Saturday, March 5, 2011

'Real' men

Yes, it's been a while. February 2011 was not a month that lent itself to blogging. It's important to me not to blog about superficial matters, and at the same time some things are too deep, too personal and too important to be blogged. February is done now. In all it's hell and glory. It's done. Moving on ... 

PS - Watch out for the turtles
This morning I read an editorial in Monday Magazine - it's both a heartfelt challenge to men to 'be men' and a lament for those who bastardize what that means. It's a great piece. Even as I respond though, to what is an articulate and genuine insight, I struggle for words. So much of our culture calls for a 'man' to be a muscled, emotionless half human that even calling for men to be 'real men' - which to me means something very different than that - is terribly fraught. 

I've been very blessed in my life to have men who expressed the fullest possible meaning of the word. My dad and grandpa and uncles worked with tools and with words. They were and are men of faith and of action. They could wrap their arms around their wives and children, but also cry and show hurt in their own 'manly' ways. They are creative and practical. They are, in a word, integrated. Human first, man as a subset of that. 

And they set a standard that I've hoped somehow to impart to my sons. I've hoped that - despite just being their mom - my sons would learn to be themselves first, and some external definition of man only by accident. And I've held that standard up to measure the men I've invited into my life. It's not a conscious standard - not a checklist or definition. But an ingrained understanding of what a 'good man' is. Imperfect and learning. Leading and listening. Light and strong. As the editorial suggests, 
We’ve forgotten how the simple act of being a decent, caring human being is what truly makes a man.
Thankfully, many men haven't forgotten. And, the truth is a similar conversation for what it means to be a woman. The polarizing popular options suggest that a 'real' woman is a pampered princess who lives off the sweat of a 'real man's' brow, spends her days thinking of nothing but fashion and preserving her one asset - her looks - or that a 'real' woman is a ball-busting superwoman who needs no one to support her as she blazes through the business world, raises the perfect hot-house children, and takes care of herself ONLY because she's worth it, damnit, and supposedly not because she gives a silent fart about anyone else's opinion. 

I am not either of those. Yes, I like pedicures and pretty dresses. I also like camping and my tool box and things that go fast. I like that I sometimes turn heads. And I like that I can form an articulate argument. I like when my boyfriend opens the door for me. And when he lets me pay the bill.

Yes, life has repeatedly proven to me that I am strong and capable and can weather a sometimes frustrating array of storms. Everytime I think I've reached my breaking point, I bend some more and survive. I'm proud of everything I've accomplished, and I'm clear that I'm the one who has done it. And there is no better feeling than being folded into my sweetheart's arms. 

I don't for a minute believe that I'm better off on my own ... spending time with a decent, caring, human manly man makes it easier for me to be a decent, caring human womanly woman. And I'm grateful to the editorial for the reminder of just how many amazing men I have in my life. 

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