“…Its fighting beyond endurance. Its the magic of risking everything for a dream that nobody see’s but you..”
When I started this I was searching for answers. Answers to my own questions, the ‘why’ of my actions and ways in which i could eventually give back and hopefully make a difference.
In my search I’ve come across some good books, research material and ideas that have made me want to dig deeper into the underlying structures of our society and do-called cultural norms that have been best-case a disadvantage and worst-case, devastating for women. So I haven’t been writing as much lately because I’ve been trying to delve deeper in order to better understand the problems and how better to approach these issues, even if its just through my writing and what I teach my son. Luckily the conversation has picked up, whether in Hollywood or politics, women are being listened to and hopefully this wont just fade into memory like so many other things in this era of 24 newscycles. It must be a tidal wave.
I had the most uncomfortable dinner the other day. my friend (we’ll just call him The Salvadorian for now for I’m sure he’ll come up in other posts) doesn’t like pizza, so he decided to make some “burritos” with the ultra sodium packed processed food one can purchase off of canteen. I love pizza, even the fakearonni pizza they serve in this dive, so my Salvadorian friend goes down every Thursday to leave me his slice.
After dropping his pizza off, he leaves me at the table to eat alone. I really don’t mind eating alone, especially since there is no real privacy here; sometimes the only place you can find it is in your head. Now, back to the pizza. The pizza was marvelous my friends! Like nothing I’d ever had before in this place. A cheese pizza with just the right amount of cheese, grease, temperature and soft crust; like something you’d find at your local Italian Pizzeria. (comos for me, Let R’Buck) The first bite was a piece of heaven but sadly it would be just a glimpse of paradise for everything would quickly change.
As I explained before, we only eat with our own guys (Read: The Chowhall Life) so I would have to eat alone until another member of out group (Latino) came along. Which was fine by me because I could now enjoy my pizza without having to partake in the usual threadbare prison chatter. There are only so many seats though, so it wasn’t long before some of our guys came along. These three in particular, I never talk to and one of them I’d exchanged “unkind words” with on more than one occasion when playing soccer, but there was no where to sit. I tried to be amenable but there was no doing and a very uncomfortable silence ensued. You can’t force a conversation when you have absolutely nothing in common with people.
The magic of the moment was gone.
Now, if it had been something like Sloppy Joe’s or just about any other item on the menu, I wouldn’t have minded but this was cheese pizza people! I felt like Woody Harelson in Zombie Land, searching for that elusive golden brown treasure, a treasure that would help bring some sense of normalcy in a mad world. I wasn’t asking for much, only to sit back and savor my cheese pizza. You gotta enjoy the little things.
I’m sure given time or being on the same unit we could build some sort of relationship, at least one that would get us through a meal.
We are forced into choosing groups when we get here but sharing the same skin tone a friendship does not make. The two guys I get along with best are The Salvadorian and this white guy (Read: The Shawshank Deception) and I’m only allowed to sit with one of them. And even though The Salvadorian is my best friend, I don’t ever sit with him because the group he’s been sitting with would feel some type of way.
I know this sort of grouping isn’t unique to this place because it happens in high school and certain work environments but in those places you choose to go home. No real lesson or epiphany here, I just wish I could’ve enjoyed my cheese pizza.
There are two types of people in this world. The ones who listen and the ones who just wait to their turns to talk. If I’m be in completely honest here, I’m the latter but I have a very promising future in the former.
Lately, I’ve been catching myself wanting to jump in the middle of a conversation I’m having instead of respectfully waiting for the other person to finish. Even after everything I’ve learned and all the changes I’ve made, I still struggle with this. I’m getting better though. It’s just sometimes I can’t help but to be overcome by my in me Vince Vaughness (think wedding crashers:) ). If you were someone in my family, this wouldn’t be anything out of the ordinary because you’d be doing the same. Something like a directors commentary on a DVD, speaking over and throughout the whole movie. It works for us, we thrive on it but I understand this isn’t for everyone.
I come from a family of professional conversationalists and once we get going, like a meteor, you’ll be hard pressed to stop us or get in a word edgewise; that is unless you’re accustomed to it.
