In a recent post titled “Is too much introspection dangerous?”, I used an Ansel Adams image of El Capitan, one of the great climbing challenges of the world, to serve as a metaphor for the challenges of personal growth that lie ahead. Today, I am using a very different image, one taken from the top of an enormous precipice, with the valley floor laid out far below. I am standing on a metaphorical mountaintop, one of my own creation, one that I have constructed over a lifetime of rejection of the male. I regard the valley floor as the domain of manhood, and to me, its surface is hot like a frying pan, hot like Death Valley, a place I never want to go.
But it is time for me to begin to come to terms with myself, and with all men, so that I can put this nonsense to rest. I owe that to the part of me that is male. I owe that to the half of the world that loves men, despite their flaws. I owe that to the women in my life, friends, family, loved ones, all of whom love men. In the love they feel lies a level of humanity that cannot be denied. Whether I climb back down from my self-created pulpit or whether I leap is an unknown, but it will happen. I have my first topic with my new therapist!
When I succeed in coming to terms with this, it won’t stop me from seeking to change men…seeking to get men to be less brutish towards the fair sex. I have posted in the past that I have not had any solid male role models in my life. [On this blog post]. I discount all the men who have been in my life who have been indifferent presences, not knowing what they represent to the people that matter in their lives…and instead simply focussed on the jerks and turkeys, or on the jerk behaviour of people I had not previously regarded as turkeys.
I was very close to one of my cousins growing up. He is a year younger than I, and we have been close our whole lives. One time when he was visiting, I think we were about 10 and 11 then, I showed him some diaper pins that I had and a cloth diaper and told him that I liked to wear them. This was a huge and terrifying admission for me, as even then, I knew shame. He just took them and diapered himself on the spot. Here I was living in fear, already at that age, and he was totally blasé about it. I had tremendous respect for his ease of self. He has grown into a man whose demeanour, creativity, and style I respect. Above all, he is dutiful and worshipful to his SO. These are all qualities I admire. They go hand in hand with the comfort he showed in himself and in his skin at a very young age.
I believe in general that men have an easier time finding their way towards being comfortable with themselves. Men don’t usually have the agonising battles with self-esteem that others do. I don’t know whether men are simply more confident, are generally more oblivious, or these types of things are not the types of things that have an existential impact on men. I like that men are typically not so vain, though this is changing, and I wonder what lies ahead if I look in the mirror when I wear gendered female clothes and think about how I look. I hope that I don’t care. But one of the consequences of growing up non-binary was to live with at times agonising self-doubt. Thankfully I had a lot of positive affirmation from friends and key people in my life, especially girls, and with therapy and maturity, was able to find my way to a level of personal, professional, and relationship success that has given me the strength to be able to love and no longer worry about who or what I am.
I met a charming Dominatrix in London recently over lunch and apart from the many things that we talked about, what struck me most was what she said about men. “I love men. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do if I didn’t love men.” It was really nice to hear. She wasn’t trying to lure me in with the narrative of how much she loves submissive men—though I am sure she does like us. My thought is simply that if you are going to be good at something, I mean really good, like good enough to own your own dungeon, good enough to afford help, then you have to love what you do. I was talking to her about love, especially within the context of D/s. She said that she has deep affection for some of her subs, particularly the long-standing ones, and that the ones she doesn’t like she cuts loose. She felt the affection was a predicate for a successful session—and it had to flow both ways.
In particular, she reassured me that it was perfectly normal and all right for me to be developing a deep attachment to Mistress. This was indeed the reason I wanted to have lunch with her—to be able to get the perspective of an experienced Domme about the things I have been feeling—to know whether they are “normal” or not. She told me that some of her closest friends were also her clients, and that had not interfered in any way with their professional cadence. She said, “one of my clients was so special, that I knew after the first session that I was going to really like him as a person, so I asked him out to dinner that same night.”
