All my life I have loved women and especially my own mother, the archetype of womanhood, whose constant reliability and availability and presence in my life has not only led me to grow up with a healthy attitude towards the opposite sex but also given me the ability to trust that there are good people out there and there are pockets of goodness in the world, despite all the dangers that one can face.
It all started with my birth, of course, although for her it started nine months earlier. I was a difficult child – I had epilepsy and cried constantly and very loudly. Abuse by my father led me to grow up being teased and bullied by kids at school. I was forgetful and was always losing things. I didn’t study very well at school because of the teasing and I was naive and easily led. I was shy and lived in a dream world, which must have worried her a great deal.
However, despite all this, she was always there for me and it was this quality above all else which made her the excellent mother she is. Parents have to be there. There’s no point having a dad who isn’t there. I might as well have not had one at all. As it was, I had four – but men have a dreadful habit of just coming and going as they please. They stay for a short time, then just wander off. They come, they go, they just do whatever they want, aimlessly wandering the face of the earth like lost sheep. At least, that’s what it looked like.
My mother wasn’t like that. When I cried, she came; when my dad hit me, she protected me; when I fell down, she picked me up; when I lost my glasses, she bought new ones; she always put her children first; there was always dinner on the table every night and we ate as a family together (which was becoming rare even 30 years ago); when I needed picking up from a party, she was always on time; most of all, she never disappeared; she was always there. Even now that I am grown up, she still sends birthday presents and Christmas presents – not just for me but for the daughter-in-law and grandson she has never seen, since we live in Vietnam and she’s in England.
Her example made me trust in women. I can’t understand these men who get angry with women when women fail to pick up on their advances or who think women have all the power or who are misogynistic or have a “them and us” approach.
When I was teased and bullied at school, it was ALWAYS a boy who did it. I never had any trouble from girls. Sure, they didn’t save me when I was being bullied but, then again, they were under no obligation to do so. I think that if a boy is teasing me and I need help, another boy should step forward. No boy usually did that. So I blame them. I don’t expect a girl to have to save me instead.
When I was about 13, I began to view my mother’s example as representative. Even though I knew it probably wasn’t true and that I daresay there are plenty of naughty girls out there, even naughty girls make me smile. The unconditional love that I had received from my mother allowed me to feel reasonably OK if the odd girl here and there didn’t live up to my expectations. That odd girl seemed an anomaly in a sea of generally OK human beings. On the other hand, if a boy was unfriendly, then, thanks to the unfortunate examples I had been shown in my life, his behaviour cut me to the core, made me consider the world of men to be cold, cruel, spiteful and focused on irrelevances like who won the last football match or who’s best at kicking a ball in a straight line. So I basically gave up on men and focused my full attention on the other half who acted normally and could hold down an intelligent conversation without being rude.
Subsequent experiences in my life have corroborated how great my mother was and is. As a high school teacher, I tried to be friendly with male and female teens equally. If I gave out an assignment for them to do in class, all the girls would finish by the end of the class but only half the boys. So I gave out the assignment 50-50 and it would come back 67-33 in favour of the girls. Similarly, if I held a conversation with a boy in class, he would participate for about 2 minutes before becoming distracted by the other boys and going off to do something else. If I talked to a girl, I would get a solid 5-10 minute conversation about something meaningful and learn something about her in the process that I didn’t know before. Some of it happened by accident. I had to do speaking tests, where I got all the students in a class to talk about the same topic for 2-3 minutes. I listened carefully and gave their performances marks out of 10. At the end of the test, I glanced down at my marksheet and saw all the girls had 8’s and 9’s, whereas all the boys had 6’s and 7’s. How did that happen? I didn’t plan it that way!
This tendency has been one of the most consistent features of my life. If I ask an equal number of males and females to do something, I get an enthusiastic response from the women but a half-hearted, shabby response from the guys. Sometimes the 67-33 imbalance becomes almost 75-25 at times. What’s wrong with guys? I don’t know what to do about this problem.
There is also a negative side to my approach. As an individual, I suffer from a lack of social skills and I am disorganized and forgetful. As a teenager, my pre-existing experience led me to conclude that the reason for this was because I had been born male. I noticed that women and girls have generally much better social skills than guys and were much more organized. So I felt like I had drawn the short straw in being born male. I would watch girls talking in groups in the playground and wished I could join in. In my late teens, I even entertained an interest in lesbianism and wondered whether, if I had been born female but had been treated the same way as I had been, whether I would have been a lesbian by now. This theory seemed confirmed when the first girl I ever kissed was a lesbian and I found out her dad also gave her a hard time.
Now I am 44, I realize now that I was basically lonely. My dad’s abuse and the teasing and bullying I had received from boys had led me to feel cut off from men. I didn’t want to face the pain of being completely isolated from the human race, so I’ve spent my whole life surrounded by women. Now I must find some way of reconnecting with guys – but on MY terms, not theirs.
So, my mother is the greatest, since without her I would not have had the absolute faith in women that I have had in my life, which has been one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever had, since to not have received it would have meant a complete isolation, a total cutting-off from every other human being. That would have been an eventuality far too painful to ever bear and would have caused the most dreadful loneliness. Her reliability stopped that, and for that I am eternally grateful.
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