20 things I want my sons to know for 2018

Kristen Joiner reflects on what she wants her teenage sons to know about life in this new world they’re growing up in.

It’s 2018. Thank God. From Donald Trump comparing the size of his button with Kim Jong-un’s, to Harvey Weinstein and #MeToo, 2017 was a doozy of a year. Hopefully it will turn out to be a game-changer. But among other things, I worry: What are men with power teaching my teenage sons?

In an effort to counteract any lessons about toxic masculinity they might be learning, here are 20 things I want my sons to know for the year to come.

  1. If someone says, “Don’t be a pussy” the correct response is “Why?”
  2. If someone asks, “Are you chicken?” the correct answer is “Maybe. What’s the context?”
  3. If you are worried about something, it is almost certain that 99.9% of your friends are worried about the same thing. They’re just not talking about it.
  4. If you want someone to like you, ask them questions.
  5. If you want to slow things down with someone you like, it doesn’t mean you’re not a man. It means you’re a tuned-in human being.
  6. You are a warm, strong, lovely person and “no” doesn’t mean you’re not. “No” actually just means “no.”
  7. Everything in our culture teaches us to compare ourselves to others, but resist this. Find friends who also resist this.
  8. It’s okay to feel like an outsider. People willing to live on the margins are often the most interesting.
  9. Learn to laugh at yourself when you make a mistake. Your best friends and your mother can help you do this.
  10. It is easy to let fear of looking stupid stop us from doing something different, until we learn to #9.
  11. The Internet is a numbing agent, notice when it is becoming an escape from dealing with your emotions.
  12. Only psychopaths don’t have emotions.
  13. Read.
  14. Practice being mindful.
  15. Notice how you share space. Avoid man-spreading.
  16. Take responsibility for your actions and your emotions.
  17. Don’t start eating until everyone is seated and has their food in front of them.
  18. If someone is doing the dishes, ask if you can help. If they say no, pick up a dishrag and start drying.
  19. Listen to your mother.
  20. Know that you are loved.

Kristen Joiner is a producer, writer and activist with a deep background in gender and human rights. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, The Today Show, Salon.com, NPR, USA Today, the Sundance Channel, The Hollywood Reporter and others.

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