Adam Adams wants his son to know he is better than the antiquated archetype of the “real man.”
“My car’s broken down,” she said, “I need a REAL MAN. The setting: a crowded restaurant, my six-year old son right in front of us. I couldn’t let it stand. I knew it would lead to a fight and I imagine so did she. The loser of course would be my son who has grown up listening to this crap.
Fighting isn’t good for me. For eight years I have been battling Multiple Sclerosis against the backdrop of a failing toxic marriage, and invariably have had my manhood questioned, denigrated, compared unfavorably to the point of creating MS agony, all amidst the never-ending threat of having my son taken away because I’m not “a REAL MAN.”
The consequence of conflict for me is loss of strength, mobility, even the use of my legs completely, so I didn’t volunteer to fight this stereotype out of some kind of masochism, but so my son would know he is better than that fateful verdict.
For the whole duration of MS I have been working full time as a coach and hypnotherapist helping people live with, heal, improve or beat cancer, HIV, MS, MSA, trauma, rape and in most cases child abuse of some kind.
I help people. As I write I can barely walk, but I am helping someone move, researching a book and most importantly loving my son as best as I can not knowing whether I will live to see him grow up.
But I am not a real man apparently.
I am a part owner of 22 children’s hospitals as a Shriner. I do my best to help local mums deal with former abuses, the elderly with grief and teach kids at my sons martial arts school EFT so they get past abandonment issues.
But I am not a real man.
You might have noticed on social media the growing presence of memes vigorously telling us what real men are. From hero lawmen to sculpted demigods, to porn stars waving flag pole appendages and always the theme of real men. Especially galling is, having been schooled in our physical or emotional deficiency, there is often a laundry list of expectations.
It is heartbreaking to me to find that even though I am doing my best, for everyone all the time, I just don’t measure up.
The question that has increasingly frustrated me is “measure up to what?”
So I’m six foot three, two-hundred pounds and not the worst looking man in the world, clean, respectful and kind, and doing my best to heal everybody I can in my allotted span. I have been rejected my whole life and at the root of it is this concept of a real man
What does it mean to be a real man today? How much abuse should I be prepared to accept for failing to live up to this mythical archetype? I said abuse—real men don’t get abused runs the societal narrative, but I have been.
Through my practice, I have learned, one in five men has been abused, meaning the number has to be more because as men, we can’t go to the pub and say “My lady is abusing me and it is deeply traumatic.” After all, that wouldn’t be manly.
I broke up with a beautiful lady who was defending the abuse of me, and encouraging my silence because of the all importance of worshipping mums! What about Dads?
I can locate ten women who would state proudly that neither they nor their kids need a man—after all, patriarchy is evil. Men are abusers is dangerously close to being accepted as universal truth, aided and abetted by a dysfunction-obsessed media.
I don’t have a father. He left my mother and went to court to deny me. Trauma enough, but my formative years were spent hearing all about the inadequacy of men, compounded by an abusive stepfather.
I did need a father. A strong kind dad like Superman had, dispensing strength and kindness and wisdom, teaching me right from wrong over lengthy dad stories.
That didn’t happen.
My son is growing up surrounded by single women drinking and complaining about men, perhaps justified, but programming inadequacy at a rate that inevitably leads somewhere bad.
Like anger. Self loathing. Excessive guilt. Alcohol abuse is where I tried to medicate it away—after all, real men are hard-drinking womanizing business tycoons, are they not? Or maybe that’s what 70’s TV taught me.
I am confused and hurt. I reformed my character over thousands of hours of exhaustive therapy, and am becoming the man I’d like my son to be.
Yet… I can’t fix cars, or build a fence, or be a cowboy, fireman, or rewire a house. Not a real man. I can take somebody who just came from chemotherapy and make them look almost human in an hour, heal horrific child abuse through cutting edge hypnosis or NLP. Not a real man.
I cry. I care. I still love football and a beer with the lads, but am just as comfortable with musical theatre as I am the NFL. Not a real man.
It is a pervasive, almost cancerous damnation, made all the more powerful that it slithers through the critical factor of the conscious mind and meets its old friend “you aren’t good enough.
It must be true—after all, I am not hung like a porn star. I struggle to walk much less toss a pigskin. I don’t have a holiday home, a private jet, or a supermodel girlfriend.
It hurts. As a boy that’s the golden road to superhero status—to be a MAN. Not just a man, but a REAL MAN.
I don’t know what that means anymore, and in the absence of guidance joined a well-known peculiar fraternity. Imagine my surprise when their definition of manhood was looking after each other, kindness, charity, the absence of judgement, spiritual growth and the pursuit of being a better man.
Where is this in mass media?
Growing up, homophobia was locker room normalcy. Then I met some gay men and found they were beautiful humans. Thank God my former ignorance was exploded, but it also begs the question ‘what other manly norms are real? Decent? Positive? Loving?’
Is my recurrent relationship failure solely because (shock) I am not perfect, or am I set up to fail? Can I even win? Is it worth playing anymore or should I just die quietly like doctors said I would?
I didn’t. I rejected drugs, became a healer, a fighter for what’s good and right…and yet still not a real man.
I wish I had answers. My fraternal brothers are teaching me, yet it seems like I am tugged between ancient male archetypes and a nascent “new man” of some kind. Meanwhile it hurts,
So I want to investigate this, as much for my beautiful son as for closure. I am a man, and far from perfect, but I have had enough of being cat-called for deficiency.
Let’s build a new man, then, a man who could be a gay knight or a three-hundred pound baller who could admit to being emotionally brutalized by his ninety-pound wife, a man of substance in full comfort with his sacred feminine self as much as his sacred masculine self.
Yes, let’s do that and in meantime stop selling men this self-defeating futility a real man.
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