Thursday, February 21, 2013

Man: noun

I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be a man.

I'm not a man, nor am I currently undergoing gender confusion.  I'm just working to define what it means to be a man.
I don't know WHY exactly.  Sometimes I think the Lord leads us on journeys we don't understand the purpose of.  He uses the Spirit to point things out, we use our hearts to listen... and in the end we use what we've learned for good.
For some reason, right now the Lord wants me to know about men.

Maybe it's because I have a son and I'm missing the mark with him.
I don't know.
And frankly, I don't care much WHY I'm learning about men.  The journey has been rewarding and enriching.
I recently read an article on wikipedia about Gene Kelly.  I found a quote near the end that has stuck with me ever since.  It has helped to change my definition of manhood.
"Unfortunately people confuse gracefulness with softness. John Wayne is a graceful man and so are some of the great ball players...but, of course, they don't run the risk of being called sissies." ~Gene Kelly

When my husband and I were first married, we got some free passes to the local movie theater.  We used them to watch "The Notebook."  We were both in a really silly mood -we were more interested in poking and tickling the other than we were about what was going on during the movie.
We laughed at the cheesiness of it all, and after it was over we both agreed that it was a terrible movie.  Women the nation over were obsessed with the movie, and I never understood it.  I avoided anything Nicholas Sparksy for years.

A few months ago, a friend of mine loaned me a movie.  It was a movie based on a Nicholas Sparks novel.  I decided to watch it.  Maybe I was being stupid and too quick to judge Nicky Sparks.  I decided to give him another chance.  So I watched, "The Lucky One."
aaaand I hated it.

I hate movies like that!  I hate Twilight!  Want to know why?  Porn is why!  Women watch those movies!  They watch the movies where the "man" is a VAMPIRE (for heck's sake) who glitters and understands and says all the right things!  They romanticize the idea of a man in a woman's room watching her sleep (hello, scary) and "The Lucky One" only validated me.
It's about a soldier who has done three tours in Iraq.  He comes home with PTSD (understandably) and a picture of a woman he found on the ground.  He carried her picture everywhere and was never hurt (except for the PTSD, which apparently doesn't count?) so when he comes home, he goes in search of her.
He finds her.
He works for her.  His PTSD is suddenly gone (still confused about that).
He beats up a bad guy.
and he helps her son play his violin.  He plays the piano.  He GETS her and understands her and does everything right.

I know a few men who have been to Iraq three times.  They aren't sensitive men.  They're good men.  They're everything soldiers should be.
They are also imperfect.  They're rough and they don't always say the right thing at the right time.
None of them play the piano, but whatever.  That's beside the point...

My point is just this: so many women are watching these movies and then going home and smacking their husbands on the shoulder and saying, "Well why don't YOU ___________?" (fill in the blank with things like "play the piano and beat up bad guys without completely losing your temper OR cool?")

I'm not okay with it.  I'm not okay with it because I've put myself through the other end of it.
I've known that my husband looked at porn and wondered WHY I don't I _________?
Why don't I look like that?
Why don't I move like that?
Why don't I attract like that?
Ultimately: why don't I fulfill expectations like that?

It hurts to feel like less than enough.  I don't like to think anyone out there is going through it.

Maybe the Lord wants me to study up on Manhood because He knows that a true man is, in very fact, exactly like Edward Cullen.  Maybe I'm so set in my own ideas of Manhood that I'm refusing to open the door and believe that men can be baby-hungry chiseled cops/cowboys/firefighters who have a complete understanding of the working of the female brain.

All I know is that I recently read a blog post about "The Notebook" and it took me off guard.
What?  Someone whose opinion I trust actually watched it and liked it because it helped him (yes, HIM) see what he believed a man ought to be.
There it was again!  MAN.  What a man should be!
My curiosity was peaked, and I decided I was going to watch the movie I'd sworn off.  I kept teasing my husband about it, and it became an inside joke.
"Honey," he'd say, "Want to kill some zombies with me?" (the gaming kind, not the actual kind... just fyi)
"Sure!" I'd say, "And then we can watch The Notebook."

Well he bought it for me for Valentine's Day because he knew it would make me laugh.
We watched it together for the second time in our marriage.

And my opinion changed.  I mean it REALLY changed.  Nicholas Sparks is redeemed (a little).
Because the main man in the movie actually really IS a man.  He's confident and flawed.  He loses his temper, and he works with his hands.  He develops his God-given talents and uses them.  He dreams.  He works to fulfill dreams.  He reads.
He falls in love.
He fights for love.  He fights with his love.  He tells her the truth.  He knows HER and he encourages her to dream, to develop her talents, to seek for happiness...
They fight together.  They love together.  They laugh together.

Noah, to me, is a good man and he's good at being a man.

A few days ago, I watched a John Wayne movie I hadn't seen.
That movie made me swoon so hard I nearly toppled over.  THAT hardly ever happens.  I'm not big on swooning.

Hondo, to me, is a good man and he's good at being a man.

And so my search continues.
I walk my days with the lines of Rudyard Kipling bouncing around in my head.


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream---and not make dreams your master;
If you can think---and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings---nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And---which is more---you'll be a Man, my son!


  1. This actually has nothing to do with your post so much as that poem. Thank you for sharing it. It touched me in a way today that it never has before. I memorized that poem when I was in 6th grade and yet I don't think I ever had a clue what it was about until right now (only, I will change the last line to "woman" instead :). Man, I am emotional today!

  2. I love that poem too! Thank you for sharing!

    About your quest to understand men, I HIGHLY recommend the book "How to improve your marriage without talking about it" by Pat Love and Steven Stosny. I was skeptical for the first third, but by the end, I was astounded at how well it describes some major, and at least for us, gender-based differences between my husband and me. I've recommended it to several friends and so far everyone who's read it loves it to, and one friend has told me that it helped her with her young son. One of the best parts about the book is that it encourages two-way empathy and gives concrete ideas about how to better respond to your spouse.

  3. I recommend, "Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus." Great book that explains how men and women think and relate. My husband and I have been reading it together and it's helping us with every aspect of our relationship.

    I love the Notebook and Hondo by the way. John Wayne is my all time favorite actor. I grew up watching his movies with my grandpa.

    Hate Twilight! I actually read the books in a week, because I felt left out when all of my friends were talking about it. Then I went to the first 3 movies and gag me I was disgusted by the sex scene. I regret having watched it! My husband even read the books and watched the movies with me.

    I refused to go see the last movie. I knew it would have sex in it. I hated the aftermath of hearing how it was so great, except for the sex scene. I feel bad for the all of the LDS Womwan trapped in the Edward/Jacob fantasy world and feeling guilty I had been sucked in.

    The worst was telling all of my friends I didn't want to go see the last movie and having them look at me like I was a self-righteous hypocrite. Oh well, I am glad I've stepped out of the dream/fantasy world and into a new reality of amazing imperfect people like me.

    By far my most favorite movie is "Pride and Prejudice." To me, Mr. Darcy is a good man.

  4. Mmmm nice post, lots to think about! And I am seriously considering memorizing that poem now.....