Ah, the Mighty Lion. The Panthera leo, King of the Jungle. No wonder men have long since associated their, uh, prowess with these majestic animals.
Admittedly, it starts young too....
I have been amused and fascinated with Ethan's huge 'growl' (okay, yawn) since his birth. I can only hope that the comparison speaks of future conquests, adventures and nobility in his later years.
History should be on our side:
In nearly every culture, the Lion represents strength, leadership, royalty, guardians of sunrise and sunset, protectors of their city and battle gods. Lions adorn buildings, pyramids and castles as a protector of all who enter.
C.S. Lewis even made Christ a Lion in the Chronicles of Narnia, for christsakes.
The national flags of Ethiopia, Scotland, Swaziland, Sri Lanka, Singapore and Iran’s previous flag all hailed the great Lion.
In early Africa, wannabe warriors had to slay a male lion in order to establish their own manhood and warrior status among their tribe. A symbol of warrior besting warrior.
Anyone that has watched National Geographic and has seen a lion take down a wildebeest can relate that Lion's have it going on. They are virile, powerful and sustenance providers for their family.
What human male wouldn't want to emulate that?
But, perhaps that notion is misplaced:
- Lions are inactive up to 20 hours in the day
- Lionesses (not Lions) do most of the hunting in the Pride (and Lionesses kill by strangulation)
- Lions that oust other Lions from a pride also cull their cubs so the Lioness can be ready to mate again
- 8% of Lions are homosexual (nothing wrong with that, I just thought it was interesting)
- Some Lions are nomads, living their adult life alone while others live their life in a pride
- Lion population living in the wild has dropped almost 50% in the last 20 years
Oopsy. Like the tragic over population of Dalmatians after being deified by Disney, perhaps the Lion is not the best role model for men after all...
Perhaps a vulture, a sea horse, a chinchilla or an Emperor Penguin is more apropos since they reportedly mate for life and actually care for their young. But those creatures aren't as regal, dominate or as hairy as the Lion image men often promote of themselves. Even the mane is a corollary to health and virility among lions. A nomadic lion with a flowing, vigorous mane is a powerful influence over prides with males with a lesser coiffure. Is it a stereotype of the strong overtaking the weak; or is it truly nature's way of bettering the breed?
With a healthy dose of perspective, lions can help us understand ourselves as men and help balance the comparison to a functional level.
As single men, we are raised under often crippling stereotypes that we are supposed to be all of the things history has told us to be. Be tough, don't cry, withhold emotion and fix, don't discuss. While women have their own set of challenges, they don't usually grow up under-equipped to be in a relationship. The stereotypes women grow up under actually include tangible relationship tools like nurturing dolls, conversing over tea and 'interfacing' with Ken & Barbie.
Boys will be boys.
Well of course we will boys. How many times have we heard that, or said that? But what does that mean? In many cases, it means that boys will fall into the same reinforced gravy train of man tools that every other male around them has. And therefore history - both good and bad - merely repeats itself. As boys, we learn how to drive a Tonka truck, fight bad guys and build things. Do those skills translate to adulthood? Of course they do. But how many boys grow up learning to nurture, to converse to interface with women?
We - the global we - are all a sum of our experiences. Contrary to theologians, zealots and mystics, we do not magically wake up one day a better equipped person nor do we magically have someone else to blame when we louse up our own life. What we are and what we do are learned behaviors.
So the man we are, the man you are married to, dating or wanting to 'interface' with are the same guy we were yesterday, with just one day more of experience.
Yet, when we listen in at places like the estrogen ocean (aka iVillage), we repeatedly hear how we are ill-equipped to share our feelings, careless about what ails women and that we date like a carnivore who's been fasting instead of a human. While all of which may sometimes true - though certainly not always! - I submit to you that we shouldn't be surprised. Wherever the male is in the jungle, or wherever you want him to be, be assured that he can only rely on his previous experiences - and the tools that came with them. And since those experiences and tools often have familiar beginnings; they therefore provide predictable endings.
Single men and some married/committed men frequently flourish because of their lion-like characteristics. Conversely, single men that act like lambs seldom flourish. Male lions prowl their social Serengeti, they mercilessly hunt the weaker animals and, like the real life lions mentioned above, they sometimes become nomadic, even in marriage.
So how do men tap into the best parts of their inner lion, without becoming a beast in the process? And how do women find the well balanced lions?
What are some of the basic needs of a typical male? Don't scoff just yet! You might be surprised by some of the things on the list.
Please tune in tomorrow, for Part 2 of Mating Growl. Our safari will explore what happens when the male lion actually catches a lioness to mate.