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My Sons Aren’t Macho Men, And I’m Glad

Photograph by Bryanne Salazar

I hate to break it to you, but boys aren't so different from girls after all.

When my boys were newborns, I had visions of boys who played with trucks, and grew into teenagers who played with BB guns and told fart jokes. Some of it happened, but there were a few surprises, too.

One boy loved playing with my makeup when he was 4 years old, and the other begged for an Easy Bake Oven, which he received and used religiously for three years.

Now at 17 and 15, both are independent, strong-minded young men who play sports, have lovely girlfriends and, yes, tell fart jokes.

Below are just a few of the ways I've noticed my sons and their friends do things that our society often thinks of as girly. It's time we flip those outdated stereotypes and machismo ideas and encourage our sons and daughters to be who they are, not who we think they are supposed to be because our society or culture tells them there's a right or wrong way to be.

1. They worry about fitting in and being liked by their peers. When my sons were younger, each experienced the hurt of exclusion by kids in their grade, and just like when I was a child, they were hurt because of it. Boys aren't immune to feeling left out or unpopular.

2. They want to have the perfect outfits. Clothes shopping with my sons can be tedious because they agonize over every shirt, every pair of shorts and pants, and every accessory. Now that they're teenagers, I've resorted to handing them cash and letting them loose in the mall, while I sit and read a book. They can spend as much time as they need picking the right outfit and I can avoid the inevitable eye-rolls that come from my apparently lame clothing suggestions.

3. They use zit creams and moisturizer for soft skin. Just because they're boys doesn't mean they're OK with acne or dull, dry skin. My sons actually asked for Proactiv when they saw the commercials, and have been known to borrow my expensive creams and facial masks. Don't worry; I took pictures for evidence (and maybe future blackmail).

4. They have bad hair days. It's true, and no matter what you tell your child, if they believe their hair looks like crap, there's no coming back from that. My son once rewashed his hair three times before school started, in failed attempts to restyle it before finally leaving the house with a scowl on his face.

Photograph by Bryanne Salazar

5. They get sad, and they even cry. The 1950s are over, folks, ¿y saben que? Boys cry, too. Feelings aren't feminine, they are human; if someone does something hurtful to them, boys, just like girls, feel the sting. If you've witnessed your son go through a painful breakup, you probably understand this all too well.

6. They gossip about others. I've heard my husband and his friends as well as my sons and their friends share personal stories about other guys and even girls who they know. Gossiping may be considered a "girl thing," but trust me, boys do it just as often.

7. They daydream about someone they have a crush on. When I was a girl, I was in love with Rico Suave, aka Gerardo Mejia. I would stare off into the clouds during class and imagine what it would be like to hold his hand or kiss him. I've watched my sons get that same dreamy look on their faces when there's a girl they like, or they find out that a pretty girl likes them.

8. They listen to love songs. If I wasn't afraid my son would disown me, I would upload a clip of him singing Ariana Grande's "Love Me Harder" or Shakira and Alejandro Sans' "La Tortura" while showering. It's not all rock 'n roll in our house. Love songs speak to a boy's heart, too.

9. They stress about their weight or figure. My sons each have their own idea of fitness. My youngest is driven to get a six-pack before his next birthday, and will spend an hour or more working on his abs everyday. When my oldest gained 15 pounds after knee surgery, he spent some time feeling depressed about the weight gain. Just because we talk about the impact media has on girls and their body image doesn't mean boys aren't dealing with the same issues.

Obviously, this list is just the tip of the iceberg, but boys and girls are not opposites. Individuality is much more important than being macho, and I'm happy my boys have given me a first-hand lesson in gender-neutrality.

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