Today's background image is the first white rose of the season, from Libbey Koppinger.
January 1, 1998: Men Stay Silent.
In 1998 I wrote a series of pieces about gender, at the beginning of the year. I wrote about it from my point of view. I didn't try to write a news report, or represent any point of view other than my own.
I was 43 years old then. I was learning how to speak publicly, and learning in a very real way that other people put severe limits on what I could speak about. I realized these barriers had always been there, but they were becoming clearer because of the new role I was playing.
A few years before I had gone on a personal exploration of the parts of myself that were not supposed to exist, based on the culture I was raised in. I found vast territories to learn about. And I found when talking with friends, men and women, that many of them had the same dark areas. More men than women, but there were plenty of people in both genders who kept themselves confined to what was expected of them, rarely branching out into who they really are.
But men especially are supposed to be quiet. There are only a few feelings that are valid for men to have, even though we have them all. And over the intervening years, in many ways, especially in public discourse, it has gotten worse, not better.
The Internet, which I had hoped would be an instrument of freeing us from these limits, has acted in the opposite way -- it's only furthered the myth that men are strong and silent and flat. And that our anger is dangerous, and we don't have any other feelings.
Samantha Allen: Encouraging intimacy betw men might save lives.
What made me think about men and our silence was this piece by Samantha Allen. Her thesis, which has a lot of truth to it, is that men could be getting intimacy not just from a very small set of trophy women, but from everyone around us, including other men.
She also says one thing that's very wrong, that men are responsible for creating the "intimacy desert" she talks about. We all created it. Everyone. To say men put ourselves in this prison would be like saying women created eating disorders. And no one says that.
We're scared of male intimacy. So was the Santa Barbara killer. Those weren't the words coming out of his mouth, but it's still what he was saying. If he found a woman who wanted to be intimate with him, he wouldn't have known what to do with her.
Ms Allen is basically saying men should be like women. That's not going to happen and we shouldn't be trying to achieve that anyway, because we are not you. I don't see us cuddling with each other any time soon. But there are a lot of lonely men out there. Very few of us are dangerous to anyone but ourselves. You want to help? See our humanity, and stop treating us as if we are dangerous when we're not.
Women are just as bad at men as interpreting every exchange as sexual, by the way. I used to get a lot more smiles from women when I was young and skinny. Now that I have a gray beard and am pushing 60, a smile is often met with derision, sometimes verbal -- that I'm not qualified to smile at them. These are such innocent gestures, often a desperate seeking of a bit of kindness. I may be getting invisible (a complaint I often hear from women my age) but that doesn't mean my heart is dead.