Toast and Toxic Masculinity

Last night I was thinking about some of my hair triggers—the little annoyances that can make me completely lose my shit and go absolutely psycho. For example, when my son startled me the other night, I lost it a little, yelling at him. But I calmed down fairly quickly. But yesterday, while I was making dinner, I almost went nuclear. Over some toast.

I was making a meal delivery service recipe—mushroom and pepper hoagies with potatoes. Everything was going smoothly, dare I say well, until I had to toast the rolls. When I went to take them out of the toaster oven, one side of a roll fell through the rack. I tried to use a knife to get it out and just managed to push it farther under the rack. I tried using two knives and burned my hand multiple times. This was the point where I felt my inner Hulk coming out. However, because I have grown and evolved, I stopped at growling, just shy of throwing the knives or stabbing the bread into breadcrumbs.

I took a breath.

And I saw that I could just take the rack out (with a potholder!) and get the roll out. Dinner was saved.

One of the patterns I see in myself is that when I am trying to figure something out or make something work, I get very determined. And then that determination turns to stubbornness, which then slips into the territory of madwoman. And I really have not been able to identify why that is.

I would like to blame being born under a moon in Scorpio. But that’s probably not the whole of it.

So what else is it? There’s an element of not wanting to let people down—like my son the time I couldn’t help him figure out how to change one of his passwords. Or my family by not being able to deliver someone’s dinner intact. But I could have just toasted another roll, so that can’t be it either.

Perhaps it is a fear of being wrong or lacking because of failing to do some “thing.” The word defeat comes to mind. There is a sense of unworthiness or worthlessness attached to allowing myself to be defeated by whatever task or problem I’m trying to tackle.

I just felt a wave of emotion wash over me, so I must be on the right track.

This is where my masculine energy veers into toxic territory. I can be very competitive, but to the point of meanness, being an incredibly sore loser, pushing beyond limits to “win.” And I’m using the term “win” loosely. Succeed?

Last year I limped my way to finishing a half marathon, and a week later ran a five-mile race I intended to walk (should have walked). The friend I was supposed to walk with changed her mind at the last minute and wanted to run. I could have stuck to my original plan, but that felt like giving up, and forfeiting is an automatic loss. I ended up out of commission for six weeks with a stress fracture in my foot.

The hyper-competitiveness extends beyond myself. My kids are both Cross Country and Track runners. Remember the scene from The Breakfast Club? “’Andrew! You’ve got to be number one! I won’t tolerate any losers in this family! Your intensity is for shit! Win! Win! Win!’” I’ve never been nearly as bad as the father in the movie towards my kids, but I can’t say I’ve never talked crap about rival runners in a less-than-sportsmanlike way, especially the ones that were nasty to my own. That aggression comes from the same place as not wanting to be defeated by tasks or problems. It’s about victory. Triumph. Conquest. Our patriarchal culture puts a very high value on succeeding at any cost.

While this is toxic masculine energy, it’s not reserved only for those who are male gendered. Plenty of women as well as those of all gender identities can fall into this energy.

I see this in the fandom space I currently participate in, which happens to be primarily occupied by females. But that toxic competitiveness is overwhelming and even dangerous. Picture millions of people who are unhealthily invested in “being right.” Once they’ve been burned a few times and are angry, their knives start flying in the form of death threats, encouraging suicide, and doxing their perceived enemy.

The fandom is a microcosm of society. The January 6th attack on the US Capitol are a prime example of this energy in a larger context. The riot didn’t sprout from a vacuum. It came from a toxic lack of grace when things don’t go someone’s way.

And I recognize that I am a tiny microcosm of it all.

It would have been simpler to blame my moon sign and be done with it. I can’t do anything about my birth chart, but knowing how this energy is playing out through me and how I effect the collective, I have a responsibility to do better.

One thing I noticed is that once I stopped, even for just a second, to take a breath, I very quickly was able to see a solution. Sometimes a pause to think is all it takes to stop oneself from taking a regrettable action. But in the moment, it can be hard to see when to hit the brakes before the situation is spinning out of control. A support system outside of the situation helps. If that’s not available, knowing one’s signs is useful. My hands and jaw clench up, I literally start growling, and I find myself in a loop, repeating the same ineffective behavior time after time.

So maybe I need a rule—after the third time, if a solution doesn’t work, pause. If I see myself all balled up and not breathing, pause. Take a breath. Maybe walk away and get some water. Or walk away and ask for help. It takes a bit of self-awareness, but it’s not impossible. Imagine how it would look and feel if every person started to loosen up a bit in this way. The effect on the energy of our collective society would be astounding and beautiful.

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