I find eulogies and funerals in general, fascinating. People put on their finest black clothes and stand in reverence for someone they cared enough about to get off their couch and spend a couple of hours to recognize in passing. The remarks toward men who die are especially intriguing. Nine times out of ten the opening sentence is “so and so was a good man.” But what defines that is changing, rapidly, and I think we need to talk about it.
I spend an incredible amount of time around women. Until I remarried and built my family of a wife, three daughters, now aged 17, 10, and 9, a mother in law, mother, sister, sister-in-law, and various female friends and acquaintances, I had an opinion of what “a real man” was. Since I’m surrounded by people with two XX chromosomes, my views have completely changed. I still harbor the philosophy that I’m their protector and pillar of strength but not in the way country music songs or reality shows about Duck Hunters tell you. I don’t need a gun or blood on my knuckles.
My women, and yes I call them that, sometimes even to their faces, have taught me that anger, stress, and external expressions of testosterone are not only absurd but also unnecessary. They grimace when I scream at drivers on the road. They roll their eyes when I yell at the television because my favorite football team screws up. And they tell me how disappointed they are when I over-lecture, grunt or show vitriol toward them and others.
The current news story about Miami Dolphins football players Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito has shown me how much the women in my life have taught me. For the unknowing; Martin, a second-year offensive tackle from a family of Harvard trained lawyers and educated at Stanford, himself, was allegedly bullied and harassed by his teammate, eight-year veteran guard, Incognito, a man of middle-class means with a checked past of violence. The “he said he said their teammates said” saga has not only caused division within the National Football League team (the current players support alleged perpetrator Incognito while calling out alleged victim Martin for cowardice) but also among sports fans and men in general.
While standing in line to devour some Bar-B-Q at my daughter’s cheerleader senior night pre-game meal, I overheard a conversation between fathers. One middle-age man said to another “Martin’s like 6’5″ and over 300 pounds. Why didn’t he just whip Incognito’s butt then everything would be okay?”
The size of the men involved, aside, and the fact that so many other NFL players have said the same thing as well as the Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland saying it to Martin’s agent when they complained, is far from the point of any bullying scenario. I’ve personally witnessed men of smaller stature beat the hell out of larger men. But the attitude that physical confrontation is the only way one man can show his dominance or get over on a bully is why many men have issues with women. They have neither the capacity to talk their way through problems nor deal from anything resembling a deck of cards of sociology. And what if whipping butt causes more problems?
Based on what we know of the Dolphins toxic locker-room situation the only “real man” has shown to be Jonathan Martin. He walked away from crazy violent people, including his alleged tormentor, told his team what happened, and got a lawyer to collect evidence and present his case. He also has the least to lose in the situation. Even if Martin loses his short professional football career, he goes back to a wealthy, privileged family with a Stanford degree and a likely successful life. While the Dolphins, Incognito, and the other players could lose a lot more than their jobs, they could lose their reputations and respect.
The women I live with and I’m around hold me to a standard that’s sometimes unfair but not unreasonable. They want me to be an example. I’m the model they want to hold up to the other men (or women) they bring into their lives later on. I’m the textbook they read to determine how they should be treated for the rest of their lives. How I love my wife shows my kids how they should be loved by significant others. Most of all, I’m their petri dish, laboratory experiment, and science test to how a real man looks.
I don’t know what I’m doing. I follow their emotions, their desires, and their needs to be met. Sometimes I fail miserably and have to apologize. What I hope they see is someone with a Y chromosome that doesn’t use an outdated social model of gender. I may not shoot a gun, kill my own food, spread blood on my face or animal urine on my clothes and go hunt and gather for sport, but I protect them. And they never have to worry about me bullying them or the ones they love.
I may not be a real man to the guys on Duck Dynasty or the dudes in the Miami Dolphins locker-room. But I know for damn sure I’m a real man to my wife, three daughters, and a dozen or so other women I’m around every day. And now, I’m going to get in trouble for using a bad word in my blog post by each of them. At least I’m man enough to admit that.
When I die, I hope they start my eulogy with the sentence, “he was a good man”, and the definition they use is much better than the ones we use right now..
Here’s Sr-71′s power pop hit from 13 years ago. Pay attention to the guitar and attitude not the lyrics. Let ‘er rip. Here’s Right Now.