Last Tuesday’s freestyle solution
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Word count: 70
Mean word length: 5.54
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I don’t usually do this type of thing on this site, but an entry in one of last week’s New York Times crosswords — at 1-Across — reminded me of something I want to talk about. Namely, the entry was “man up”. Right off the bat, I want to make it clear that I’m not saying that this entry shouldn’t be in the New York Times grid, or any other publicly published grid, or any independent grid; I’m just telling you why it’s not in my word list and why you’ll never see it in any of my grids.
I honestly cringe whenever I read it or hear anyone say “man up!” Men are dying earlier than women on average, much earlier, and no small part of that is that societal attitude summed up in the motto “man up”. It equates being a man with growing thick skin, putting up a “tough” exterior and dealing with pain — any kind of pain — stoically, without complaint. But that attitude does more harm than good. For physical pain, men are not going to the doctor as much because of that “man up” attitude; thus, their ailments tend to go undetected before it’s too late and (a) they die from those ailments, or (b) those ailments debilitate them to the point where their quality of life is considerably less than average. You see it all the time in sports… it took how long before concussions were taken seriously in pro sports? “Just shake it off! This is a man’s game!”
The mental pain is an equally serious concern, though. Men die by suicide three (or more, depending on in what area) times as often as women in the western world, even though women, by all accounts, have suicidal thoughts more than men do. Why? Because “man up” means that you’ve got to be tough, you’ve got to power through, it’s “unmanly” to show any weakness or vulnerability of emotion. Getting help for mental illness, when you constantly hear “man up”, belies that image, whether that’s the intention or not. It’s “weak” to seek mental help, because that would be admitting that your emotional state isn’t up to where it should be. Mental health issues aren’t a matter of pride. And that’s all unfortunate and very, very wrong. Don’t ever feel that it’s not okay to seek help, don’t ever feel too proud to ask for help, because it could save your life.
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