When I was growing up I lived in a house with parents who had conflicting views on proper conduct. This always created mixed messages. My mother was one who was all about having proper manners. The dinner table was a place where we learned about those manners, but so was any gathering. As a result, I learned how to conduct myself properly in society, even though I am a person who lives and works somewhat outside of the social norms. My father, on the other hand, was one who was all about properly presenting oneself as a man. He made sure that I knew that I had to have a firm handshake and that I had to look people in the eye even when I wanted to look away. He also, however, made sure that I knew that it was not “proper” to show your emotions. Boys don’t cry. Boys don’t laugh too loud. Boys don’t care about what other boys are feeling. Boys don’t even care that much about what girls are feeling. Those lessons were destructive at best.
So as I was growing up I had a lot of inner conflict regarding what it meant to be a man. There were a few decisions that I made along the way that helped me to sort it all out. Part of the decision making process had to do with my ability to truly watch the patterns of behaviour that people have and the way in which those patterns affect other people.
I learned quickly that in some social circles the proper manners that my mother taught me were something that was also used as a weapon against other people. That was never my mother’s intent. However, I watched others use those tools that way. It was usually people who thought of themselves as high and mighty and who needed to ensure that others around them “knew their place”. So they would use their manners to intimidate and belittle those who were not familiar with said manners. I remember watching the mother of one of my female friends almost bring a boy my friend was dating to tears at the dinner table, making covertly snide remarks about his eating habits and how he used cutlery and wondering how her daughter could possibly have picked up a stray such as this “Bohemian”. I was furious. He was devastated. My friend was mortified. They did not date for very long after that. Her mother was very skilled at weeding out who was considered to be “top shelf” and who was not. For some reason, even though my family was poor, she thought I was alright. But then, I was not dating her daughter. I was only her friend. And I had proper training in manners and protocol.
The thing is that manners and protocol are there not just to keep things from turning into utter chaos. They are there to make others feel comfortable and welcomed. This was completely lost on my friend’s mother. But it was something that my own mother drilled into me. I was an extremely shy person who easily got bombarded with the energies of other people. Although I was needing to work on my shielding processes, my mother was not one who was going to let her son become reclusive. So I had to learn about social interactions and had to learn about how to make others feel comfortable around me. This was challenging as I was extremely gifted and could see right into another’s soul. This makes people feel a little “off” at best. It became much easier as I learned how to filter and how to ignore what was none of my business and just accept and treat others as fellow human beings.
One of my male teachers, in junior high, was a man that was what I would consider to be a true gentleman. All the kids loved him. That is because he was awesome and never, unlike other teachers, made kids feel like they were stupid. Even if a kid was being totally belligerent, he would find a way to re-direct that behaviour into something with a positive spin. He could likely have been very successful as a “fixer” for some politician, but he chose to be a teacher.
One day this teacher pulled me aside to tell me that he had been observing me in class in in the halls. He said that he was very proud that I was the type of person who knew what true masculinity was. I looked at him a little confused. He said, “Most guys think that to be a man you have to be tough and hard as nails. You treat people with respect, kindness and compassion. You make people feel comfortable around you. THAT is what true masculinity is. It shows that you are approachable and safe and that you can care for others and nurture them. Keep that up and it will take you far in life.” I will always treasure those words.
As one who has been ridiculed and criticised because of who I am and what I am, knowing that this man, whom I admired to the end of the earth, saw this in me is something that has pulled me through all the idiocy around me. I have never felt emasculated by anything that anyone has ever said about me, regardless of how hateful their words were. I have always looked at those types of people as demonstrating to the world at large just how small and insignificant THEY think THEY are. Their actions and their words say nothing at all about me, but volumes about them. And they would not know how to truly be masculine to save their own lives.
So while some people take a little while to get to know me, and while I sometimes take a while to venture into trusting others, for the most part we are able to become comfortable with each other. I am a very social person now. I enjoy getting to know people. Most enjoy my jovial and LOUD laugh and the fact that I have a wicked funny sense of humour. All of them learn that I am safe to be around and that they can count on me for encouragement and nurturing whenever it is needed. And they also know that I make an amazing cup of coffee and the most delicious tea that they will ever have bar none. I am a person who meets others on a heart level and does my best to keep it at a heart level. Yes, this sometimes means that their behaviour hurts even more when they strike out at me. But it is worth the risk because most people, when met at a heart level, respond on that level and allow themselves to be comfortable in the presence of heart energy. And that is indeed what true masculinity is.