Have you ever heard the inner workings of a man’s mind, or have you assumed they are just like all men?
*A Shhh, can you hear it? It’s the inner world of a man. You can’t? But it’s right there. It’s the beating of his heart as his partner greets him. It’s the sigh as he tries to juggle his budget after the car break downs. It’s the groan as he gets up for work, it’s the quickness of breath as he excels himself in his hobby, it’s the bounce in his step before date night, it’s the rubbing of his hands before starting an interesting challenge.
You still can’t hear it? You’re asking me why he can’t just say it, why can’t he just open up? You jest right? No one cares about his inner world, no one has ever asked, and if they have asked it’s only so it could be used against him. Why would he blurt out what he is feeling? He spent his life learning how to be silent and yet now you want him to be noisy? No he isn’t broken, he is exactly what the world asked him to be, he is perfect at it. Oh no, he’s definitely not broken, he has mastered silence, why would you think this is wrong and unhealthy? It’s what he was taught to do.
Shhh, can you hear it? It’s the imagination of a five year old boy. I know he is really loud playing at being Batman but that’s not what I mean. Look at the pauses in-between, each time he catches the bad guy, can’t you hear it, he’s working out right from wrong. Well he doesn’t have any real heroes; he only has Batman from the cartoons. Well he can’t use the sitcom dads; they’re all idiots so Batman is the best he has.
He won’t eat his dinner? Didn’t you ask him why? Well of course he won’t, schnitzels are German food and Germany doesn’t look like anything on the map at school. Yes that’s why he had a smile eating bolognaise yesterday, its Italian food and Italy looks like a boot, it’s funny, he likes funny food. Of course he knows this, he is learning foods of the world in prep. Didn’t you ask him what his favorite part of the day was? Oh! you just asked him how was school, well of course he didn’t really answer, some of the kids are being mean and he wants to cry about it. Well, no he won’t mention it because boys don’t cry. But you told him boy’s feelings don’t matter lots of times, every time he fell over, whenever he was excited or happy or trying to work out how the world worked. Sure you did, “You’ll be OK”, “It’s not that bad.” “You’re a big boy now and big boys are brave.” “Go outside and play” “Stop being so noisy.” “Stop breaking things” “Stop being naughty.” “Settle down.” You never really asked him why he was doing these things; you just told him his feelings weren’t valid, that they were wrong and didn’t provide him with any further outlet. Well now he’s learnt you don’t really care what he feels. He thinks it’s pretty pointless in telling you about the kids at school, he’s a big boy now and big boys are brave.
Shhh, can you hear it? It’s the time a teenage boy’s heart first starts to beat. Look at him, he really is struck dumb, he can hear his own heartbeat in his head. Poor kid, if only he knew what to do. He could be so strong and confident if someone explained to him about rejection, about how to reach out and connect to this girl he likes. Ah well, he will work it out, there are plenty of shows on TV which accurately portray what he needs to learn. No I can’t think of any off the top of my head, Twilight maybe. Then there is his peers, I’m sure they have had someone explain it all to them, they will help him. He hears your preaching’s though, no not the relationship sermons you never give, the other ones. You know the lessons on how he can’t be trusted, the ones where he can’t be alone with a girl, any girl really. The lessons on how all those boys his age are ratbags, up to no good. Those lessons on how he is a goofy lazy teenager.
Why doesn’t he just do something constructive? But he is, he is learning how to be independent, to take risks, to take pride in his achievements, to take responsibility for his actions. Well no, he doesn’t think it’s much of an achievement, a mark of his independence, if he just does what you tell him. No, he wasn’t being anti-social when he spray painted the teachers car, it’s the ultimate in teen socializing, the step where he becomes a man and proves his worth to his peers, where he sticks it to the man. His very worth as a future husband, career, how he moves through the world depends on whether he can overcome his fears. It’s important to him, his rite of passage; he would have loved to have told you about it except he knows you disapprove. Can’t you hear the pride in the creak of his shoulders as they move back and his chest puffs up? Well of course you have to punish him; he shouldn’t take pride in overcoming his fears knowing he would have to pay the price anyway. Yes it would have been better if he had used the more socially acceptable way of proving he has become a man, that he can be trusted to make adult decisions … I forget, what is that again?
Shhh, can you hear it? It’s the gentle rustle of his hair as he wakes up one morning and realizes he is an adult. He has a job, he pays bills and rent and he has a girlfriend. He shakes his head because he used to have so many dreams but somehow life gets in the way. He wanted to change the world but now he has a job instead. It’s sort of the job he wanted but not quite and he is just a member of a team, he doesn’t have any input, he just works. He wants to travel and see the world, he did once just after college, but now the bills eat his money. He loves his girlfriend but she is always cranky at him. She says he doesn’t open up, doesn’t tell her what he is feeling. Why doesn’t he open up? Have you not heard the silence in this story, the silence of this poor man? No one has ever cared about his inner world, he doesn’t understand what she is asking for, he has no example in his past on how to do this. He only knows silence. It would be easier to teach this lost soul how to breathe under water. Is there some way to help him? He doesn’t need help, he isn’t broken, and he learnt all his lessons. Ah! You mean how could you teach him to open up? Well he would need someone to show him how to do that. I know it isn’t his girlfriend’s responsibility but if he doesn’t have a teacher or a mentor then no, he will never learn those lessons. Of course she will dump him eventually, she thinks he should man up and be like a woman. She will start to distance herself from him soon. More than likely he will learn the other lesson, the one where being asked what you are feeling leads to discontentment and mistrust, a trap, a test to be avoided.
You want to know how to teach men how to open up? It’s simple really but it’s something that isn’t usually passed on to women, nor to other men. Someone has to be brave enough to care and strong enough to tell him his thoughts and feelings are valid, as valid as yours and everyone else’s, that’s it really. Yes brave and strong enough. You have spent your entire life with an image of how strange and detached men are but that isn’t the world in their head, you have to enter this world, listen to their silence. It’s a scary place, full of lost dreams, broken and missed connections, loneliness, fear and hurt. It’s beautiful too though. His passions have been buried and if released can be blinding in their power. The things he would do to show you how much he loves you would amaze you. He really does see a lot of good in this world, he wants to change it, make it better but he lost his way. Beware though, he has to want to let you in, he may not and sadly that is his decision. He doesn’t know what it’s like to no longer be silent and that is scarier prospect than anything he has ever faced before. It’s easier for him to assume his thoughts and feelings are not as valid as everyone else’s.
Shhh can you hear it? It’s the silence of the statement never told to men. “Your thoughts and feelings matter.”
*A minstrel was a medieval European bard who performed songs whose lyrics told stories of distant places or of existing or imaginary historical events. Although minstrels created their own tales, often they would memorize and embellish the works of others. The Modern Minstrel observes the world around him and shares it with us as lyrical story. This series was inspired by Luke Davis, whose eye for story and ear for lyrical prose are featured here.
Also by Luke Davis
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