Balancing Mankind

Man Hell exists. It’s a Hallmark store in Buffalo, NY where scented candles twist savagely at your nipples and cheaply framed inspirational posters gouge at your eyeballs. The foyer glistens with estrogen as I maneuver my way toward the greeting cards. The isles are stacked high with tacky nick Knacks, embroidered pillows and gaudy shit. It’s a hoarder’s paradise and I’m boiling with hatred for all womankind.

I blame women for a few things: macramé, ice dancing, dry humping, the color mauve – and men for nearly everything else… which is why this sign, a sign I wish were untrue, is currently taped to the driver’s side of my van.

img_8713

The idea that it’s “a man’s world” is something I personally abhor and resent, but reluctantly believe to be true in light of this last election – as I find the phrase hard to argue against after such a politically uneducated and morally incompetent man won the presidency despite mountains of evidence substantiating his numerous and unforgivable flaws.

His victory signifies to me that we indeed live in a “man’s world” – as there is no American woman, dead or alive, in the history of our nation who could display one tenth Trumps’ petulant, ranting, narcissistic, ignorant behavior and still get elected to the Oval Office. It sucks, but it’s true – and that’s why “man’s world” is on my poster, not because I wish it so.

In fact, more than anything, I’m inviting men to contemplate their inadequacies as leaders – wondering aloud if “manly” dispositions and qualities are to blame for the vast majority of America’s problems… even if, truth be told, 42% of all women voters voted for Trump!

Later that evening, sitting on my couch debating the morality of abducting female Trump voters to use as targets at my niece’s archery practice, I began scrolling through hundreds of empowering and inspirational Facebook photos from women’s rally’s around the nation – and I began asking how the fuck America could be so fucking fucked with so many amazing, intelligent and capable women inhabiting it…. and what qualities we need to instill in our children to better our nation?

42% WTF! How can that be? I thought.

And in an instant, still filled with Facebook infused pride for women everywhere, I felt scared – fearing that we as a culture have it all wrong, knowing that we emulate what we respect and we as a nation respect the wrong qualities in our leaders.

Of course it’s a matter of balance, as all things are – but I think it’s healthy to purpousfully consider why we prefer and prioritize certain characteristics when electing our leaders…. so I submit the following to you and ask which job listing best summarizes the leader you’d like to follow, or boss you’d like to work for?

American Voters Seek True Commander In Chief!

Candidate-A Job Listing:

Our ideal candidate is enthusiastic, gentle, nurturing, intuitive and possess an open mind. They exhibit a centered disposition, are supportive, relationship oriented, make suggestions while seeking help from others and are receptive to varying opinions. They must be an attention giver who empowers others, believing we should be idealistic in a graceful and positive manner even if it slows the decision making process. Above all the ideal candidate seeks to avoid conflict.

Candidate-B Job Listing:

Our ideal candidate is confident, bold, efficient, rational and possess a focused mind. They are assertive, willful and goal oriented. Unwilling to seek help from others, they prefer to give orders and act autonomously when faced with varying opinions. They must be an attention getter who feels personally empowered, believing we should be practical in a precise and strategic manner and make decisions as fast as possible. Above all the ideal candidate seeks conflict.

* The above descriptions are crafted from lists of human characteristics I found on Google posing “feminine” and “masculine” traits in opposing pairs.

Of course we all want a balance of both descriptions in a candidate, but what if you had to choose straight up – wouldn’t that indicate where your true priorities lie? It’s easy to see why Trump was elected if you are at all drawn to Candidate B.

I despise him and I’m embarrassed to call him my president, but even I have to admit that Candidate B’s description has some allure. Sadly, I think we’re all products of social conditioning and the invisible tractor beam of our male dominated society has steadily pulled us out of balance.

Candidate A exhibits more uniquely feminine characteristics and sounds amazing, but isn’t who we as a society view as an effective leader. She’s the right choice, the only choice to help bring balance to the highly imbalanced “man’s world” we’ve created – and yet Candidate B is preferable in a general election, because most people subconsciously believe “male” characteristics are superior to their opposing “female” traits when considering presidential candidates.

In effect, women have to exhibit “masculine” traits to gain acceptance in leadership roles and political office when it’s precisely the opposite our country needs to bring balance to our national priorities and personal belief systems.

So, how do you get America to start viewing the “feminine” traits of compassion and unity as equal or superior to the “masculine” traits of agression and power? And will people ever understand that the most assertive are often the least confident?

My point being, I want more women in power, not more women who think and act like men in power. I get it. Raising your daughter to be more assertive and aggressive prepares her to succeed in our current society, but does that bring balance to our communities, nation and social values? Maybe, but maybe not. It takes more weight to balance the heavy end of a teeter-totter as you move closer to center – meaning, the more similar we become the less counter balance is asserted.

In my opinion, the best way to move the fulcrum of America’s consciousness is to cultivate compassion in our men, rather than assertiveness in our women. Women need to teach the qualities they naturally embody, not cultivate the problem causing behaviors men embody!

I understand women need to be strong and assertive to be heard – but only compassion will balance America’s scales of justice and I fear that aspiring to beat men at their own game will never level our scales.

How strong does a woman have to become to be respected the same as a man? Is it not easier to change the perception of strength, than to change a woman’s natural gifts?

I’m looking at the long game and it’s a fools game, with men and women finally playing equal parts – and nothing’s changed because the most assertive continue to become the most powerful and thus, despite gender equality, the status quo remains unchanged.

But what do I know? I’m a man after all…. with a letter to share.

