Some of us are still figuring it out. By some of us I mean men. By some of us I mean me. I've been told many times that it's like I'm holding back, it's like I won't quite let people all the way in. The fact of the matter is there may be some truth to that. The fact of the matter is, it isn't really even that voluntary, it's very much more of a reflex. Now bare with me as I write this post speaking in general terms about my brethren, but be mindful that it's very much coming from my own lens.
It's hard for me to open up, it's hard for men in general to completely open up and alot of it has to do with how society rears us. It has a lot to do with the subliminal messages we recieve from birth. From the very moment we crawl we are told to not cry when we fall or get hurt. We are told to be tough at all cost and that a man's role doesn't nececarrily involve emotions or to express them to anyone as it's a sign of weakness. We've heard these messages so much that we exhibit them constantly without even being aware of it. We even reinforce these characteristics when we see another man not following suit and redicule him. Then we repeat the cycle all over with the young men and sons that we are charged with being an example for.
For those men who manage to open up once or twice, whether it be to a mentor or to a significant other, we usually seem to pay for it with pain. We defy what we've been taught for years and finally find someone who we trust enough to break the cycle, break the mold, and they somehow find a way to disapoint us, misuse our trust, and scar our spirits to the point that some of us lack the courage to ever open back up again. Is it right? No, not necessarily. But who am I to tell someone else not to act on the most natural of human instincts which is self preservation, and protect themselves.
Who am I to tell someone else that the deep dark place you found yourself in, and never thought you would come back from as a result of someone taking advantage of your openness is not the right place to be? Who am I to tell you that every single message a man recieves about concealing his feelings and making himself vulenrable since the day he was born, was in fact incorrect and that you should take my word over hundreds of years of cultural practices? Who am I to tell you these things when I'm one of those very men who doesn't open up the way that I should? Well guess what fellas, I'm telling you that very thing. I'm going to tell you that we not only damage ourselves but we also create collateral damage in the young men we help raise and the women we date.
How many of us have ruined relationships because that woman that has given her all to us, has pleaded for us to open up and communicate with her better? How many times has she sat and cried and asked us to talk and we look at her with the coldest face and say very little or say nothing at all? How many times can we say "Is this necessary right now?" or "Why are you mad?" when she expresses the pain she feels from our disinterest in her concerns or total disregard for the emotional or psychological trauma that she may be dealing with? Then we allow our sons and daughters to see this same interaction. Our daughters accept this as "It's just how men are", and subject themselves to it when they are of dating age an our sons accept it as "This is what we do", and never allow themselves the courage or the emotional growth to be able to open up to their peers or wives, always recreating the cycle.
But we can do better, we should do better, we will do better. Every woman and every situation isn't for that man to open up to and be vulnerable with. Every woman and every interaction isn't trusthworthy or safe enough for that man to give his heart to. But when we come across that woman or circumstance that is very much worth it, we must find the courage to open up and accept both the good and the bad that comes along with such courage and risk. We must be able to accept the happiness and the pain that comes with letting someone into our deepest most vulenerable selves.
And to the women that deal with us, please recognize that when you see us trying to take these steps, that it takes time, we need your patience. Recognize that what we need from you is to encourage us and not test or question our manhood when we do attempt to open up.We are trying and it doesn't happen at the snap of a finger. We know that behind every good man lies a good woman, but also know that behind every damaged man may lie a woman that contributed to that as well.
I do recognize that it's up to us to make a choice. It's up to us to make the choice to find the courage to be more open. It's up to us to make the choice to acknowlege another's feelings and just as important to acknowledge our own feelings. It's up to us to acknowledge that our little boys deserve better and it's up to us to realize that we are people. While we are men, we are not robots. Until then, some of us are still figuring it out. I know i'm still figuring it out.