Tuesday Afternoon Ramblings

No offense intended to my female friends, and you’re more than welcome to read this post and chime in on this discussion, but this post is about being a man.  I’m all for women’s rights and believe we’re all equal, but this post is about what it means to be a man in 2012, at least from my perspective.  Part of this is my attempt to rediscover myself after a rocky ending to a once beautiful relationship; part is my venting over what I feel are blatant disrespects to my manhood; and part is my anger over the castration we face on a daily basis.  Again, I respect women and realize you have your own set of obstacles, but this entry will contain moderate to high levels of testosterone, so consider that fair warning.

First and foremost, being a man in this age is maddening.  We’re expected to temper and control millions of years of evolutionary hard-wiring in order to fit the contemporary mold of civilized behavior.  Well, that’s not easy.  For thousands of years our species has thrived in part because of this wiring, but now, we’re barbarians if we exhibit any signs of temper or anger.  A thousand years ago, hell two hundred years ago, if someone cut a man off in traffic the way they do today, that man could’ve ripped out their fucking throat and left them for he vultures to pick apart.  Genetically, I’m identical to the men of those times, but today, all I can do is give that asshole the finger and lay on my horn.  The frustration of having to bridle back those old impulses is hard to describe.  I hope other men know what I’m talking about and can weigh in on this because I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this frustration.

Also, you know what?  I like meat, especially steak.  It tastes really good.  Do I like factory farming? No.  Do I think all farms should allow free-range grazing and avoid pumping their animals full of hormones? Yes.  But I like to eat meat because it’s delicious.  I also happen to like salad because it tastes good to me, too.  There’s not much better than a fresh salad with basil, olive oil, and vinegar.  My point here is that often I’m made to feel like a Neanderthal for eating meat or a wimp for eating salad, but the simple fact is that it’s my body and my choice.  I’ll eat what I want.  End of discussion.

Then, there’s this whole thing about being sensitive and in touch with our feelings.  I’m here to tell you that I’m about as sensitive, compassionate, and in touch with my emotions as a man can be, and do you know where it’s gotten me?  The best I can tell, only heartbroken.  The women I’ve mistakenly given my heart to haven’t taken good care of it.  They’ve either played on my compassion and drained me dry or criticized me for what I’m not, instead of cherishing me for what I am.  I don’t want to change my kindness or lose that connection to my own emotions, but I know that it will be hard to trust sharing those parts of myself intimately with anyone again because so far, that’s only gotten me hurt.

And what really pisses me off is this whole bullshit notion of romance.  I’m sorry, but cards and flowers and little gifts are a ridiculous waste of money.  I’d rather show my love by helping with the dishes or doing a load of laundry or cooking a nice supper.  I know that’s not very romantic, but you know what?  I work pretty fucking hard and don’t earn a whole lot of money in my profession, so I try to spend my money wisely.  My idea of romance is sitting together on the sofa on Friday night and listening to good music.  That’s about as romantic as I can get.  Anything beyond that feels corny and cheesy to me.  I’m a terrible dancer and don’t like crowds, so going out is more of a drain than anything.  That’s just who I am, and if that’s not good enough, then I guess I’m not the right man for you.

I was raised in a time and place where parents and grandparents used real threats of physical violence to keep their children in line.  My grandfather never actually hit me, but by god, he sure as hell made me believe he would if I crossed the line, so I never dared try him.  My father only had to spank me a handful of times, and each one I deserved and I never misbehaved in that manner again.  Today, if a man raises his voice, he’s got “anger issues.”   Well, despite the do-gooders best intentions, the removal of the threat of violence has left us with where we are: a generation out of control with no respect for authority or other people’s rights.  I’m not advocating for abuse, but corporal punishment, even if just as a threat, does work.

I’ve never once raised a hand to a woman.  Well, not since I was 13 and got in the last fist-fight with my sister.  Even when my ex-wife came to me on Christmas morning to tell me she wanted to leave and I was so angry I wanted to strangle her, I didn’t even threaten to lay a hand on her.  Even when I’ve been pushed beyond my limit of patience and tolerance, I’ve never even considered striking a woman because I am a man, and to me real men don’t physically hurt women.  The one caveat to that is if a woman tries to harm my kids.  Then, I’ll kick her ass as if she were a man, but other than that one exception, there’s no place in this world for a man to even slap a woman.

