that I think people need to understand as it has been a pattern in the Black community and a constant “problem” among many cultures. A lot of my millennial Jamaican friends are open to living a certain lifestyle while their parents are very close-minded in the fact that their culture does not approve of anything pass what they have been taught. People’s experiences give them different viewpoints.
Even men who chose to groom themselves in a certain way get backlash because they aren’t rugged enough. They’d rather get manicures and pedicures than let their fingernails grow long and accumulate dirt. I personally love when men do this because it shows just how much they love to take care of themselves. Your nails can tell a lot about your personal hygiene. The problem is that I’ve dated Black Men who do not want to be seen getting their nails done but still get them done. This is a problem!
I want to make the argument that just because you act a certain way, doesn’t mean you are gay, straight, or bisexual. But on the other hand, everyone’s experience is different and most people I know that have changed the way they act now to become more expressive of who they are, have come out to be what most people thought they would be. That’s a personal experience. So what happens when the people that others placed their own societal views and stereotypes on say that they are just a straight Black Man who loves to move a certain way that isn’t “the norm”? Does that make them any less of a man?
OGs are in an uproar. OGs don’t paint their nails, wear skin-tight jeans and put beads in their hair…indeed they have!
Which brings me to my next point: Fashion! Probably one of the most liberating yet controversial ways of self-expression. Because of the standard set by not only society but our parents…I believe that the set standard goes a such
Boys that wear blue: straight
Boys that wear pink: gay
Girls that wear pink: straight
Girls that wear blue: still straight
This standard hasn’t even been followed by the teachers themselves.
Exhibit A: There are Black Men who were wearing dresses and blouses.
I am in no way comparing these two Black Men as far as their discography goes but I am of course comparing their choice of clothing and creativity. Fashion and sexuality aren’t in the same bubble.
A Black male friend of mine made a good point: People pick and choose when they think that things are “gay.” I say “gay” because of that’s usually the word I hear when straight Black Men with major insecurities refer to when they see another Black Man living in his truth. His truth isn’t “gay”…it’s just his true self.
This is something that goes on across all communities but maybe even more detrimental to the Black community because of how harsh society is on black men. Black Men get enough flack from society whether it’s from being too hood or too feminine.
Video Courtesy of Dalton Skaggs
Take, for example, Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna Jr., two men of color who play on the Atlanta Braves baseball team. A video compilation of them hugging and joking around in the dugout went viral on Twitter and people had so much to say on how their display of affection may come off. However, Albies was actually just comforting Acuna during the game. The other videos included how close a friendship they share and how Black Men don’t have to act so reserved all the time.
These men have never come out and said that they were into each other. In fact, they are said to be childhood friends. Women touch each other all of the time but for the most part, aren’t perceived as lesbian or bisexual. We are taught to be loving and caring for others. To show empathy.
“Many men have not been told how to process and talk about their emotional experiences, furthering a sense of isolation, anger, and resentment,” says writer for Talkspace, Jor-El Caraballo. “For these men, this creates an emotional volatility that can sometimes manifest in seeming “shut down” in relationships and friendships.” Carballo talks about how men are praised for their physicality but are rarely held to a standard that meets their emotional and intellectual needs.
He also says that “It is a circular problem we experience. In order for Black Men to get help, they must open up enough to let someone know that they need help. But in order to open up and ask for help, they have to crack the cool façade…”
Like I said before, men are taught to not cry or show emotion as women do because that’s being “soft.” Which makes them even angrier. Not being able to show your true feelings about certain things causes psychological trauma instead.
Nonetheless, this isn’t about the path these young men chose growing up, but rather the way they chose to express themselves while doing it. At the end of the day, it is all about comfortability. Black Men should be able to be comfortable expressing who they are and how they feel whether it be through the way they act, through the way they dress, or in how they treat others. Real straight Black Men do not let others’ opinions of themselves become their reality. Opinions are just ideas based off of that person’s own experiences. A wise straight Black Man once told me, “Are you really a man if you let another man tell you what you can and cannot do?”