An important part of why submission must be strength for me, and why submission is so healing
One of the other topics that came up in my experience with the REIKI Master was the absence of positive male role models in my life. [The post on REIKI is here and a post about my feelings of my father is here]. But as I look back over my life, there were none.
The closest I came to having a positive male role model I felt was one of my teachers in school. He was instrumental in my education, finding a path through my academic struggles, whether those were caused by a very troubled home environment and how hard it was for me to keep up with ADD in an extremely competitive all-male academic environment, at a time when nobody thought of teaching to accommodate ADD people. He helped me step back from drug use, from really self-destructive behaviour, and help me embrace Christian ethics and find my moral code. He also nurtured and fed my love of the outdoors, and that is how I best knew him.
He was an acolyte of the school of tough love, and he meted it out, but did so within the milieu of the outside world, and I really respected him. Then one day, when I was 17 and on a long outdoor camping trip with many friends and school mates, with him as trip leader, and with my burgeoning first serious emotional attachment growing with my first girlfriend that included sex, I discovered disappointment in him.
He tried to get my girlfriend to dump me. He pressed her on what could she see in me, and I learned this, because she recounted to me, and she was disgusted by it. I later discovered that she was subjected to serious sexual abuse by her father growing up, something which led to several suicide attempts. At this point, I didn’t know, but I did tune into her disgust at his behaviour—not that he was trying to diss me, but that his motives were to get inside her knickers. I couldn’t believe it at first. He was over a decade her senior, and he was one of our teachers, on the faculty of our respective schools. Total breach of trust. This was not quite statutory rape, as my GF was 18 at the time (already then, always going for “older” women!). But when she told me of his real motivation and her visceral disappointment in him for it, it changed my view of him from good man to dog.
A few years later I discovered that this was not an anomaly, when he married one of his former students, and I learned that he had been sleeping with her since she was a junior in High School. He went onto a prestige position at another school, and they are still married, but somehow, I can’t believe this isn’t an abuse of trust.
And of course, my mother was right. I did need positive male role models in my life growing up. At the time, she placed her different boyfriends in that role, hoping that the men she chose would also show me how to be a man. She was most definitely obsessed with me “being a man” as I grew up, and well, the mixed messages she gave me were pretty confusing. [I wrote about that here].
My mother’s longest running BF relationship when I was growing up was to a very dear, sweet man, and one who was generous, and warm, and gentle. He treated her with respect, and he was incredibly generous with me, but also engaging with me, not as a distant adult, but as someone who took a genuine interest in me. He was not a disciplinarian like my father, he was much more like a horse whisperer…and indeed, the metaphor is apt, as he grew up around horses, and fed my love of horses with books and stories and such. He was interesting, cultured, in the arts, and a very talented free-drawer. You can imagine how his gentleness and respect for my mother played well with me. But their relationship did not last, and this man whom she had committed to marry, and whom I came to love, was tossed aside from one day to the next like crumpled paper. I remember both his tears, and her callous assessment that he was “weak”.
What Happened to the Weak Man?
One night my mother was out with this man. I remember already seeing less and less of him.
That night, very late, I awoke to the sounds of a verbal altercation. Even though my bedroom was on the top floor and they were downstairs, I could hear it when he called her the C-word (I didn’t know what it meant then, but I knew one didn’t say that word)…and shouting F-you…and him yelling and saying how she humiliated him. She had gotten a ride home from another man and had said cruel things to him. It was weird. I felt his pain, his humiliation, but also disappointment in his use of language, and a profound sadness that the love one could feel, submissive love, devoted love, could be regarded as a sign of weakness. It bothered me no end. Of course I had no idea what it was like inside the relationship, but I resented my mother for crushing the heart of a nice man. I was very troubled that “love” could be seen as weakness, and that is how I interpreted it.
What crossed the line for me was that he then struck her. It was a single slap, and I heard her run away to her bedroom, up one flight, close the door and collapse onto her bed and cry. I also heard him storm out and slam the front door.
But my allegiance in the argument switched from him to her with the C-word and the hit. But I never managed to process why she didn’t love him and chose to humiliate him, and I will never know. But I do believe that this moment was profoundly impactful on me.
Male role models? Even my best friend in school, a person I thought I really knew, revealed a predatory trait towards women that upset me when we spent a summer together after our first year in college, revealing a side of himself that I had not known and was not pleased to meet.
Where do I go from here? I’m no angel. I have used the C-word myself, in the heat of argument with my SO, and she slapped me so hard that my whole skull shook, and then she did it again, and told me, “don’t you ever,” and I apologized immediately and have never done it again. She also told me that if I laid on her, she would divorce me, but I have never done so.
But I also chose to love and support and be generous and to not be macho. Macho seemed to be the kind of masculinity that my mother liked, but is one that has never sat well with me. And I cannot shake the deep-seated feeling that I am really female inside this shell. What’s a girl to do?
I can only say what I have done. In a world where I have never found a positive male role model to look up to, I have tried to behave like one as best I can…admittedly in a slightly quirky way! I have tried to show my children that a man can be loving and sensitive, can cry, can be demonstrative, and can even show femininity. I believe that the message has been delivered, and I am close to them in ways that none of my siblings were with our own father…so, in that sense, I have broken the cycle.
But does it take a non-binary to make a positive role model? I’m sure not, it’s just that I don’t know any. And maybe, herein lies my greatest challenge. If I am to be a male role model, then I need to be a man. I have defined that as a pretzel defines a straight line. Too many fudges. So then what? Do I need to learn to make love like a man? Gosh, that scares me. I imagine that my strength, my support, my steadfast nature are all “manly qualities”, but what about nurturing? If anything, we could all use more of that. I try, but I could try more. Or is it okay to be “a man” and still be non-binary? And how do I cope with the idea that I have never met a man who is a role model, at least to my knowledge. So many seem to be on the surface but prove to be vulgar pigs in private…and what of the things that I define as making a man a vulgar pig–some women, for instance, might not be offended by those things.
Just as I put women on a pedestal, I dig a special hell for men. Neither one is healthy. I can take down the pedestal and interact without blinders when it comes to women, but I still haven’t figured out how to shake loose my disregard for the male of our species. The problem? Because I fear those traits that I despise as somehow laying dormant in myself, or just being perceived that way. Sometimes I get into a conversation with someone who self-identifies as a feminist, and they don’t see me, they see a man, and before I open my mouth, I get it with both barrels. That sucks, but if they see it, even if its not there, it hurts just the same. What’s a good boy to do?