This post has gone way off the rails from what I had originally intended, but those are some of my thoughts on what it means to be a man today and how complicated and confusing all of it has become.  What do you think?  Am I just completely off my rocker, or do I make some legitimate points?  I want to know your thoughts on this subject.

25 thoughts on “Tuesday Afternoon Ramblings”

  1. Alex, all I can tell you is that not all women think romance is attached to $$. I, for one, think it falls far short of what is romantic in my opinion. As far as your relationshio ending and all that it did to you and all it takes to get through it, I can relate. All of us, male or female, can. I read a saying not long ago that I really liked concerning the loss of a relationship, and it would apply to any. It went something like, “Don’t grieve over those who leave you . . . they’re making room for those who won’t”, or, something along those lines. :}

    1. Thank you. I’ve heard that one, too. I’m the one who left, but I did so because I just couldn’t continue feeling like I was always being criticized for what I’m not or what I didn’t do. It didn’t start like that, but it surely evolved into it, and I’ve been through too much to live feeling unappreciated.

  2. Being a lesbian, I can only respond concerning my friendships with men. I will not even consider my “other” relationships with men, they too were very painful in many ways. However, my friendships are very honest and I try to accept people as they are and not what I want them to be, that was not always the case. Maturity works wonders. Anyway, I read your blogs, I read your posts, you are a great man, very in touch with your feelings, compassionate, and passionate as well. I am sorry your romantic relations have turned ugly and bitter. We all have to learn the lesson that people are not their book covers. It takes time to heal as you know so well, but you will. Learn whatever lesson you need to learn so you can open yourself up for the love of your life. Love heals not hurts. Broken hearts hurt and may never heal, but we can love again if we are open to it. Don’t let the broken heart help you build walls, they are hard to break down once built. But, yes, you are a man’s man and a woman’s man. You always have been. I appreciate your honesty.

    Now for the true discussion, manners are taught not beaten in to a person. I am against punishment in the form of laying on hands. I have had many classes in child development and the trauma that a child experiences being hit and then afraid of the parent ruins trust and can destroy the attachment process. Don’t get me started. Yes, the parents of today do not know how to teach discipline, which is very different than punishment. Additionally, even the concept of time out leads to feelings of abandonment. Teaching is the point of parenthood, not fear and distrust. Your love for your children does not indicate that you hit them, did you? I judge not, I just want to teach. The frontal brain that controls judgement is not fully developed until the age of 25 and we expect children and young adults to have judgement, it is physically impossible. Just think of those days and the things you saw young people do and how there was obviously bad judgement playing into the situation. I step down off my soap box. Again, love goes along way, you know this.

    1. I’ve read many of the studies on corporal punishment, too, and once upon a time, I agreed with them, but looking back on my own childhood, my great-grandmother was the queen of the switch. We only crossed her once or twice, yet despite those whippings, and they were not gentle, I loved her as much as I’ve loved anybody. Yes, at 7 or 8, I probably did feel some fear, but as I matured, even in my teens, I knew how much she loved me and respected her for keeping us safe. There’s a HUGE difference between a spanking and abuse. Spankings are a teaching tool. Abuse is irrational and not connected to teaching but to controlling.

      No, I don’t spank my boys, but if they gave me reason to, I probably would. But it would only be on the bottom or the back of the thigh, and it would be done because they had put themselves in serious danger.

  3. Since you choose to chime in, I’ll respond directly. Again, you fail to acknowledge all of the nights I held you to sleep while you cried for your runaway son who was off getting high and stealing from his friends. You fail to acknowledge that I stood by you after you time and time again took out your anger at him on me. You fail to acknowledge that I held you and comforted you when your daughter ran off from her husband with another man, taking your grand babies away from you. You conveniently forget getting upset at me just a few weeks ago because I never brought home cards or flowers. You fail to acknowledge all that I did do for you. The only days I could barely look up from my computer were the days I had 50 essays to grade. The only tantrums I threw were in response to your misplaced aggression at me. I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself, too, and I’m perfectly capable of living alone. My tank wasn’t empty until your son’s bullshit on top of my illness, and even through that I tried to fight for us. Or maybe I’m making all of this up.

  4. Okay, as a person with Greek romanticism flowing through the body as blood, I have to say do not give up in love or finding love that is true (not to imply that you said you were doing so), you just have not found one worthy of you. Then again you could be an asshole. I really do not know. However, I like your style, your writing and find you to be a dude I would have drinks with.

    End bromantic moment.

