Monday, May 22, 2006

Being Alone - as a Man/Boy

Growing up as a Boy, I learned in many ways to be independent. In some ways it was good as I didn't need to be held back by others. In other ways it accentuated the worst parts of "being male".

I remember three neighborhood boys, two years older than me, who enjoyed bullying me when I came upon them (which I tried to avoid). Memories of playmates are vague and limited to particular moments, not to periods of time.

Being independent gave me a lot of freedom and opportunity. It also was a trap, helping make me a poor partner in my initial long-term relationship as well as a not-very-good father to my only "natural" (sic) (boy) child.

As males, we are allowed to and encouraged to "be independent". In the family housing complex at a large midwestern university where we lived, I would frequently see the boys out alone or in small groups on their bicycles exploring their worlds around them. The girls, when of a similar age, were often taking care of younger siblings.

We learn to compete in school academically, in music (or the arts) and perhaps most vividly in competitive sports. Our sport teams teach us to "bond", but not to be intimate or otherwise deeply connected with each other in exploring and developing feelings - besides expressing anger. With friends, we "do things". We don't learn to "be" to know how our friends are really feeling.

We also don't learn to understand and express our own feelings, unless they are directed in aggressive ways towards other boys and later on towards girls and young women.

Being alone - is "safe", as long as we're not ridiculed by other males. We're usually not harassed due to our looks, clothes or how we carry ourselves as girls may be. Our fears of assault - relate to other boys beating us up. I can't imagine fearing that something I might say might bring about or relate to being followed, whistled at, or being sexually assaulted.

I can't imagine walking somewhere in the dark and fearing that some stranger might assault my being. Having been held up at gunpoint in the dark twice, I know a little of the fear of potentially being assaulted, but it is different.

Being alone and independent is something that many of us men can identify with - to varying degrees. Whether we are "nerds", "geniuses", "weirdos" or those who make the newspapers as stalkers and murderers of former partners, we are more than a token part of the worlds around us.

We also avoid "responsibility" - for the care of our families - when we are reasonably young, our friends, our parents as they age and others around us. The emotional connections that we miss have crippled parts of me. For the rest of my life I will be trying to connect better with others who mean a lot to me.

It is good to take the positive - out of most of our life experiences. It's also important to me to learn where I can do better and be happier as I grow.



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