Men's Health

In the New York Times article Are We Not Man Enough? (December 18, 2011), Steve Kettmann illuminates a growing problem for men referred to as “low T” (low testosterone). One cryptically named cure mentioned in the article is called “the cream” – a testosterone-based ointment that has been literally exploding in sales over the last few years.

how shall we understand this?

Advocates say this treatment represents a medical advance; skeptics say it is, yet again, Big Pharma at work, convincing people that normal challenges of the human condition are actually medical pathologies. As usual, both sides claim to have science on their side.

To my mind, it evokes the question of what it means to be a man in our culture, and what influence we have (and want to have) over our own bodies and subjective experience.

Do we need to be 'strong'? What does that even mean? Do we need to be alpha-males? What does it mean to be a healthy man? How do we understand manhood in comparison to our dad’s generation?

Sure, like all humans, we should eat right, exercise and get our age appropriate medical exams. No surprise there – and easier said than done. But as we know, creating health (physically, emotionally and spiritually) has less to do with knowing what to do and more to do with actually doing what we need to do.

Creating health is more about values, priorities and follow-through, and less about knowledge. And, it is even less about ingesting products that will supposedly make us more virile, strong, masculine, etc.

Come to think about it, health is like life. We have to get up each day and create it, using whatever raw materials that we have at our disposal. Sure, we can improve on what we've been given—and we should. Lifelong learning and personal growth are core principles in my therapy practice. Synthetic means, however, can be very dubious.

In a recent conversation I had with a male colleague, we found ourselves discussing the dilemma that men's health magazines must face each month: How many ways can they talk about maximizing your energy, growing your pecs, creating washtub abs or having marathon sex? Are these really the things that lead to a rich and rewarding life?

No doubt these magazines (and websites) have helpful and thought-provoking articles at times, but we men must learn that the ideals and the products that are relentlessly marketed to us can confuse and distort our thinking and our priorities. Creating health and balance for men is as much a moral and spiritual quest as anything else.