    I am not a “manly” type of fellow, but I am a martial artist. I appreciate that moment when talking is no longer an option. Anger is a gift. So is clever and practically applied violence. I have always thought that any boy that grows up to be any sort of “real man” has either broken a limb on a playground doing something fantastically stupid, or gotten a serious ass-kicking from not knowing when to shut the fuck up.

    Is it too late to send a grunt in assent to what you have said? No, then insert grunt. Yes, then we can meet out back, settle this like men, and the loser buys drinks after. 😉


  5. Alex, I think you need to be who you are in every situation and let the chips fall where they will. There ARE decent women out there just as there are decent men out there. We are all made up of the product of our upbringing…just because you were disciplined a certain way does not make that the ONE AND ONLY true way and if you want women to value your opinion, you at least have to try to understand that they may not feel like you do 100% of the time. ( Not that that is what you said at all.) The only thing at all that I might have had issue with in your whole rant was the beating the crap outta someone for cutting you off….if you feel you need to do that then you seriously need to take a different route. Get a new GPS and put a little gravel in your travel or something. 🙂
    Now onto the romance thing…you sound like exactly the man I need…where have you been all my life? I have told my husband from day one to not ever buy me cards or flowers, because that does not equal romance to me. If he helped cook, clean or anything else I would think I had died and gone to heaven, but he doesn’t…and we are still best friends and happily married after 20 years because we communicate and compromise. That is not his thing…OK…he does other stuff for me, like not being the jealous type and giving me no reason to ever doubt his love, fidelity, or devotion to our family. Does he think Im a BITCH sometimes ? YES… (AM I? YES) Do I think he’s a PRICK sometimes? yes..and he is so thats not a shocker….JK.
    I wont grunt, but honestly I think that weird manly thing you got going on is frankly pretty sexy…and hey…eat you steak raw and your salad with croutons for all anybody should care….I like sushi and then also plain and simple beans and cornbread… who the hell cares? Walk around in your underwear and grunt and fart… sit at your computer and write until you cant move your fingers anymore….be the man you are and stay true to it.
    You are a great man, a great father, and a great friend. Any women should be lucky enough to have you. She just hasnt found you yet. Now…carry on…Ive said my piece! 🙂

  6. There is a difference between spanking and violence, but I feel spanking and teaching a child fear of a family member is abusive. Love does not hurt, belts and paddles,a nd swiches hurt body, mind and soul. I don’t understand hitting someone to tell them they did bad or they indangered theirself. I was spanked, hit by a belt, and a switch. I resented my parents and never feared them out of good old stubborness. I think anything, hand or paddle or switch hitting another person is just plain wrong. I will teach respect through giving respect, I will teach manners by exhibiting manners and I will teach love through anything, unconditional love. Spanking, I submit to that term, is pain, humiliation and a power play on the parents part. Thanks for the debate and appreciate the conversation.

    1. I understand where you’re coming from, and on the whole, I do agree with you. I just also happen to believe that there is a proper way to spank that does teach valuable lessons, but we’ll have to agree to disagree 🙂

  7. We’ll disagree with no respect lost by the way. I really appreciate reading your stuff. So, how do I purchase your books? I am very interested in your imagination. Again, heal and love again. You are so worth it, my friend.

    1. Beth (That’s what I remember you going by in high school, so forgive me if you prefer something else now), you can click on the link above here that says “The Brotherhood of Dwarves – Series” and it will take you to each individual book with links to various outlets.

  8. “A thousand years ago, hell two hundred years ago, if someone cut a man off in traffic the way they do today, that man could’ve ripped out their fucking throat and left them for he vultures to pick apart.”

    Glaring generality and historically flawed, as “traffic” as we know and deal with it today has not existed until the past few decades. If you want rule of the sword, move to Afghanistan. This is the same argument that people far more radicalized than I know you to be use for no gun control laws. Again, you want to carry an AK-47 anywhere you damn please, move to any number of Middle Eastern or African countries, and good luck with that. The quest for an orthodox society eventually and inevitably leads to violence and destruction and genocide.

    On the one hand, I appreciate your argument about gender roles. On the other, I think we as a species are attempting to be more human than ever before and this irrespective of gender (biological or otherwise). Acting out violent impulses has nothing to do with being a male, and even less to do with being a man. It has to do with feeling powerless and without options. There’s a time to defend, and there is a time to fight for things that are right and just, but being cut off in traffic is not in this category.

