Marc is my good friend from work. He’s about 40 years-old, African American, good-looking, smart, funny, and way cooler than me. Absolutely. We’re both Systems Engineers working on Government Satellite Programs. Perhaps, we’re geeks. Yet, not at all stereotype.
Marc is the dedicated husband and father to his young daughter. He’s a pretty good baller. Although, his recent ankle tweak sidelined him for several weeks. I said, “Dude, after 40 the body just takes longer to heal.” I would know. I’m 57. I’ve trained in Aikido for the last 30 years with my old knees and back.
Recently, I visited my Chiropractor Dr. Ali, who aligns my body so that I can keep doing what I love: Aikido. I confessed, “I really beat up my body when I was younger (training).” Still, if I had to do it all over again I would train as passionately. Like basketball for Marc, I do what I love for as long as I can.
Marc reminded me of Nate Robinson’s geriatric character Boots in the movie “Uncle Drew”:
We don’t stop playing because we get old. We get old because we stop playing.
One of the timeless things that keep Marc and me young are Movies. We’re kindred spirits in that we look for the personal messages in the movies we watch.
We both saw Disney/Pixar’s “Toy Story 4”. We loved that movie. Beware: *Spoilers* ahead.
I told Marc that the seemingly villainous doll, Gabby Gabby, voiced by Christina Hendrickson, made the movie for me. Marc smiled, “Yeah, she just wanted to be loved.” “Yes!” I said.
In “Toy Story 4” Gabby Gabby is the abandoned doll with the broken voice box. Her crew are these very creepy ventriloquist dolls. No child wants the defective Gabby Gabby.
Although I’m not a father like Marc, I told him my theory about the “Toy Story” movies, of which “4” is the very best. The toys like Woody, voiced by Tom Hanks, and Buzz Lightyear, voiced by Tim Allen, are much like parents: They’re loved by their children. In one sense, Woody and Buzz raise and take care of their ‘kids’. They love the children back, much like parents do.
Eventually, children outgrow their toys and move on to their next love. That resonated with Marc. Consequently, “Toy Story 4” is his favorite movie of the year. For both of us the message in “Toy Story 4” is: We all deserve to be loved.
In “Toy Story 4” Cowboy doll Woody is in love with doll Little Bo Peep, voiced by Annie Potts. Woody forsakes being with Bo out of loyalty to his current charge, little girl Bonnie. Both Marc and I were moved when Woody’s best friend Buzz tells him, “She’ll be okay. Bonnie will be okay.” It’s okay for Woody to move on to his next love, to have a life, to fall in love.
I admitted to Marc when Woody and Buzz hugged ‘Goodbye’, I cried in the theater. Marc got it, too. Marc is a kind man, a man I can share with. I can be who I am with Marc. It’s mutual as well.
A couple of summers ago, we both loved “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”. Marc told me the movie was special to him. He said he teared up at the end of the movie. In “Guardians 2” Chris Pratt plays Hero Peter, whose surrogate Father Yondu, played by Michael Rooker, sacrifices his life to save “his son”.
In Peter’s eulogy for Yondu he says, “What I’m trying to say here is… sometimes that ‘thing’ you’re searching for your whole life… is right there by your side all along. And you don’t even know it.”
For me that ‘thing’ was Sensei Dan. For Marc, that was his Grandfather. Marc is a Good Man. Sharing what’s inside you, what touches you is being an authentic man. If that ain’t manliness, I have no idea what is.
According to the American Psychological Association, one of the tenants of “toxic masculinity” is “Suppressing emotion”. As men, we all have a well of deep emotions inside us. It’s not that we try to suppress them, rather we don’t know how to genuinely express them. I know personally, that I’m learning to express what’s inside of me as authentically as I can. And that doesn’t always go over well. Then again, I’m human.
Shakespeare said, “To thine own self be true.” That I believe is the essence of being a Good Man. I try to act and speak in alignment with what’s important to me. If I’m going to say or do something, then it’s got to be meaningful to me. Or else why say or do it?
Werner Erhard said that we have nothing to do with what goes on within another person. Yet, you and I do have something to do with who we are going to be in any moment.
There will always be ‘dick heads’ in the world. And there’s nothing I can do about that. Hopefully, they’re in the vast minority. At least I think so. I can only be responsible for me, and who I’m going to be.
Consider two of the most formidable Dudes on Planet Earth: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Dolph Lundgren. Dwayne said, “The most powerful thing we can be, is ourselves.” Dolph said, “You have to love yourself.” That’s all part of being a Good Man. Amen.
Manliness or manhood is not a “one size fits all” distinction. I have to keep defining what it is to be a man. And that alters along with culture and the changing times we live. What does remain constant is being kind to others and yourself, having compassion, getting what it is to be another, and listening for the greater than within others.
Perhaps, being a Man is being comfortable in who I am. Sure, I have my strengths and what I need to work on. Really, we all discover a measure of peace in doing our best to make some difference in the world. Again, just saying.
Have you read the original anthology that was the catalyst for The Good Men Project? Buy here: The Good Men Project: Real Stories from the Front Lines of Modern Manhood
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