i grew up surrounded by men, my family large: my mother born number 5 in a sibship of twelve and my father number 2 in a brotherhood of six. two men parented me, or at least attempted, one i called daddy, the other i introduce as dad. my grandfathers i idealized and adored. my brothers though younger have taught things immeasurable. so when you count them all, the men of my life there were two fathers, two grandfathers, ten uncles, two brothers, a host of male cousins with whom i interacted with on a daily basis, an ex-husband who should get an honorable mention given the thirteen years he shared my life and now my son.
they taught me how to fight. they taught me how to cook. they showed me that love isn’t about salvation but deliverance. they allowed me freedom and then showed me how to throw caution to the wind. they explained to me that cages surrounding a body do not make you a prisoner, but cages surrounding a mind will make you a slave. they taught me that having something to say isn’t the point but knowing how to say it so that people will listen a strategy that wins not only rooms but wars. they loved me and laughed at me. they edged me on and when necessary pulled me back. at times they were my biggest cheerleaders and when i needed them my champions.
i have seen them cry. i have known them to fight. they are loud and mostly large men. they crash into rooms like bulls and if the sheer size of them don’t confound you the dialogue and intellectual mine field you enter when conversing with them will. they have challenged me to be more and loved me into the better parts of myself.
because of them i can balance my own checkbook, drive a stick shift, hire a mechanic, fire a mechanic, replace a phone jack, unclog a drain, replace a fuse, dress a stab wound, make a weapon, defend myself both verbally and physically, tell a raunchy joke, know when to listen to a raunchy joke, not blink when confronted by vermin (on 2 or more legs), pray a prayer of solace, ask for forgiveness and extend grace. they made sure that i always knew my way home and that someone would be there to greet me. they were my rides to the airport and my shuttle across foreign lands. they held my hand and stopped traffic just so i could cross the street.
because of them i have always known that the emotional life of men are complex so stereotypes don’t prevail. among them there are hustlers and doctors, ministers and teachers, preachers and politicians and other sort of leaders. they have left women, kept women, held women and let women go. i have watched them cry at the birth of their children and helped write the obituary for the death of one’s daughter.
i cannot imagine my life without the men who have loved me in it. i have never been able to participate in conversations with women who claim ‘all men are dogs’ because i have known men and i have known dogs and there are no similarities. i believe that they spoiled me in many ways but protected me in most.
it is by their hands and hearts that i have become the woman i am. i celebrate them. i send them love. i hold them in regard and esteem. these men who loved me.