    We make our own luck to a degree. Unfortunately, we also ascribe the outcome of bad judgement or poor decision-making to bad luck, and this is not an accurate assessment, nor does it assume healthy emotional responsibility.

    I think men have lost some identity as the world has changed, (but so have women, whose chance for monetary or career success depends largely on how many of those supposedly male traits they are willing to adopt). As I said, I am sympathetic to your general thesis. But I take issue with labeling traits like violence, assertiveness, physical strength, dietary preferences and suppression of feelings as uniquely (or desirably) male.

    Re-read Kipling’s “If” and I believe you will find a excellent road map for modern manhood. I think men and women are fundamentally different in many respects, but that shouldn’t foster inequality. Our differences compliment each other, and our relationships force us to confront and work through those differences. As a man in a house with 3 women, I often long for the company of my own. I also appreciate how my wife and daughters help me to grow and mature as a whole being.

    We absolutely should temper our animal urges in the 21st century. We should also have the strength of character to always be ourselves and be honest about who and what we are with the world and with everyone we meet.

    1. Have you read Our Inner Ape? My argument is not that I should run that man out of the road, rip out his throat, and go about my day. My argument is that genetically, we are identical to out ancestors, yet we must suppress those real, tangible emotions that are hard-wired into the reptilian region of our brain but must then be filtered by the neocortex. It’s this filtering process that creates the frustration I’m talking about. Of course, it is a flawed analogy because traffic is a modern development, but try to imagine a medieval warrior driving today. His neocortex wasn’t trained to filter out those violent messages from his reptilian brain, so he would simply follow the impulses. We, however, must suppress them on a daily basis in order to maintain a civilized society, which creates stresses on the body as the two regions of the brain are in conflict with each other. A thousand years ago, those impulses were vital to basic survival. Today, they are a hindrance to inner peace.

      I’m not certain I made any reference to luck, so I’m not sure how to respond to that.

      From studying genetics, albeit on a rudimentary level, I disagree completely about the role of gender in our personality traits. There is hard scientific proof that we are wired differently. In contemporary society, we have attempted to redefine these differences as artificial constructs, but that redefinition is the artificial device. On a fundamental level, men and women have evolved differently and only in the last century have we as a species begun the attempt to undo those genetic differences through social engineering. In primates, violence is more prevalent among males for determining social status, while with females status is determined through more passive means. As primates, we are not excluded from these genetic impulses; we just have more sophisticated and highly developed frontal lobes for creating more subtle ways of expressing and suppressing those impulses. And I’m sorry, but as a general rule, male primates are physically stronger than females. Yes, there are exceptions, but as a general rule, if memory serves, males are on average 30% stronger than females because of basic body mass. That’s not theory; it’s proven fact among all primates.

      I’m in no way advocating for rule of the sword. I’m expressing a fundamental frustration that many men feel today because we have to suppress so many of our basic instincts in order to exist within our over-crowded, increasingly oppressive, increasingly sanitized culture.

  9. Of course I know what you mean, and you know that. I still have an issue with the language about suppression. We may be of the primate family, but our ability to be conscious of our emotions, responses and reactions make us able to create much of what is positive in Culture. It’s normal to be frustrated, but in light of the events in Ohio this week I think you can see the danger in suggesting that having the ability to keep from doing exactly what we feel is implicitly stressful thing. Those filters make us human. It’s simply not OK to give in to our primal compass.

    Suppression is not entirely negative to my mind in this context. Another way to think about it is re-focusing. You may write about gruesome battles and vengeance and the like, and I would argue that is a healthy place to let those urges run wild. I may paint violently, with a destructive, anarchistic intent, and for me that allows me to walk the streets normally. So I believe I understand your overall argument. What I’m saying is that there are healthy places to put this and there are incredibly unhealthy, inappropriate place to put this.

    I don’t know if we’re genetically identical to our ancestors. We share some important DNA, but as to whether or not those determine emotions, urges and desires I think that’s a stretch. Unlike humans in feudal Europe, I’m not going to die from a variety of relatively simple (and in our day easily avoidable) circumstances. I don’t live with the threats and stresses to my very existence that they did. Nor would they necessarily have the capacity to deal with our reality. Our attention span if vastly different. Our physicality is different. Our disease resistance is different. We’re altered by our environment: genetically, emotionally, mentally and physically. Those credit card commercials with the Vikings are humorous precisely because they are absurd. We know we have this aspect of ourselves but we also understand the world that existed when we allowed ourselves to be ruled by it. If we suddenly needed those skills we would likely regain them over a short period of time. But we don’t, thankfully.

