by Marc P. Anderson
It was a long time ago but the instruction from my older brother on how to sit like a man lasted the rest of my life. I am used to it now, and uncomfortable unless I follow his rule. Many will disagree or think it is silly. And maybe it is. As individuals, we should be able to do what we want, and sit as we please, as long as we are considerate to others when exercising our rights. But my brother’s direction was also a peek into his mind.
I was around 15 years old. My brother, who was five years older than me, by that time had seen a lot of primarily male, physical challenges. He had been a U.S. Marine. He had been to war and back. It was significant beyond words, but only part of all that he had experienced. He was home but still living life in his male way. And his ideas about behavior, how to look and act like a man, were being imparted to me in sometimes odd, always unexpected ways.
I was sitting alone in a chair in the living room, reading a book. He walked from a bedroom down the hall in our apartment, entered the living room and saw me sitting with my legs crossed in a manner where one knee was on top of the other.
I wasn’t used to sitting that way but I had seen some Notable Men on TV (celebrities, politicians and others) who I assumed to be intelligent, knowledgeable role models, sit that way. Perhaps I was subconsciously imitating them.
I was about to receive an extremely brief but clear criticism that I never saw coming.
To my brother, I was sitting the way a girl or woman would sit and that was all that mattered. I don’t remember his exact words but he immediately questioned me with a sort of stern annoyance. He asked why I was sitting that way. I was startled that it even got his attention. I had no real explanation for something that I didn’t think was wrong. He let me know that (real) men didn’t sit that way (but in his view, maybe sissies did). The strong implication was that we men had stuff (a dick and balls) that wouldn’t be happy if they were squeezed between our thighs in such a manner. And of course we shouldn’t look like women when sitting.
Not having a real defense, I uncrossed my legs. I was reprimanded. My brother found it intolerable for me to sit in a feminine manner but the message was more sweeping than that: be a man.
Somehow it surfaced in my mind that I had seen him sit with his legs crossed in the past. So wasn’t this hypocritical of him? Not if you recognized the subtle difference. When he crossed his legs, his ankle always rested upon one knee and his thighs remained apart. This was the man’s way to cross one’s legs. It left more room for the male appendages. And especially, women didn’t cross their legs that way.
That was his lesson and he made me so aware of it that I never crossed my legs in the banned manner again. Usually I just plant my feet on the ground in front of me but sometimes, when I feel like crossing my legs, I always do it in the “male” way.
After many years, I can no longer sit with my legs crossed in the “female” way without feeling distinct discomfort (more psychological than physical). A lifetime of sitting in the manner my brother approved has become automatic. Even if my genitals would not actually be uncomfortable (they have an ability to adjust to almost any position and would merely find a way to rest themselves in my lap if I didn’t surreptitiously reach down in my pants and pull them up into a roomier state of existence), in my mind they would be unable to handle it.
I have observed other men crossing their legs in the manner my brother assigned to women, and I imagined that I could hear him admonishing them. “Where’s your balls, man? Sit like you have a (sizable) pair!”. I am certain my brother would also have no problem with the more recent phenomenon known as “manspreading” since it would make sense to him as a natural, better way to sit for a man (who has or should have an ample pair of balls and a substantial dick and should look like it). However, I don’t manspread in the belief that it takes up too much room and infringes on the rights and space of anyone sitting next to the manspreader. It’s inconsiderate.
In the end, I generally don’t cross my legs at all. I just sit with them directly in front of me, with my feet on the floor. But I never forgot my brother’s training, all because the way I sat one afternoon didn’t sit well with him.
Copyright © 2016 Marc P. Anderson.
Marc P. Anderson has had a dual career in publishing and as a freelance photojournalist.