“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.