Thursday, December 26, 2013

"Be a man." Perhaps one of the hardest to follow directions we ever hear.

As I think most of you know I was raised by a single mother and did not have a father figure around for most of my formative years.

My male role models were Mannix, Little Joe Cartwright, and Captain James T. Kirk.

I learned that men did not show emotion, treated women like something temporary to be used and then cast aside, and that violence was the solution to just about everything.

On the other hand my mother's instruction was to not grow up to be like her most recent boyfriend who broke her heart or turned out to be an asshole.

That did not give me much to work with in the real world.

I did the best I could, but boy did I screw up a lot. Especially in high school.

However, after many missteps and wrong turns, I eventually grew up to be a more or less sensitive guy, who likes movies, working with kids, and talking about religion and politics.

I do not hurt women, I do not drink to excess, and I do not carry a gun (Or a phaser) to make myself feel masculine.

In the end my mom turned out to be my best role model simply by demonstrating that strong women should not threaten the egos of strong men, that raising children is not something that only woman can do well, and that our self worth should not be measured by what we have, but rather by what we give to others.

No way am I perfect, but I am far better than anybody ever thought I would turn out to be when I was a young boy. And today when I teach young boys what it is to be a man, there is no talk of competition or violence, but rather of responsibility and respect toward others.


  1. I understand this. I lot of us could not/would not follow the steps of our parents. My father wasn’t a bad role model, he was thoughtful and imaginative, but a farm required lots of violence and he was up to the task. I wasn’t and left.

    Away from the farm, I met many people. I tried to emulate the good rather than the bad, but sometimes I got it wrong. The sweetest people can lead you astray, and then you have to pull yourself back. I’ve hurt a few feelings, but not more than that, thank God.

    Oh, and desensitizing boys? That’s been going on for a long time. Maybe it was necessary in a hunting or warrior society. But men AND women have been doing it forever. “Come home with your shield or on it,” spoken by a Spartan mother.

  2. Anonymous4:51 AM

    Such an important subject! So many of us that had Mothers who worked used the characters on TV as role models. I think it would be interesting to hear other IM'ers weigh in on this.


    1. TexasMel, as a latchkey kid (whose parents divorced back when no one divorced) I mothered my mother and then lost my absentee father at 15. Couple that with the still-stifling expectations for women and it took me a long time to work out a true identity for myself. I am grateful for resilient children, an ex-spouse with a kind heart and a terrific sense of humor, and art.

    2. Anonymous11:30 AM

      I definitely saw characters on tv as role models. My mother didn't work. Nor did any of the other mothers in my middle-class neighborhood in the 1970s. Instead, they sat around gossiping about each other and being petty and mean. I adored Mary Richards, who had a purpose in life and tried so hard to be kind to everyone around her. I admired the mom in One Day at a Time, who took a bad divorce and made the best of it for her two girls. Alice went to work at Mel's Diner to pay the bills, no matter how idiotic her boss and co-workers were.

  3. AKinPA4:58 AM

    Kudos to you and your mom, Gryphen!

  4. Anonymous5:18 AM

    I'm sure the majority of us think you to be a sweetheart and a kind, smart man, Gryphen! Happy New Year!

  5. Crystal Sage5:45 AM

    O/T Wonkette has Sarah's Christmas Letter to her fans

  6. Anonymous6:45 AM


  7. When I got my first computer (about '94), one of the first sites I found was Betty Bowers. Hallelujah!

    I still laugh over a short audio clip of a "testimony" from a young black gay male who had been "straightened out" when Jeebus appeared to him and said, " Be a man, girl."

  8. When you're 13 in 1967 and realizing you're gay, you already know you're gonna fall short of a lot of people's definition of masculinity. I presume I wasn't overtly effeminate because I did avoid getting ass-kicked any more than a typical kid did.

    As I continued through the teen years my attitude coalesced on the idea that the biggest waste of time in this life is losing sleep over the disparaging opinions of people who don't pay my bills, including those who'd seek to set any 'be a man' bar for me. I try to be a fair and friendly man to anybody that lets me, and I've never been without friends. For those whom that's not enough, fuck 'em. Do I need them?

  9. Anita Winecooler8:07 PM

    This is, perhaps, one of the most important posts you've done. As a society, we've failed our boys and young men by (excuse the pun) skirting the issue of "What it means to be a man". Women and men are wired differently. Women are more at ease when it comes to sharing their feelings, making, nurturing and maintaining long term friendships, etc. Early in the Women's rights movement, women felt the need to smoke cigars, wear clothes traditionally associated with men and "Act" like the men of those times acted to drive home the point that we're the same and should be treated as such.
    I will never forget my Dad's reaction when he saw my brother changing a diaper and sharing in homekeeping chores. He took my brother aside and verbally attacked him to the core of his being. "If you let her make you do "A", she'll make you do "B" and after awhile, you'll be doing her job".
    The first time I saw a man break down and weep openly, I was genuinely moved to the point I felt the need to make some kind of connection. I simply clasped his hand and tried to support him. The reaction was his retreating and blind rage. To this day, I can't figure out where it came from nor what brought the rage on.
    My husband and son learned to communicate their feelings without coming off as "feminine". I just feel it takes an extremely strong man to deal with his feelings effectively, to make meaningful friendships with both sexes and to be secure in their masculinity. Repressing feelings does lead to bad and sometimes deadly behavior, we've got to teach our sons that becoming emotional at appropriate times is perfectly normal. We need to stop the cycle of domestic violence, self medication to escape real feelings, etc. I think this plays a huge part in the gun fetish industry and other social problems we're not dealing with properly.


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