Beauty for Boys

Posted By on October 18, 2010

Mothers today face some unique challenges it seems were not a problem in previous generations.  I don’t remember my mother ever needing to wade through racks full of skirts that had barely as much fabric as a handkerchief, or pink hotpants with a glittering slogan to cover my ten-year-old behind.  Mothers of girls these days have the unique challenge of teaching their daughters to appreciate their femininity, while staying away from a culture that seems to equate being female with sexual availability.  Mothers of boys face a different challenge.  I have blogged before about the struggle to find cute or handsome clothing for boys over the age of one.

But clothing is only one part of the picture.  It seems that we are determined to treat our boys as if they are brutes that are not entitled to beauty. Now, don’t get me wrong; I am not talking about adopting an effeminate style for boys.  Each gender was created unique and with its own preferences.  But the fact that we do not want to surround our boys with bows and ruffles does not mean that they should only be surrounded by images that are startling in their senseless violence, brusqueness, or ugliness.  Yet if you mention that you wish to surround your sons with beauty, you often get strange looks. That wasn’t always so. Just look at this image from an 1830s boys’ hunting book.  Now, the picture is not my style, but look at the combination of strength and delicacy in the lines.  Look at the detailing, the different hues in the pelt of the animals.  There is a combination here of a subject that interests boys, a strength in the depiction, and, at the same time, an eye for beauty that is often lacking in today’s vision of what it is to raise someone from boy to man.

boyshuntingbook

In earlier days, even more utilitarian objects like tool boxes were considered something that didn’t need to be rough to be manly.  Carefully worked details showed that you took pride in your work, but also made the work lighter.  Think of toolboxes, but also think of the cathedrals made by master builders throughout the centuries the delicate lacework hewn in stone, the lines and figures that made something not just striking but a delight to the eyes.  Try to find that today in any item for boys…without paying a fortune!
tooltoychest

While this trend towards ugliness is certainly not something that boys or mothers of boys face alone, it seems more pronounced when you are searching for boys clothing, boys books, or toys.  A recent request on the Baby Half Off Facebook page about what supporters wanted to see them feature next yielded a lot of requests for anything for boys that was actually beautiful or handsome. (Okay, I admit, one of those requests was mine.)  For some reason, it seems that retailers and producers actually believe that men are incapable of appreciating beauty, unless it is the shape of a well formed female, therefore boys shouldn’t even be subjected to beauty.

The stereotype is perpetuated in popular tv shows or movies as well.  Men are not just stereotyped as dumb brutes, easily manipulated by the women around them (as if that was not bad enough), but quite often as barbarians with no interest in anything except for beer, fighting, and sports.   A typical sitcom story portrays a woman trying to drag her man to anything cultural, while he desperately tries to escape to watch football and drink with his buddies.  Again, don’t get me wrong, I am delighted in my boy’s athletic nature and do not expect him to gravitate to lace and tea parties. But, throughout history, a manly appreciation for beauty was quite common.  Think about poems praising the beauty of God’s creation. I am reminded of a magnificent poem by the Flemmish writer Felix Timmermans:

Autumn blows its horn
and the wood incenses mist,
the fruits are dawning.

The silences weave tapestries
of golden thread through the forest
with deer, who dazedly appear
from ferns and raspberrywood,
then elegantly vanish.

Beauty dreams from tree to tree
but all beauty will disappear,
because beauty is no more than dream,
but You are eternity.

Be thanked for sanctifying my melancholy
and bless too its fruits.
A triangle of geese within the air
now winter is approaching
I hear You sigh through my heart and through the reeds.
I am prepared.

It looses a lot in translation, but still you can see the richness of imagery and the choice of words.  Can you imagine men today writing poetry about elegantly vanishing deer or silence weaving tapestries?  The beauty of words is but one of the losses, but it seems we are intent on robbing young men of that inner eye for beauty.  While men and women definitely have a different approach to beauty and formality, they both have been endowed by God with that appreciation for beauty that people seem intent to stamp out.  And, of course, when the eye is not trained to look for beauty from a young age on, the desire to look for it dims.  In the Bible we are exhorted to look for beauty, both inner and outer.  We are not just asked to look at what is right and pure and admirable, but also on what is lovely.  We are to keep not just our minds trained on what is good, but our senses too.  We are to surround ourselves and our children with beauty.

Phillipians 4:8: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

This is not a popular message in a society that looks more for speed than beauty.   Boys bear the brunt of that attack, and, as mothers, we tread a fine line.  We definitely do not wish to make our young men effiminate, but, on the other hand, we need to look for beauty and expose them to it.  They are created in the image of God, and the love for what is good and noble is inherent in who they are; it is stamped in their very souls. The love for beauty–a true beauty, not a deceitful worldly glitter–is part of that.  Let them find it in nature, God’s perfect poem.  Let them appreciate it in the rhythms and phrases of good books.  Let them see it in art galleries and museums.  And let them make it their own in practicing their own hand at drawing, the symphony of tastes in cooking,  the delight of music, the tactile beauty of woodwork, or even something as utilitarian as penmanship.   But let them discover it now when they are young.  This way, the next generation of men will know that loving beauty does not make them less of a man, but more of one.

About The Author

I’ve been a contributor to LAF through many changes in my life. From Miss Eva B to Mrs Eva H. From living in Europe to living in the USA. From being single, to being courted. From being courted to marriage and further into motherhood. I like to share the realities of life as well as the inspirations, the beauty as well as the work that it takes to honor God in our daily life.

Comments

2 Responses to “Beauty for Boys”

  1. I am so glad to see a post like this! You’ve touched on a delicate but very important subject that deserved to be recognized. I have read novels from E. P. Roe, a wonderful 19th century author and clergyman that have astounded me with their intellect and brilliance. What an eye for beauty he had and how well he expressed himself… and yes, his feelings! His masculine characters were decisive, both in word and deed. They enjoyed the finer things, but if needed, they would defend their home and hearth without a second thought or a glance behind. Reading such works helped me to see that men don’t have to be brutish to be masculine. 19th century masculinity was both manly and beautiful! And I believe it can be the same today. Thanks so much for this post!

  2. ladyscott says:

    Excellent post! Thankfully, I live in the country with woods on one side of my property and a farm on the other. I’m surrounded by beauty that I can point out and involve my sons in. My 4 year old boy came in the other day from “working in his garden” (his sandpile) with a bouquet of dried timothy and it was indeed beautiful.

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