I was taught that a man is nothing unless he has a woman by his side, unless he serves his purpose by fulfilling his commitment to his family. I was taught that a man is nothing unless he has the strength to stop his tears and act like a man. This is the image of a man that I forged in mind ever as a boy raised without a father.

My perception of what a man is was influenced by flashy Hollywood movies and the occasional glance of watching my mothers favourite soap opera, “The Days of our Lives.” She always kicked us out of the house so that she could watch her afternoon soap opera in peace but every once in a while I would come inside for something and she would tell me to be quick about it. This was her special time and she was strict about. Apart from the unrealistic glamour of an idealized male on the tv screen, I had nothing else to reflect the man that I was destined to become.

Where I come from being a boy raised by a single mother is nothing to be proud of and even though I did my best to hide this fact from my friends, it was clearly seen when I was around other males. I had a more gentle approach to everything and while I thought it was normal I was conditioned to learn that it wasn’t. I tried to reserve my sensitive side because I didn’t want to appear too feminine so then I would act tough, I would try to put on a mean face or pretend that my feelings weren’t hurt but I was no good at it. I was always frustrated because I would compromise myself by holding my emotions back rather than letting them go. I had no where to hide and no one to protect me because I didn’t have any ground to stand upon. It was a catch 22, I wasn’t a mommas boy but I also wasn’t daddies little slugger.

Although I desperately wanted a mentor and father figure in my life there was none. I always knew that I could be a good son to a father. I was a fast learner and I adapted easily to many situations. I bought my own bike at the age of 11 with money that I received from mowing lawns and helping my neighbours with their gardens. In the summer season I would play baseball in the local little league and while I wasn’t great at batting, I was good at catching the ball. I would dream of my father being on the sidelines cheering me on as I caught the winning ball for our team. I wanted so much to be under the guidance of a father to learn proper craftsmanship, to learn how to stand up for myself and to teach me how to shave when I started growing hair on my face but that never happened, so I was left to my own device.

“Being a gentleman but also being savage, having strength but also showing compassion, having power but also having an open heart, this is what my definition of a man became.”

As I grew into my adolescence I gained more independence to create new bonds of friendship and I took to observing the fathers of my peers as a role model of a man. With a keen eye and an inquiring mind I would study the articulation of every man that I was near. I integrated this knowledge coupled with the knowledge from actors of the silver screen and this was the beginning of learning what a man is.

There wasn’t any man that I had known to embody the full quintessential package of attributes that I wanted to possess. In many of the men I could see their fear, I could sense that they were insecure about themselves, uncertain of their role in being a man. In other men I could see the shame and humiliation in not being enough for the wives, being belittled for not doing this or that right. Some of them held their strength and our power because they didn’t want to be seen as too aggressive. While all of the men were different in their own right, there was on common denominator that connected them all together, they never talked openly about their emotions. They usually did their best to pretend that everything was ok, but they were no better than I when it came to trying to hide their feelings.

When I was a little boy on several occasions I would overhear my mother speak to her girlfriends about men. On of those occasions she said, “All men are broken. They’re faulty, they’re all dogs. Even my ex, he was the worst of the worst and to think I married that fool. I gave him two beautiful children and he still left me high and dry.”

She was speaking about my father, she would tell me all the time that since he wasn’t involved in my life he was nothing more than a sperm donor. Everything my mother ever said about my father was nothing but bad. Being the only guardian in my life her opinions were all that I had to form my identity. Her words changed the entire perception that I had of my father and it also changed the perception that I had of myself. This effected me to the point that I was forced to make a vow to myself, I never wanted a woman to speak of me the same way that my mother speaks of my father.

Being a gentleman but also being savage, having strength but also showing compassion, having power but also having an open heart, this is what my definition of a man became. A man received respect and love from his family and partner, not because they fear him but because they love him. With integrity and a hard work ethic, fearless and cautious, with rough hands and a wise mind, this is what my definition of man became. These were a few of the attributes that I pieced together from all of the men that I had come to know. In the accumulation of all of this knowledge, I took the initiative to filter out all of the unwanted qualities shedding everything that I didn’t want and only keeping the good ones. Piece by piece I started to created my personal image of the man that I wanted to become.

To be continued … ~ ༺ 𝓖