I am not an Alpha male. Nor would I want to be. I am also not a Beta male. Nor would I want to be.
What other kind of “male” might there be than this limited dichotomy? Turns out there are Sigma, Delta, Gamma, and Omega males too. Probably some others. But I am not any of those either.
I am an Alphabet-male. That’s right — the whole damn alphabet. (The Greek one, of course — haha…). I realized this, yesterday, after some serious contemplation about why “masculinity” has become so toxic, so much of the time, when it also has so much great potential in it.
This thought wasn’t really “my thought” though. In the moments before thinking it, I wasn’t thinking about much, actually, just mindfully having a shower. And this thought entered my mind, unbidden, from somewhere mysterious, as all the great thoughts seem to. And it resonated, in my guts, in my bowels, in my heart, as all the great thoughts seem to.
Then I felt foolish. Who am I to claim such a thing? Immediately, thoughts of so-called Alpha males popped into my head, with their laughing-face-emojis aggressively inserted into online comments threads, their squared shoulders (or trying really hard to make them that way when anybody’s watching), and confident talk about Alpha-male things that every anthropologist of human behaviour is familiar with if you’ve ever been to a sports bar, locker room, or video-game-gathering of a group of boys/men.
I imagined the responses I might get for such a “bold claim.”
“Ha ha, you cuck! You’re just a Beta, but don’t want to admit it. You need to be red-pilled, kek kek.”
I thought of the desperately-constant self-assertions of the so-called Alpha males of the world, you know, the macho dudes in your social circles who talk more than they listen, flex more than they praise, use more than they appreciate who they are using? You know what I mean: the narcissism of so many (not all, mind you) of the Trump-ists, the anger of so many (not all, mind you) of the Men’s Rights activists, the xenophobia of so many (not all, mind you) of the Real Men rednecks, the quick-draw derogatory humour of so many (not all, mind you) of those who thump their chests and spread their legs wide when they sit, and the ready-to-go ridicule of the locker-room talkers (not all, mind you) against the arts, the cultural creatives, the gender nonbinaries. And most telling of all perhaps, the profound hatred and vitriol spewed out by the Incels, those self-admittedly-lonely folk who seem unable to attract a romantic partner despite being obsessed with their NLP-inspired fantasies of being able to control women into taking off their clothes and becoming their fem-oid playthings.
Then it became even more clear. I AM an Alphabet-male. And goddamn grateful for it. I was going to say “proud of it”, but you know, I’m not actually “proud” of it. Because “I” had very little, if anything at all, to do with becoming this way. It’s not some accomplishment I can take credit for, for the most part. It’s a place of growth that has, somehow, almost magically, “just happened.” And it didn’t come, for the most part, from “trying.” (Hint — because nothing does, not if you believe 21st century neuroscience. Or Buddhism. The self is an illusion. Remember? Just like Yoda knew all along….)
If anything, it came from having all my “trying” blow up in my face until finally, the arrogant child who once was SURE that HE would be the Jedi Master if the Evil Empire ever came to this galaxy, started to face the truth of his (that is, my), actual, profound, existentially-inescapable weakness.
It came from suffering. From being an asshole, sometimes, and feeling guilty as hell about it afterwards. From struggling with liking relationships too much, sex too much, weed too much, fantasizing-about-being-awesome too much.
It came from hitch-hiking, from encountering hundreds of times from hundreds of rides, the almost-universal friendliness of strangers. From my dad, teaching me that all people’s shit smells the same. From my mom’s ability to make instant friends with every cashier in every store.
It came from, admittedly, being a so-called Beta for a fair amount of time. Always feeling like things were my fault. Choosing partners who were, too often, needy, or controlling, or deceitful, and being that way myself, more often than I’d “intended.”
It came from a couple of teachers. A pastor. Some wonderful grandparents. Parents who loved, imperfectly, but still loved. A great group of guys in high school. A great crew in grad school. A lifelong girl Friend I’ve known since I was five.
It came from learning, from mentors — James Kay in particular, who through his passionate, brilliant teaching, catalyzed a transformation in my mind from “structure” to “process”.
It came from Rumi. From Roger Waters. From Aldous Huxley’s The Perennial Philosophy, which opened my eyes to the fact that there’s a lot more to religion than “Religion.” It came from meditation, and then from being destabilized by meditation, and then from avoiding meditation like a biohazard. And then, eventually, “leaning into” meditation once again.
It came from my dog, Trixie, who was always there, when nobody else seemed to be. It came from the woods, from trees, from wind, crunching snow, a cave-fort.
In short, it came from Love. And especially, from resisting Love.
Because Love, true Love, true, vulnerable, sensitive, makes-you-transparent, Love, is terrifying. Especially to Alpha males, because “vulnerability” is like an atomic bomb to the thick walls that protect the Alpha’s self-perceptions. To Beta-males, it’s equally terrifying, because vulnerability-and-attachment are like the Nectar of the Gods, and they live in practically constant fear of losing whatever, whoever, shows them affection.
I don’t know the precise alchemistry of creating an Alphabet male. There have to be, I hope, better paths than the ones I’ve trodden. There have to be ways of germinating the seeds of compassion and courage, openness and vulnerability, that don’t require such deep furrows for the planting. There has to be a path that doesn’t require so much suffering, and cause so much suffering to others. There just has to be.