Where is this going? Well, what is a man? What is manhood? I should not wish to descend to stereotypes, but there are some characteristics that appeal to me, and which found echo in Mistress’s own words about men. She too, “loves men.” I wrote about the power of those words to me when she said them. Already then, at our first meeting, she began to help me towards an acceptance of self that has always eluded me. The third time we dined together, she elaborated, and told me about some of the characteristics of men which she appreciated, and in her words, I most definitely found myself. [Described here]. Not only did I find myself, but I also found that how I serve, not just her, but my SO, and many people that matter to me, were exactly the traits she described.
I would like to call these traits chivalrous, or in more modern parlance, gentlemanliness. Look at that. Gentle and manliness. We are taught that men are tough, but a gentle man is the strongest of all.
In the book, the Five Personality Patterns, reviewed here, the author highlights the five modes which we all may adopt in dealing with an antagonistic world. We might have one dominant profile and one secondary profile, but essentially everyone attaches to one or two. Our patterns are dictated by when in our development as children we had to deal with stresses that overloaded us, and which we could not process. One of my modes is the “aggressive” mode. That mode has you push people away as a defensive mechanism, you push them before they can hurt you. I have decided to throw this pattern away.
I already decided some time ago and have been working on finding an alternative way. The author of the book says that the goal is to find peace within ourselves which he defines as presence, being able to live in the moment. This is what Mistress is teaching me too, and I am an eager student, no matter how challenging.
My way of jettisoning the aggressive personality type is to replace with love and kindness. This is equally disarming, but without the negative consequences. Love and kindness can come in many forms, including one that I experienced the other day dressed in women’s attire, and struggling with my suitcases. To accept the gallantry of men, in all my confusion, was also an act of acquiescence, an act of kindness, because gallantry requires acceptance.
Finding a path to submission is also helpful in this. Submission involves listening. It involves putting yourself in the shoes of the other. It involves understanding. Perhaps I can learn to accept that no man is perfect, just as no woman is perfect, starting with me. Perhaps I can begin by noting the small acts of kindness that men give to one another, to their friends, their lovers, whoever. Those small acts of generosity that show that a man is willing to be a solid and supportive person for those around him.
That is the acceptable, desirable, face of manhood. Quiet affirmation, quiet support, solidity, a willingness to take the back seat, a willingness to let those around him shine, to stand tall, and firm. Those qualities resonate with me. I shall seek them out.
I also wonder whether honing my own acceptance of my masculinity means identifying and throwing out those parts of me which are masculine but unhealthily so. Pausing a moment to think about my father. He is a weak man. His weakness manifests itself as bullying behaviour of those around him. He bullied my mother, and thankfully she had the sense to walk away. He bullied his children, and his second wife…who knows, he probably bullied people at work too. Once a bully, always a bully. But he was also a traumatised child. He carried his trauma with him, and was never able to let go of it, and so, ended up repeating the patterns he grew up with.
The funny thing is, according to one of my siblings, he is also kinky. He is into boot-licking it seems, which screams male sub. Right? Though I am not a boot-licker, that seems to be a pretty popular pastime amongst the sub world. I cannot confirm the truth of is, as I have adopted a general philosophy of life that says “you find what you look for”…in other words, if you think someone has dirt, you will find the dirt, and usually it looks like your preconception of it…or more explicitly, we project our prejudice onto others when we invade their privacy. As a diaper loving, cross-dressing, kinky child growing up, I was mortified that someone might dig and find with me…and that has translated into a respect for the privacy of others. The sibling in question had no hesitance and has a horribly dysfunctional relationship with our father. He is the one without God, written about here.
Where does this lead me? I owe it to my SO to throw away all of the crap that I give to her when I am not being submissive. I am a better person on my knees. I am a better person when I am willing to drop the ego, and to think about the person in front of me. It would be hypocritical of me to reserve this behaviour for Mistress. Anyone I love should be treated with that level of respect, listening, willingness to adapt, and care. It’s time to step up and to start putting some of the things I have learned into action in my “real” life. That’s actually far more difficult, and something I look forward to doing. After all, this can’t just be about play; it’s about growing up.