    I don’t think the filtering is stressful. I tend to give humans more credit than that. We use our brains in incredibly dynamic ways in our age, and I think there are stresses because of that as much as anything. If one needs to express oneself by beating drums and reading Robert Bly, there is ample opportunity to do so, so I don’t think anyone has to live a state of pent-up urges in this age. Avenues and communities exist to explore and express oneself, whomever that “self” may be.

    And for the record, I also know you as an incredibly sensitive, caring, compassionate and generous person; not to mention real as hell. We have drank heroically together, argued vehemently and spoken honestly. As an old friend, I would never ask you to be anyone but yourself. I believe you will find that in a relationship eventually if you can keep your heart open to it.

  10. You know what is even harder for men? Current society has few careers or paths which let him vent all that testosterone energy. The honor, and physical challenges that youths faced to learn to temper those urges simply don’t exist. Four hundred years ago laws existed and a man was expected to act within those laws. Hormone riddled youths spent long days in the field, or training for battle. The average human male was designed for activity; not for sitting on his arse at a computer all day. Truth be told, all humans were designed to be active. So, I totally understand your frustration. I can spend a whole day doing mentally exhausting work or a whole day doing yard work. I’m tired at the end of both, ache after the latter, but I’m not keyed up. There’s a relaxing, soothing quality, an expulsion of negative energy accomplished by physical labor which is difficult to achieve with sedentary tasks (except for like meditation).

    I like and enjoy tokens of affection, but in all honesty, it’s sharing the burdens of life which are much more pleasing. Watching a man enjoy and excel as a father is another wonderful emotional connection. Society has put price tags on everything. I attempted to explain so many times to my ex that I didn’t want STUFF. Not only did I not get stuff, he didn’t do anything other than support the family, which is why he’s EX. If asked which means more, a bouquet of flowers or my man helping with laundry, I’d pick the latter. So, IMO, stay true to yourself. There are women out there who’d be happy to have you.

    As for discipline and anger, it isn’t the anger that is a problem, rather how one deals with it. I fully admit to the occasional yelling/cursing/slam something on the floor tantrum. I rarely get to that point, as my boiling point is high, and I prefer to solve a problem rather than vent. Sometimes, though, when I’m hurt and frustrated, I long to solve the problem with a fist or well executed round-house. I never have, mind, but the fantasy is there. I was married to a man that did use his fists, first on me, and then when he realized I wouldn’t tolerate that, on things. He’d scream and shout, not to vent, but to intimidate. That’s a whole different animal. His goal was not a release of the emotions, but to frighten me or whomever he was arguing with into submission. His way was the right way, no matter what.

    I have spanked my kids, but it is a rare thing. I think the threat of a spanking actually is more effective than the spanking itself in most cases. I watched knock-down, rolling on the floor, fist-fights between my father and my brother. These occurred because my brother did not respect my dad. My dad is a good man, but chose not to stand up to my mom at times when he should have. By doing so, my brother, who was at the age where he was defining himself as a man, lost respect for our father. We were spanked plenty, but there comes a time when no threat of physical violence will curtail a willful child, but respect and love will. That is what I’m aiming to achieve, but it isn’t an easy road to navigate.

  11. I have learned the hard way over the past year that people come into your life for a reason and some are meant to stay for a little while and some for a lifetime. Sometimes we would like them to stay when it’s just not meant to be that way. I am sorry to hear the frustration and heartbreak of a relationship gone bad. I also have had the taste of not being appreciated as well. Just a side note…I believe a man SHOULD be a man. (And I like steak too!) Try to hang in there and things will get better. (geez, I can’t believe I just said that. It always ticks me off when people say just forget it, move on. If it was that easy to turn emotions on and off then no one would have problems) Hope everything gets more tolerable real soon!

  12. Interesting post.

    There’s nothing wrong with steaks and salad (big fan myself), and as far as I’m concerned, the whole romantic stuff can die a fiery death.

    I have to disagree on the spanking part though, because violence only breeds more violence (and “anger problems”). But then that comes from someone who learnt how to beat people up from her father. Speaking of which, people – and especially children – can very well love their abusive family, especially when they have to rely on them and are taught that the beatings are justified. It’s a survival thing, and a hard-wired one, too.

    As for the heart-break part, I can relate to that.

    However, if that’s what it’s like to be a man, I might have to consider getting a sex change (I’m a woman). 😉

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