I’m comfortable, now, thinking of myself as an Alphabet man. It doesn’t mean I’m perfect; it means I’m imperfect, but not ashamed of that. It doesn’t mean I’m proud either, although there is pride in me, but it’s not a pillar I stand on, like a “Proud Boy”, so to speak. It’s quite the opposite, in fact. I would use the word “authenticity”, rather than “prideful”. Open, rather than closed. Curious, rather than certain. Collaborative, rather than defensive. Hopefully AND pessimistically realistic, rather than gullibly and optimistically naive.
It’s not about being self-sufficient, or needy. It’s somewhere in the middle. It’s being able to stand on your own two feet, much of the time, but also being able to reach out and ask for a hand, when it’s healthier to do so.
It’s not about being “masculine” or “feminine”. It’s about being comfortable with both, and neither, being willing to explore the spaces in between, above, below, and simply dispensing with dichotomies altogether, just to see what happens to your experience of life.
It’s about being an Individual, and also The Universe. Taking responsibility for yourself, but also the Other, and not feeling it’s necessary to subscribe to a rigid hierarchy of which comes first.
It’s about knowing sorrow, grief, tears, weeping, and letting them flow through you as they need to, and as a result, becoming a larger channel for joy, creativity, playfulness, and sensuous appreciation.
It’s about being okay with the fact that you have strengths, but still exploring outside of them. And it’s about being okay with the fact that you have weaknesses, but not being complacent about them.
It’s about knowing “who you are”, but also knowing that there is no such thing, no way to encapsulate or bound a continual process of evolution such as yourself. It’s about embodying the truth that Being and Becoming are, for the human soul, the same thing.
We can evolve, men of the world (and non-men who nevertheless subscribe to the allure of traditional Masculinity, with all its rigidity and power and hardness and strength and hierarchy and striving-for-dominance.) We can evolve, transform, change, by opening to others, to our somatic ground, to Love.
For those men stuck on being (or trying to be) Alpha, just remember, Alpha is merely the beginning, like the egoism of infancy being the beginning of the individual’s life. Omega is the end of the Greek alphabet, but there is no end to the process of maturation. So “Alphabet” is when you begin to realize this, become unbound by the limitations of narrow conceptions of Who You Are, and instead, embrace a continual growing, and deepening, and opening.
I am wondering why we need to compartmentalize ourselves. I am me.
Hey Mike! I’m so glad to hear that you feel that way. I think when a person can “just be themselves”, well….that’s what life’s all about in many ways, isn’t it?
I think we compartmentalize ourselves usually, as a means of feeling better about ourselves — mainly feeling a sense of belonging. That is, after all, one of the deepest human needs — the need for connection, for belonging, for validation and inclusion, for being “Seen”. We are a tribal species, right? And so much of how we define ourselves is through others, and through the us/them groupings we impose on humanity-at-large.
As with everything, this is both a great strength and a huge weakness. The strength is obvious, I think. Just look at how good a bunch of sports fans feel when they’re with their buddies, cheering on the home team. It just FEELS GOOD to be included in a community. The weakness, of course, is how, through preferring our ingroup, we also lose “ourselves”, in the sense that we conform to group norms, rather than truly figuring out ‘who we really are.’ I think the most obvious example of that, aside from cults and shit, is the common struggle people have in relationships, especially intimate ones, to maintain good boundaries, not get all caught up in being a couple and doing everything together, losing their own identity in “the relationship,” or more obsessively, in “the partner.” And if a person doesn’t veer towards this kind of enmeshment, then they usually veer towards the opposite — pushing away from their partner, staying distant, “needing their space.” So, in both cases, the person is defining themselves, in large part, THROUGH their partner (either by assimilation, or by contrast).
To instead, maintain good boundaries in a relationship, or in a group, both embracing the inclusion AND embracing their own unique individuality — that’s a bloody challenge, and one that few of us, me included, are very good at.
The other main weakness to tribalism, is obviously how we treat and view “the outgroup.” So much of society is constructed around ingroups and outgroups — just look at politics, at the culture wars, the tension between groups based on race, or religion, or gender identity, and all the other divisions that separate us. Heck, as you know, even people from a rural community view people from an urban environment negatively, and vice versa. It’s a sad irony about humans that by drawing together with the like-minded, we push apart from those we perceive as different.
So yeah man, if you are able to “just be you”, then that’s fantastic. 🙂
it sounds like you’ve been struggling with your sense of self
Hi “em”! I don’t know how to interpret your comment, in the context of this post. Historically, yes, I have struggled with my sense of self. But this post describes a major step forward, a stabilization of self rather than its opposite. It’s quite the experience to finally let go of trying to “find out who you are”, as though “identity” is something that can be stable and certain and fairly unchanging as life ebbs and flows around you. When you let go of trying to “find” yourself, because you see the artificially constructed nature of “the self” and you are ready to move on from that, then identity stabilizes within a dynamic web of relationships with “the world”. That’s why I don’t think it is necessary to subscribe, for example, to a specific gender category; if anything, doesn’t that limit the essentially limitless nature of the self and insist that the full complexity of one’s being can be put into a box, so to speak? Does “the self” not contain multitudes? And if it does, as surely it does, then does that not mean that strict adherence to categories is just self-limiting? When you apply this awareness to toxic masculinity, is it not then obvious how labels such as Alpha and Beta are not, in almost all ways, useful, accurate or worthwhile, when they lead to such disempowerment of men from exploring the fullness of their being, celebrating and enhancing their strengths, and being able to be vulnerable and honest and growth-oriented about the things they struggle with?
In any case, I may have misunderstood your comment. If you can care to elaborate, maybe I could address it more directly?