For our first song, we are going to tackle Don’t Tell the Boys by indie rock artist and absurdist TikTok comedian, Petey. I became familiar with his music long before I found that he wrote and performed hilarious sketches, so I feel fairly comfortable looking at his music without having to comment on his particular brand of comedy.
Regardless, “Don’t tell the Boys” is one of the best examples of a man struggling to pursue masculinity that is outside the norm. The song starts with these lyrics:
There is a lot going on here, but it is worth taking a look at the main character in the song, which for simplicity’s sake I’m going to assume is Peter Martin himself. First, he establishes that there is a group of friends that he calls “the boys” from whom he would like to keep certain things secret. What are these things? Supporting someone as they cry in his arms, sharing feelings, discussing childhood trauma, and saying I love you.
These are the positive and complex masculine traits of someone who is connecting on a deep level within a strong and necessary friendship, the kind of friendship he can clearly not have with “the boys.” It is obvious that this relationship is the most important one in his life, and yet he doesn’t want to tell others about it. He doesn’t want others to know his vulnerability or his trauma.
And why would he not want to “tell the boys” about being a whole human being who has feelings and who needs to connect on a deeper level with someone and talk about how our adult selves have developed from our childhoods? It is because he is boxed in by the expectations of “the boys.” He cannot be himself or even relax enough to watch guilty pleasure television as he talks about later in the song. He is worried about what “the boys” will say to him if they learned he was a good listener, or someone who enjoys the “sharing season.”
He ends the song with these words:
When Petey sings “us guys decide we’d rather walk the walk,” the walk he is referring to is traditional masculine ideology. We would rather deny what we need and simply be with friends who don’t expect kindness or caring. But, it isn’t true. We do need that.
And by repeating “don’t tell the boys” over and over within the song, it is clear that he actually wants to tell them. He wants to tell the whole world that he has found a meaningful relationship to a person he loves, but he is afraid of what will happen when he does.
Often, I am afraid of what being my whole self with other men will mean. If I share what is really happening in my marriage or with my kids. If I am emotional or ask to lean upon them for support. But, I don’t realize that by “not telling the boys,” I am doing something far more harmful. I’m denying who I am and what I need as a human. I am perpetuating “the walk” that holds us all back. By keeping the most essential feelings and most important relationships of my life a secret from those who I might find connection with, I am committing self-harm. Sure, it isn’t cutting or giving me liver damage, but it is harming me just the same.
So, I what I guess I’m saying is, “We must tell the boys.” We must tell them everything.
Thank you to Petey for his Incredible music. Please take the time to listen too his music (and follow him on TikTok for some wonderful humor).