No, this article is not about Chip and Joanna Gaines.
Sure, they are the quintessential power couple. Sure, they effortlessly balance fun, hard work, creativity, and desire. Sure they are handsome and wholesome and every other good and perfect quality. But these are things to admire, not internalize. Apart from a love of shiplap, there are very few things I’ve actually learned from them.
There is something there, though. A quality in the veins of every HGTV show that is both alluring and revelatory. Whether it’s Nicole Curtis’ Rehab Addict, John and Drew’s Property Brothers, or yes, even Chip and Jo’s Fixer Upper. Something about this channel makes us want to watch its programming over and over again, connecting us to humanity on a visceral level.
I think I’ve figured it out. It’s the renovation. And more importantly, what it reveals.
We crave beauty.
Every one of these shows starts with a property that is outdated at best, in disrepair at worst. Houses with teeny tiny rooms, dingy hallways, dilapidated exteriors. And what do they do? They tear down the walls and create an open concept living space — light, airy, sunny, spacious. Freedom. Beautiful, comfortable freedom. Tall ceilings, clean lines, light colors. A beautiful space that makes you want to relax.
We marvel at the before and after shots. We cheer the open concept. But most importantly, we delight in the redemption. To take something forgotten and downtrodden and make it beautiful again — that is the fantasy. We want to be that overlooked house someone glances at and says I see you, I’m going to pour my heart and soul into you, and you’re mine. We await the partner that is willing to work with us, on us, to create something beautiful.
What we want and what we fear are close neighbors.
To achieve the breathtaking outcome we must embrace the current state. The landscape of our lives is, well … compartmentalized. We are the outdated property. We have small, segmented rooms of our heart and mind, places we don’t let certain people see. Spaces we keep cornered off and hidden from other parts. The walls are thick and rigid. The air is musty. Sunlight is minimal. Rarely do we let people see all of us when we open the front door.
We are deathly afraid to have the demolition. Afraid to bring down all the walls. The probing question our actions dance around is this: if I unveil all of who I am, who I really am, will the other person stay? Our greatest fear is that we show up in a relationship, we have the demo day, we bring down the walls to create this open space, and the other person looks at it and says This isn’t what I signed up for. You’re too much. The parts of you that you are most fearful of bringing to me, actually, when you bring those things I’m going to leave. It terrifies us.
But while we fear demo day, it is also the the thing we want most. We crave acceptance — not rejection — at that critical juncture. We want to tear down the walls and have a different reception: Babe you are incredible. I love every part of you. Even the parts that are under construction. We want someone to witness the breaking and putting back together. We want someone to marvel at the beautiful thing we become. And yes, we want them to work alongside us as we become this beautiful thing. Total acceptance. Joy in the journey. Anticipating the outcome.
HGTV has taught me many things. It’s taught me that subway tile is *always* a suitable back splash. That killer biceps are a result of scrubbing bathtubs. And that sometimes, real estate agents are glorified marriage counselors. But most importantly, it’s taught me the gravity of segmentation, the value of demolition, and yes, the beauty of redemption.
Men are freaking incredible.
As a female, I feel relatively alone in this assertion. Too much talk about ‘toxic masculinity.’ Too many workplace females trash-talking their husbands in the break room. Overall, too much negative talk about men.
Well, here’s to being very unpopular. Let me tell you what I absolutely love about masculinity.
Men are present.
I love how men lean in and listen when I speak. I love how engaged and attentive they are, how they probe my mind in such a way that makes me feel, in that moment, like I am their whole world. When I am all over the place, masculinity provides a grounded presence — a safe place for my thoughts to land. I love how they fearlessly speak the truth, regardless of outcome or perception. And how they encourage me to do the same.
I love how men lead. How they take control of things. Not in such a way that stifles me, but in a way that gets the ball rolling while happily welcoming my input. I love the way they hold space for me to flourish. Their low-key charming ability to get me to laugh in any situation. They step up so as not to leave me in the dust, but rather, so I can have a worthwhile shoulder partner when I take a step forward.
And…romance. I love how they know exactly when I need a back rub. Or a bar of a chocolate. Or a soft touch on the small of my back. Masculinity wants to please, desperately, and they do this with their presence. Their unapologetic, focused, and intentional presence. And it is marvelous.
Men are protectors.
