The limitations of being a man are all too clear to me, since I’ve been one for half my life (I was a boy or adolescent young fellow before that). I’ve always felt a certain tension with embracing manhood in its entirety. I haven’t had a wingman or bro since the first couple of years after college. Men who excel at joining groups and clubs are alien to me. The man who appears oblivious to his surroundings, and is impervious to attempts to get a rise out of him–he is a stranger. The man who needs to drive the largest truck or the fastest car, to date the hottest babe, and be seen doing manly things like betting in sports pools and gambling, I find him to be as much of a human oddity as a Sub Saharan bushman. I’ve wrestled with this my whole life. I’ve thought on more than one occasion–maybe I am a woman trapped inside a man’s body. I seek out all information geared toward women, and I snoop about their blogs and read their fashion and celebrity gossip. Most of it is just as uninteresting and fodder for the clique’s conversation as the stuff guys are passionate about.
I’ve occasionally bumped up against the academic man, since I’ve lived in college towns for half of my life. He is often earnest about following a sport, and talking about that sport with his fellows. He is only modestly interested in discussing his area of research. He either seems compelled by a belief that what he does isn’t interesting or understandable to outsiders, or he’s driven by an urge to demonstrate that he is more than his professorly title. I rarely connect with these men, either, although they have probably more in common with me than the poker player or monster truck dude. They too seem to have perfected the ability to specialize in some kind of subject matter where they’d prefer to only converse with others of their kind, and not have to offer simple explanations to the uninitiated. This kind of attitude seems to be the attitude we can abstract an apply to so many young men of this generation.
For example, at a software company I used to work at there was a fellow I was sort of starting to befriend. We had a department team building exercise where we dropped some fact about ourselves that nobody probably knew, and then everyone had to guess who that person was. His fact was that he’d had his face mask shatter when he was scuba diving for the first time, and the instructor had carefully taken his own mask off and traded with him. My understanding of what happens to the human organism at depths below 30 feet is rudimentary. I know my ears pop and sinuses get compressed when I dive below 10 feet. After the team exercise broke up, I’d casually just said to him that I’d assumed he would have had his sinuses implode or something at those depths when his facemask broke, and really, I was just trying to make friendly conversation and see if he wanted to share more of the experience. He looked at me coldly and dismissively stated that this wasn’t possible, and then eagerly turned to converse with another fellow who’d offered up a more in-depth scuba diving question, and studiously ignored me and refused to make eye contact with me while he conversed with that fellow.
I was kind of bewildered by it at first, although it had happend many times before. This particular fellow, Peter, while he seemed a bit over-the-top in his quest to craft his image as the perfect progressive male with just the right touches of modern hipster macho (he sported a new carefully picked out pair of eyewear every other week and purchased an off-brand American motorbike), had seemed to me to be a gentler kind of soul that wouldn’t suffer fools like myself so lightly. But then, I’d pretty much built up my expectations about how much we could ever be friends by how he’d acted when it was my turn to interview him for his job at the company and how he behaved after he was hired–he’d perfected the kind of body language and NLP programming that enabled him to build a rapport with me that never appeared again once he was hired.
Now, you could argue that all people from infancy have learned to some degree or another to manipulate others to get what they want, and will to some degree or another dismiss that person once they have what they want. Admittedly, I am not as engaged and romantic with my wife as I was during the first few months of courting her. But, I still make efforts to listen to her and stop paying attention to whatever I’m reading, and I tell her I love her and make sure we have some kind of physical contact throughout the morning and evening when we are together.
My point with men like Peter and pretty much all men I’ve known after college, is that they tend to leave a piece of themselves open for friendship only if you are a specialist in whatever area that they specialize in. Another fellow from that same company who I’d made a lot of attempts to befriend–Stephen–he eventually used me for a hiring bonus at another company and was colder and more distant when he wasn’t interested in talking with me about our mutual workplace problems. His obsession was playing poker. So much so that he’d converted his den into a poker room, and had poker nights every week. I don’t think he ever raised the topic of poker with me, but I suspect that if I’d been a highly proficient and avid poker player, and I’d broached the subject with him, I would have had a much greater way into securing a deeper, lasting friendship.
Perhaps this is a characteristic of all adults, and the tribal nature of men is distinct but not absent from women. I’m willing to buy that, but I would also argue that women seem to have a willingness to connect with each other around less specialized forms of knowledge and activities–like simply discussing men, clothes, being wives and mothers, etc. I could be wrong because I haven’t had any experiences in this life as a woman trying to make female friends, but that’s my observation.
I don’t really have anything that I specialize in. I have deep knowledge about the kinds of web marketing activities I do and the software applications I use to do my job, but for the most part, I hate talking about that stuff. People are either completely bored by it, or they are so utterly naive about it that I have to simplify my explanation to such a degree that it makes the work I do seem like something a kindergartner could figure out. Yes, I get it, how much I sound like the professorly types I’ve just critiqued. But, I really don’t like to talk about my profession with specialists in my field, either. I’ve been to a handful of marketing automation conferences, and everyone is either still full of the koolaid that once they’ve built the perfect lead scoring and nurturing set of programs, they will become the masters of sending Sales the most perfectly ready-to-buy prospects, or they are simply doing this stuff because it’s their job, and they’d rather talk about the place they are going to eat at that night.