It was written in April of 2012, four years into the Obama presidency by a middle school girl at JHMS. The letter, which arrived late to my mailbox along with fifty others was never delivered to its intended recipient in Rwanda. Instead, I share it with you now because it needs and deserves to be shared.

It begins with a thought borrowed from Confucius and continues on, embodying the sanctity of a little girl who has already tapped the source of her immense strength, channeling an eternal power only love can trump…

letter2

letter3b

… and I can only hope today, five years later, she and her friends haven’t learned the false meaning of strength from the result of this election, the president himself – or anyone else for that matter.

—– end.

PS – If you happen to know a girl who’s initials start with the beginning of the alphabet, share this with her.

About The Author

If you look deep enough into any mirror you’ll see the reflection of your parents standing tall in the long shadow of your truth; their strengths magnifying your inadequacies, their weakness emboldening your most admirable powers. Whether you’re all they are, or all they aren’t – there’s a message for you, and only you, waiting to be reflected on…

__________________

All my fears lay beneath me, on her deathbed. “So, I go now?” she sighs, trembling with exhaustion.

Her hazel glazed eyes turn softly toward me, lost in a fog of gratefulness and regret. Unable to speak, unwilling to let go, she presses against the vast silence that lays ahead. Loving praise rains down on her washing away any comfort of illusion. She resists, tensing and writhing beneath a flow of words that make it all too real – lamenting the woman she nearly became, forsaking the future she never realized.

“Yes momma. Your work is done here. You can go now,” I exhale in reply, staring into the wet eyes of a bound soul, praying the only prayer I’ve ever prayed.

————

I’m staring out my bedroom window at a gibbous moon. A small black and white television sits beneath my cherished, glow-in-the-dark, black-velvet panther poster. Johnny Carson just ended and it’s time to pray for my mom before sliding under my Star Wars comforter. The T.V. shows have changed over the years, but my one prayer has forever remained the same.

————

It’s 7pm and Kendall Jackson has joined her for dinner, again. Of course no food will be served tonight, as her menu offers nothing but loneliness.

She rests lazily upon a green pluther couch, nestled in a throng of soft pillows, surrounded by a thick wall of historical-fiction books she sequestered herself in long ago. Her nightgown creeps high on her thighs as she settles in to watch the local news. She’s crying before the first commercial break.

I was twenty-nine at the time. She’d started drinking heavily eight-years earlier after watching her second husband, a man she no longer loved, die from cancer. I’d returned home to work on my graduate thesis. I was up before sunrise most days photographing the streets of DC before making my way to the Washington Post. I was a rising star and I’d never been more miserable in my life.

Eleven months later I found myself driving toward the evening sun. I was leaving it all behind, my mother included. Misery sought new company.

I found that and more in the shadow of the Tetons. Friendship, adventure and four-legged love made for a five star life. I felt so blessed I never returned home, for I had made my own in the high mountains of western Wyoming.

Fourteen years and six-hundred missed holidays later I apologized to my mom for running away and never inviting her to join me, companionship being the one gift she coveted beyond any other. My apology set the rusted wheels of reconciliation in motion and together we mapped a grand adventure that would never come to be.

The thought of spending a week road tripping with my mom terrified me, afraid to open myself to her unfiltered truth while driving quiet roads that offered little escape – but I reached out nonetheless, certain the trip would be our resurrection after these words poured out of me onto a page I didn’t know existed…

“We are one. Her pain is my pain. There’s no way around it, only through it. She needs you and you need her. You don’t have to make her your neighbor, but you need to make her your dear friend. I’d forgotten that we were best friends long ago before I became a man.”

You see, without loving my mom unconditionally for all she is and all she isn’t, I knew there would be no hope for me in life or love – that without this, I’d continue pushing love away, banishing myself to my own lonely existence.

No man can love a woman more than he loves his mom – which is why a man’s maternal bond is more important than any other. For once a man pushes his mom away, no woman will ever bring him closer to loving himself – no matter how much she cuddles, compliments or supports him.

Simply put, a man’s self worth is tied to his mom whether he likes it or not. A man looks to his father for validation, to his mother for love – and only one of these nourishes the soul.

Trust me. It’s true.

It’s why I kneel beside my mother now, desperate to atone for a misery I fear may never leave my side by seeking the friendship of my oldest companion, certain my window of redemption has passed and no matter how hard I push, closure will never come.

The next morning I find her laying half naked on the carpet, moaning. Her adult diaper is torn, shits piled up beneath her and she’s too exhausted to stand.

I bend down, looking to close the distance between us any way I can. I reach out, stroking her silver hair the way she once stroked mine – but she’s beyond consolation so I set to cleaning her lower half…

Her legs are withered, her chest heaves. There are no words; given, or received. Only drugs to numb and a blanket to warm – she lays silent as the night in the eye of a storm.

and I stand, staring down at the inevitability of death.

Neither the carpet, nor myself will ever be the same, I think – before turning toward the kitchen to make a cup of coffee, knowing it’s over, wishing I’d reached out sooner and once again praying the only prayer I’ve ever prayed:

Dear God, or Mother Nature, or whoever’s out there, please let my mom be happy and find peace.

The teapot wails and I turn, looking back at my mother glued to a floor she’ll never rise from again.

“The window of redemption never closes,” I think. “It endures in every relationship, forever – as long as you remain open to it.”

I press my coffee and take a sip, wondering if I’m completely full of shit.

—– end.

“Close your robe Morris. I’m afraid someone will think we’re making a lewd movie.” – MJM 2016