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A Boy Named James

As I reviewed the articles for the “Men’s Health” issue of Tonic, to see which ones I would focus on for this note,  I felt myself drawn to Rod MacDonald’s piece on what it means to be a modern man (p. 45). The article is framed on a rumination on chivalry, but it starts with the concept that “the identity of men has never been more unclear”. While I agreed with the thrust of the article, I didn’t immediately see its connection to health and wellness. Then, minutes later, news came out that Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively had named their baby daughter James. And the feeling that this celebrity puff article evoked in me brought the issue into focus: a man’s sense of wellness can be affected by a blurring of his identity.

As a ten year old boy, my historically masculine nickname, “Jamie”, was feminized, almost overnight, by the popularity of the television show The Bionic Woman. I took a lot of heat for that. It got so bad that I insisted that everyone call me by my given name, James. (Then a year later the show “James at 15” aired, and I reluctantly switched back to calling myself Jamie). Now, almost thirty years later because of two actors trying to be cool, my given name is a girl’s name. Really?

There are about eight gazillion good names for girls. But with each passing year more boys’ names are conscripted for girls. At this rate there's only going to be two untouchable masculine names left, "Peter" and "Dick".  One might argue that the conscripting of male names is emblematic of women’s equality. And of course equality is a good thing. Except in this case equality would dictate that parents name their sons Meghan or Olivia. While that is possible, it’s not going to happen. Perhaps Johnny Cash said it best in his classic Boy Named Sue; “...And if I ever have a son, I think I'm gonna name him Bill or George! Anything but Sue!”

I know, I’m whining a bit here. To paraphrase Louis C.K.: I’m white and I’m male; to do anything other than admit that I’ve got it pretty great makes me an ***hole. So if the entire downside to being the last of the male “Jamies” consists of bulk emails wrongfully assuming I’m a Ms, or turning my head when a mother shouts across rooms to her daughter, I suppose I can live with that. But the blurring of identity, the lack of clarity, can cause unease. We should be careful not to lose our uniqueness, our valuable differences (ie masculinity), in reaching for equality.

Now this issue of Tonic does focus on Men’s health: New aesthetics writer, Ryan Antooa writes about the strongest version of yourself (p.22 ), Lisa Cantkier focuses on how men deal with food allergies and illnesses (p. 28) and Lora Maghanoy suggests five great gifts for guys (p.51).  But I also recommend Bryce Wylde’s article on sleep (p.33), Joel Thuna and Claude Gallant’s article on the regulation of Natural Health Products in Canada (p.39),  and our new writer Saul Katz’s coverage of the “Garden of Eden Diet” and slow carbs (p.30) As always if you want to discuss this note or anything else in this issue, please feel free to contact me at jamie@tonictoronto.com

PS. OmT.O is back!!!

PPS. So is the Tonic Writing Contest!!!