I’ve spent a lot of time reading about religion and spirituality, and the various movements and groups of believers and non-believers in America today. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about these things, too. But, when I go to church of all places, do I see a bunch of people who want to talk about their faith? No. It’s just a big social hour for most of them, and they hardly shut up at all during the prayers and sermons.
The political discussions people have on Facebook have become absurd.
I also spend a lot of time reading and thinking about art. Most people don’t. Those who do, generally are either modern art people who can appreciate stuff by Damien Hirst, or amateur afficianados of any art made prior to Picasso. For me, the period from Cezanne to Pollock is the most exciting period in art of all. Most of the art made prior to Cezanne or after Pollock is alien to me–interesting as an anthropological study in the same way a cultural artifact like a reality show is interesting, but not deeply moving.
I feel like I am someone who could potentially have a lot to discuss with another group of like-minded people, but I haven’t got a clue who those people are. So, I mostly keep my mouth shut when I am forced into social situations, and try to just smile and nod along with the chitchat that doesn’t really have much to do with what goes on inside my head.
Perhaps I’ve created a collection of comfort zones of being that prevent me from risking opening my mouth about the things I really care about. I’ve created this comfort zone of wishing I lived in NYC, but not having the balls to do what it takes to live there. The same goes for a lot of other things in life that I’ve longed for, but never obtained. It is a safe place to never get what you want, but always look longingly upon it. It is a scary place to face all of the things you would have to change about yourself to actually get what you want.
So, maybe my mental escapes to empathizing with the polar opposite of some group or person are really just born out of not wanting to develop my own unique person in this life. I can play it safe at being mediocre. I can look over my shoulder at a group of women who seem to be having more fun and connecting more easily when I’m sitting at the table with the guys. I can see the old folks sitting on the park bench, free of all the cares that come with trying to prove yourself and secure a mate, and imagine that I am really an old soul who belongs with the elderly. Now that I’m approaching being middle-aged, I can look longingly back at being eighteen, and think that perhaps I am really just a kid at heart.
When I’ve been stuck at home for months, I can dream up all kinds of trips to places that will wreck my credit cards. When I’m actually able to travel to some of them, I can get huge waves of home sickness and panic attacks about my house being robbed. When I’m supposed to be doing actual work, I am thinking about all of the things I will read and write when I get off work, but when I get off work, I am still worried about work left undone or want to simply veg out in front of the TV.
When I’m not drinking, I imagine how good it felt the last time to have a glass of whiskey or beer in my hand. When I am drinking, I am suddenly full of the memories of what it’s like to be out of control after drinking too much and sick the next day.
But, when I’m writing…when I’m really getting into writing, I’m suddenly flying. I’m not thinking about anything except what needs to plop down next upon the page. I don’t care that I’m not who or where I want to be. Of course, these moments are fleeting, and eventually, it comes creeping back up: but wouldn’t it be much nicer to actually be having a discussion about all this with another person who really gets you?
The moment I feel like I might be close to God is when I am in possession of limited knowledge for what it means to be female. But then, I feel as if I take it too far, that if I were to indeed become completely a female, I would feel as if something is missing, and I would need to pursue the masculine.
So then, is God a hermaphrodite, an androgynous or sexless being, or something else–a beautiful and dynamic realization of both binary gender archetypes? Before Christianity came and made God a singular man, his name was often in the plural and often feminine or gender neutral. Or, there were equally powerful characteristics that were completely feminine that co-created alongside the masculine God we are more familiar with.
If not God, then I might weigh such thoughts in terms of my higher, more holistic Self. Who will I be I when I am most complete? Am I woman, man, both, neither or something else that I can’t comprehend? Perhaps the sex act itself, when the interplay of energies are properly balanced, becomes the micro representation of the macro. God didn’t make a static universe and walk away. The universe, in all of its echelons and dynamic, ever-changing forms, IS God, hence the great I AM. The will toward seeking a space where God isn’t there is the vacuum first opened up by the fall of the angels, then further nuanced by the fall of Man.
Those who would remain in the space where they keep their backs turned from God and refuse to acknowledge the existence of the Omnipotent are those who will eventually be packed tight into a dense fiery mass and pushed to the farthest corner of the Universe.
But, am I playing around with fire to seek a greater, more fully realized version of myself, or am I doing exactly what was instructed of us when Jesus asked that we do not hide our talents? Such are the questions that arise when I take bettering myself to the extreme, or go the opposite direction and spend months or years not bothering to better myself.
I always come back to the need to be better than who I presently am, though. I am not seeking to become the great I AM, or anything remotely close–I am seeking to become the ME that God would like me to be. I don’t think that my lot is one where I am supposed to be constantly in sorrow for the things lost in life. Opportunities lost are opportunities meant to be forgotten. I think my lot is one where I am able to completely push past the balking and stuttering that comes forth when I catch a glimpse of myself or hear my own voice, and I’m taken aback by the fact that this creature is the me that other humans see and know to be me.