My sister is actually the person who triggered this post. We were talking on the phone the other day and I asked her a question about work, which triggered her chatter reflex. She unleashed. Honestly I love it, my little sisters a beast. But towards the end a feeling hit me, something I may have not noticed before but never gave much thought. I finally heard what other people must hear when they listen to us talk. (My poor mother).
Though my family makes this form of conversation work, most people are not like us. Again, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stopped myself from talking out of turn this past year but the good thing is I’m conscious of it and I’m working on doing better from here on out.
When it comes to my family, I don’t want it to change because it’s a part of who we at and I love it. Yet, when it comes to others, I’m going to do better of quieting my mind and taking in everything they say. One of the best things you can do in any relationship is to simply listen. Even a seemingly small thing like this can go a long way in building and fortifying our relationships. How can we ever really know anyone if we don’t listen. Think on this. When you talk to others, are you listening or just waiting for your turn to talk? Which of the two are you?
“Whoever degrades another, degrades me, And whatever is done or said returns at last to me.” – Walt Whitman
I’m going to start treating my friends better. In the male realm, we like to use a lot of vulgarity and bravado when interacting with one another. I even read somewhere that little boys wrestle and ruff house as a way to be close and show affection. How can we expect to have any real, meaningful connections this way? Why must common courtesy and decency go out the window because we’re men? It doesn’t have to.
Last week I noticed a friend of mine was a little off. Now our visual interaction would consist of some vulgar jokes about the others appearance or lifestyle, followed by some sort of smack or punch. The usual caveman stuff. But today felt different, I could see something in his eyes, so instead of the usual low-minded “affection”, I just patted him on the back and asked how his day was going. From the look on his face, I could that it was just what he needed.
I knew from our previous conversations that his son had starts college nearby and still hadn’t come to visit him. He liked to pretend he didn’t care but I could we that it hurt him deeply. It had been many years since he’d seen him and from the looks of it, it would be many more.
We forget sometimes that everyone has a story, worries, families, etc; the normal human condition. Wearing the same blue ensemble, walking to and from call outs and meals, like some characters in an uninspiring dystopian world, without color or warmth: our empathy can erode with time if not cared for.
We do have a say in all this, a choice to make. For to long we have been told that this is how men act. Raised by men who tell us that boys don’t cry or show tenderness in the way girls do because if we do we somehow become less of a man. I remember once when I was young, a male figure in my life called me some kind of “pussy” because I was writing poetry with my story ideas. You know how devastating the can be for a kids? I just wanted to be a writer and in one sentence he completely demorlized me and it would be years until I would write again.
Little things matter. When we’re taught these in and credos at a young age, they embed deep roots in our subconscious and we carry them with us through highschool, relationships, college, jobs and marriage. In time these unhealthy views can have real world consequences once men begin to have families of their own and enter into the workplace. Some of these men get into very powerful positions such as congress men, heads of corporations or even movie moguls like Harvey Weinstien, who feel their position entitles them to dehumanize the people under them.
Common courtesy can go a long way. Teaching our boys how treat others and allow in them to process their emotions in a way children should. Not telling them to hold back tears or internalize pain, so that one day it all comes out with unintended consequences.
Laugh, smile, hug, write poetry, tell your best friend you love and appreciate him. Me, I’m going to hug my five year old son every chance I get, kiss him on the top of his head and always tell him how much I love him. Encourage his passions and support whatever he decides to do with his life. Also teaching him to respect women. and to see them as his equal.
It’s not such a daunting task if we keep taking small steps. Like today, in my everyday interactions with others. I’m going to be considerate, listen and ask sincere questions. We can’t continue on this malignant path if we want to leave a better world than the one we inherited. We need to set better examples for our boys and them that it’s okay to be themselves. It’s ok to care and express affection to others.
I’ve thanked my mother, my brother, and my family but now I need to thank my girl who has recently been taking over much of the support for my blog. I don’t know what I would do without your help and your inspiration. I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve your love but I thank God every single day that you’ve come into my life. I hope to earn your love and devotion. I love you panda bear.- A
“Emphasize basic etiquette and courtesy. In dealing with others we should never think that courtesy is no longer important because we know each other so well.”