Real Men

I adore men.

 What?  How can that be?  Didn’t your father abandon you?

 Yes.  And I still adore men.

I have no tolerance for those who beat women or rape them or verbally abuse them and grind them down day after day until nothing but a frightened shell remains.  I have no use for those who think the accident of being born with a penis gives them preference in the eyes of God or dominion over women, who use that accident as an excuse to leave the world a worse place.  Then again, those aren’t men: just a simple Y-chromosome swimming in a brain less sophisticated than a monkey’s.

But men, real men?  I love them.  I get along with them.  I get them.  And the secret to men is that they are a hell of a lot more complex and more emotional than what women and oftentimes, themselves, believe.

Of course, that’s generational.  My grandfather is more reticent, only revealing bits of his life in quiet, one-on-one moments.  My stepfather, when he worked twelve-hour shifts, lived inside of himself; now that he is retired, he shares his stories and I am honored.  My husband is a different kind of man altogether.  He can take apart an engine and discuss philosophy; punch a bag when he’s angry and cry when he’s even angrier; and as much as his ego may hate it, he can show me his vulnerabilities, his neuroses, or as he calls it, his “own brand of crazy.”

Maybe that has something to do with our relationship which has taken years to define and sculpt and is still beautifully malleable today.  We are both each other’s soft place to fall but we are never each other’s yes man.  We call each other on our bullshit because beneath the overblown reactions, the tears, the anger, there is always a deeper reason.  And when I’ve been able to get to that deeper reason, I forgive the superficial, I have compassion: my husband, and I suspect all men, is a fully formed glorious and flawed human being.

Yet I think what many women see are just the flaws.  Why?  It’s easy…because the glory of a man, like miracles, is oftentimes so simple or small that it is overlooked.  My husband may disdain buying me roses on the made-up holiday (his words) of Valentine’s Day but the sunshine yellow and orange gerbera daisies he brought home simply because I was having a bad week showed me how much he really loves me.  He may have gone to the supermarket and brought back extra-large eggs (which gross me out for some reason) instead of the large ones but the fact is he went to the supermarket simply because his princess hates braving Saturday morning shoppers.  When I was in the hospital, he pulled a bed next to mine and held my hand all night.  And when he awoke, exhausted and relieved that his wife was no longer in danger and he wasn’t going to become a widower at age 22, he looked me in the eye and said, “I need to go home.  I need time to myself.”  As much as I was afraid to be alone, I understood: he could do no more for me until he had time to grieve, to unwind, to thank God.  That’s glory.  Divine. 

Of course, he can piss me off like no one on the planet.  He knows how to hit below the belt and sometimes, when he’s lost in his own misery, he does.  But I do it, too.  We antagonize, we fight and even at the worst, when I’ve wanted to run away to a primeval forest where no one could find me or simply, to punch him in the head, there is always that voice bringing me back to the glory of who he is as a man.  That’s the thing about recognizing the magnificence of a human being: once you choose to do so, it becomes easier and easier to honor those moments, to have compassion, to not take personally the dirty socks lying on his side of the bed for the past week.  

Yes, I adore men.  Real men.  Not perfect by any means, but real.  And besides my husband and the thousands more reasons why I adore him, I honor the real men in my life: 

My stepfather: he literally stepped in and raised another man’s daughters.  He co-signed my first car; sat with me after an operation when no one else could; and he tells me loves me every time we talk.  

Grandpa A.: he sacrificed his youth in the Navy during World War II.  Despite witnessing horror and loss, he raised six children and could still dance and enjoy a cigar and martini.  He amazes me every time I talk to him. 

Great Grandpa C.: blinded in an industrial accident, he could see into the souls of men.  When my parents divorced, in a cloud of his sweet pipe smoke, he told me that sometimes adults were silly and didn’t know what to do or how to behave.  With his words, I began to see my parents as people for the first time.  We sat together for an hour, quiet, peaceful and warm. 

Great Grandpa M.: with a houseful of children and responsibilities, he still did the right thing.  In the 1930’s, he stood up to unionize the automotive company he worked at.  He lost his job for many years and a bar he owned was burned down in retaliation.  In the end, his sacrifices, and those of his family, made it easier for all of us.  Also, at a time when women were expected to be wives and mothers, he wanted his daughters to have a college education. 

My oldest friend: he was able to be just that to a woman—a friend.  A brother.  Through the years, he has been stubborn at times but when he met his soul mate, he changed in ways I never thought possible.  His edges have smoothed and a more spiritual, more connected man has emerged.  When he speaks of his wife, he can’t help the light that shines out of him. 

My brother-in-law: he is a gem.  In my husband’s large family, he is the only one who accepted me from the beginning, who had genuine interest and took the time to get to know me, who has grown into a fine young man and who, if he lets himself, will have a fantastic, adventurous life. 

I honor the glory of these men.  If you’re a woman, may your eyes open to the small kindnesses of your men.  May you cut them some slack and honor them by acknowledging who they are rather than who they’re not; what they are rather than what they’re not. 

And to all of those real men out there, thank you.

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