The story of how a father-in-law taught one man that opening up about his emotions is a manly act.
It’s hard being the man.
Be the man at this, be the man at that. Be the man who loves the ladies. Be the man who loves the babies. Be the man who is so popular, all the other men want to be him. Be the man who is street smart and workplace savvy. Be the man who knows you can’t be a street dude and a work dude at the same time. The streets will think you’re square. The workplace will think you’re a threat.
Man, where do you fit in?
A man knows boundaries. A man understands his limitations. A man is not afraid to ask for help, If and when help is needed.
That is partially why I miss my father in law. I don’t just miss his physical presence, I miss his mind, too:
- His inspirational words of wisdom.
- His strong character.
- His witticism.
- His all-around street savvy persona.
Coming from the streets myself, this was such a common ground for us. I grew up around a lot of older cats, so the conversations I had with my father-in-law were like conversations with an old high school buddy. We shared a lot of love and war stories. We had a great deal in common.
On almost every occasion we spoke, he would drop a jewel on me. Old school and new school. He was ‘back in the day’ hip, as well as up to date. The conversations we held were those of two very like-minded individuals. To this day, no one really knows and understands the bond we had. No one.
“It’s your world, buddy. If I had your hand, I’d throw mine in.” And I’d say. “Well, If I had your hand. I’d cut mine off.”
“Either way you slice it. It’s still toast.”
Every time we spoke, whether on the phone or in person, we would trade those types of sayings. He would call the house and say something like, “Hey. What’s going on with you, buddy?” And I would say. ‘Oh you know, Cat Daddy. I’m on the phone, but I can’t call it’. He’d laugh. And I’d laugh right back at him. He’d say, “Ok. Sounds good. Don’t be faking the move, now.”
He inspired me to use my wit more. And not just that. He also inspired me to use my mind more. You see, either way you slice it, it’s still toast, meant it didn’t matter. It’s going to be what it’s going to be. I liked that so much, like I said, it inspired me. So, I started saying. “Either way, win or lose. You give up something when you choose.”
I lost a huge part of me when I lost my father-in-law. He was not just the father of the wife. He was the friend of the husband.
As much as it hurts me, thinking about losing my friend, I never thought I’d open up and share that secret with my wife. Let alone a stranger. But, that’s exactly what happened.
I chose to speak at his funeral. This was my friend. I had to let the world know. I had to show and prove there was a great side to this man, a beautiful quality in my friend. Furthermore, I had to share this secret with my wife.
I mean really, when do a lot of men ever open up and share a secret with their wives? They hardly ever do in my experience. It’s rare that most men will genuinely share some inner thoughts and/or feelings with you.
If and when he does share, consider yourself special. See, men like me don’t do that kind of stuff. It is like it is not in our DNA to express emotion. Think about it, as little boys, we were always being told to ‘Man up’, ‘Toughen up’, ‘Boys don’t cry’.
That is a lot of pressure for a little boy. And, even more pressure for a grown man. All of our lives we’ve been told to not be soft. So, what makes you think we would understand how to properly activate our emotions? Feelings?… Eeeew!
This is where I was perplexed. This is why I felt funny about sharing my feelings. Then I thought. It’s my wife. It’s my best friend. It’s my other half. So, I stood up at that podium and delivered the greatest speech I have ever given. I spoke right to my wife the whole time, which helped me open up emotionally to the entire audience at the funeral. It was not my plan to be the star of the show. But, what can I say?
That speech helped me Open Up and realize there is more to being a man than being the one with the deeper voice, the muscles, and the low swinging package. That speech helped me hear the gentle requests of my wife asking me to do more, to be more of the leader she knows.
More of a leader? I am the father of two sons. I ran a recording studio. I was CEO of my own company. I am a stand up comedian. I command the attention of others, easily. I am a leader, right? Not yet really, she wanted me to Open Up, to be more vocal and direct, to be more in charge and decisive. She wanted me to call more shots.
I was used to being easy going, nonchalant. I was always the one who avoided any conflict. If my wife asked if I wanted to go on vacation, my response was always, “Whatever. I don’t care.”
I thought I was being the man who was always down for whatever. Instead, I found out I’m being less than the man she wants, less than the man she knows me to be. Man, I thought I knew how to be a man.
Because I was readily equipped with the male appendage, I thought I was man by nature. I thought that because I was well over the age of 21, it was most evident I was a man. I even thought that because I liked women, more than anything in the world, I was surely a man.
I had to think again, because I thought wrong.
Being a man is way more than physical attributes or a God given ability. Being a man is being able to show and prove one’s self by taking action and Opening Up.
Being a man is fitting in with and openly expressing who you truly are.