Misunderstanding, Didn't Understand

A comedic monologue about a young man faced with the prospect of losing his virginity after a date starts a conversation about masculinity and the expectations we put on boys. Featuring conversations with Alex, a 17 year old high school senior who finds humor in stereotypes of men as sex-hungry animals, and Steve Bandura, father of a teenage son who is more widely known as a coach to hundreds of inner city boys (and girls!) at the Marian Anderson Rec Center in South Philly.


Dear Paula, I am writing this because I am not comfortable being here right now. I feel like I am between a rock and a hard... place, and I just wanna watch Star Wars.
— from "Misunderstanding, Didn't Understand" by Alex Papatolis

What does it mean to be a man?

It’s a difficult question to answer, even for an adult. 

For teenage boys, becoming a man is much more than a question. It’s a reality. It’s a process that is subject to routine scrutiny and judgment from your peers and from the adults around you. It’s the constant pressure to fit into a rigid and often narrow definition of what’s manly: be strong, play sports, get girls. Have sex. And be good at it.

Bravado, machismo, and conquest trump kindness, vulnerability, and creativity.

But do these outdated expectations really capture the essence of masculinity in 2017? And who, exactly, are the role models for young men and boys when it comes to how to act, how to treat women?

On this episode of Mouthful, a weekly podcast that places young people at the center of important issues, we talk to two men about what masculinity means to them: 

  • Alex Papatolis, a 17 year old high school senior and young man whose award-winning comedic monologue “Misunderstanding, Didn’t Understand” sheds a different light on a young man confronting the prospect of sex
  • Steve Bandura, a father of a teenage son, more widely known for his work with youth at the Marian Anderson Rec Center, where he is the coach of the Anderson Monarchs, including Mo’Ne Davis and six other youth who captured the attention of the world at the 2014 Little League World Series

the conversation

Steve Bandura is a father, coach, and mentor. In 1989, Steve left the corporate world and began work as a volunteer at the Marian Anderson Recreation Center in South Philadelphia. Not long after, Steve noticed the lack of recreational team sports for inner city youth living in the neighborhood around the rec center. In 1993, he founded the Jackie Robinson Baseball league and by 1995 had enough strong players to found the Anderson Monarchs travel sports program. Since then, Steve's teams have earned an outstanding reputation and have gained unprecedented success, competing in the city's top baseball, soccer, and basketball leagues and capturing numerous city championships in all three sports. In 2014, seven of Steve's players, including Mo'ne Davis, caught the attention of the world as members of the Taney Dragons team that competed in the Little League World Series. The next summer, the Monarchs climbed aboard a 1947 bus and took a civil rights tour. At the helm of the Philadelphia Youth Organization, Steve is dedicated to giving inner city kids the same opportunities to play and develop as their counterparts in the suburbs – an attempt to “level the playing field.” In addition to cultivating young people into stellar athletes, Steve's primary goal is to convey the importance and benefits of education. Every player who goes on to graduate from college gets a special pennant on the Monarchs home field at 17th and Fitzwater, a visual emblem of the aspirations and successes of the neighborhood youth. Photo Credit: Brett Carlsen for the New York Times 

Steve Bandura is a father, coach, and mentor. In 1989, Steve left the corporate world and began work as a volunteer at the Marian Anderson Recreation Center in South Philadelphia. Not long after, Steve noticed the lack of recreational team sports for inner city youth living in the neighborhood around the rec center. In 1993, he founded the Jackie Robinson Baseball league and by 1995 had enough strong players to found the Anderson Monarchs travel sports program. Since then, Steve's teams have earned an outstanding reputation and have gained unprecedented success, competing in the city's top baseball, soccer, and basketball leagues and capturing numerous city championships in all three sports.

In 2014, seven of Steve's players, including Mo'ne Davis, caught the attention of the world as members of the Taney Dragons team that competed in the Little League World Series. The next summer, the Monarchs climbed aboard a 1947 bus and took a civil rights tour.

At the helm of the Philadelphia Youth Organization, Steve is dedicated to giving inner city kids the same opportunities to play and develop as their counterparts in the suburbs – an attempt to “level the playing field.” In addition to cultivating young people into stellar athletes, Steve's primary goal is to convey the importance and benefits of education. Every player who goes on to graduate from college gets a special pennant on the Monarchs home field at 17th and Fitzwater, a visual emblem of the aspirations and successes of the neighborhood youth.

Photo Credit: Brett Carlsen for the New York Times 

further reading & resources

To learn more about rights of passage into manhood across cultures check out this article from National Geographic.

To consider how ever-changing gender roles are creating a crisis in masculinity check out this article from Time and the book from Jack Myers.

Check out what athletes are doing to enter the fight against sexual assault with "Athletes United" via Mic.