There is something in the heart of man that compels him to protect. When someone is in distress or trouble, masculinity rises to the occasion — to provide solutions, to provide comfort, and often, to provide rescue. Feed My Starving Children, Compassion International, Destiny Rescue — all founded by men. Men who saw children, the most vulnerable of our society, in trouble and took massive action to protect them.
I’ve had men do this in my life on a smaller scale. They tell me to text them when I’ve arrived home safely. They ask how they can help after I’ve had a rough day. They protect me when it comes to who I date. I’ve had men steer me away from a ‘bad egg’ of a guy, and the opposite, push me toward someone who would value and treasure me. I don’t have any brothers, but for those women who have, I’m sure you could add to this list.
Men are providers.
Men feel the pressure to provide for their families in a way that I don’t think I will ever understand. I sort of get it, being a single woman, single earner household, but whenever I talk to men about financial pressures, I quickly realize what I’m feeling doesn’t come close to what they are feeling.
According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, males account for 92.5% of work fatalities, even though they make up half the workforce. Men are willing to take dangerous jobs, jobs that many women do not take, in order to provide for their families. These are primarily jobs in infrastructure: fishing, logging, iron and steel, construction. These are decent, hard-working men, who risk their lives daily to provide for their families. They have my utmost respect.
Men provide for me in small ways. They pick up the dinner tab. They lend me their jacket when I am cold. They order me an Uber when I need a ride home. They show up to help me move to a new apartment — 4th floor, no elevator, in the pouring rain. Most importantly, they provide a safe container to air my thoughts, which later, germinate, and become my dreams. ❤
I get it. It’s the 21st century and women can provide for themselves (present company included). But ladies, can we be a bit vulnerable and admit that it feels good being looked after?
Let me address one more topic of conversation that has been bugging me: men in the workplace.
My biggest workplace cheerleaders have been men. The few people who have encouraged me in my career, mentored me, and coached me have been men. At my previous job, my director actually created a new position for me. He had to push hard for it. He had to have some difficult conversations with senior leaders to make it happen. He spent his own relational capital to get it done. Because it was the right thing to do. Don’t tell me men want to repress women. I’m living proof to the contrary.
The vast majority of men want to see women flourish, including at work. The *approved* cultural narrative may be to look down on masculinity, but when I speak to women privately, I continue to hear the same thing: story after story of men who have encouraged and promoted women to leadership positions. And not because they’re checking some “wokeness” box, but because they recognize their value.
From where I’m standing, I don’t see a glass ceiling. I see the sky. It’s blue, and expansive, and bright with possibilities. There’s no corporate boogeyman. No systemic *Man*-a Carta holding women back. It’s just us and our dreams — and the people in our corner who will help us get there.
So then why. Why are men suddenly suspect? Why do I feel society’s judgment when I celebrate men and masculinity?
While yes, there are a few “toxic” men out there, lord sure knows we have our fair share of “toxic” women as well. Some men do stupid, mean, conniving shit. Well guess what. Some women do stupid, mean, conniving shit too. Sorry to break the internet, but unfavorable behavior is not unique to one sex. Some people are jerks. I don’t attribute that to their “manness” or “womanness.” I just see them as an individual who happens to be a jerk. No need to make sweeping generalizations. No need to criminalize an entire gender. I just encountered a jerk, that’s all. Don’t mind me as I move on with my day.
Ladies who put down masculinity, I have a question for you. I’m asking because I care, both about your flourishing and your future. What is your end goal? If it’s to achieve parity, we already have that. If it’s to hold bad actors accountable, we can do that on an individual basis without implicating innocents. If it’s to advance your own interests, this is certainly not the way to do it. Do you think that low of your own aptitude that the only foreseeable way to secure your success is to negate someone else’s? What a chilling thought indeed.
We need men. Not because women can’t do things on their own, but because our success is contingent on society’s success, and no society can succeed by demonizing half of it’s population. It’s not sustainable. The kind of world I want to live in is one where no one is suspect simply based on their gender, a world where all people have an equal opportunity to succeed. This includes men — our husbands, our sons, our male co-workers and friends.
The essence of masculinity is the taking of responsibility. It’s not his steak grilling prowess, his affinity for football, or the number of his sexual partners that makes a man *masculine* — it’s the way he provides, protects, and is present for those in his life.
I’ll say it again.
Men are freaking incredible. Masculinity is marvelous. And until I see evidence to the contrary, I will continue to believe both of these things.
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