Growing up in the shadow of such an imposing guy as my dad, I think my brother and I picked up a lot of his, for lack of a better word, boldness.
You see, my dad didn’t back down from anything . . . ever. I remember hearing a story where an ex gave two black bikers some money to “finish” my dad with tire irons.
My dad opened the door, and invited them in. This spooked them and they talked some shit and left. My dad more than likely had a shotgun just inside the door.
Anyway, I had developed my own theory on being a man. I always knew how to fight, and I was pretty decent at it, that together with my dad’s never-back-down attitude.
My theory was based on a guy’s actions after he was hit. Might sound strange, but being hit says a lot about a man. Watch somebody in a fight, after they are hit, do they tear up, retreat, or does the punch amp them up to win said fight?
It may be strange, but that was my theory on manhood from the age of fifteen to about thirty-eight. Can you take a punch, and what do you do after you take that punch?
Then something weird happened when my Son was born. I don’t know if I softened or his three weeks in the Natal Intensive Care Unit or the very indifferent attitude certain family members took towards him and I during this time.
My whole mantra changed. It wasn’t attitude or toughness anymore. It was me lifting him past a few crappy people that failed to acknowledge him.
My new definition of manhood was making sure my family had a better life than me. I had created this weird little internal poem, which I used to pray with while my Son was in the NICU. I would repeat, “For every person that fell out of love with me, may three love him. For every tear I cried, may there be three days of smiles for him . . .”
So, have I succeeded in my definition of manhood? Sometimes. Life is fucking hard. Sometimes I elevate the people around me, and other times they rejuvenate me. But on the whole, I try to live up to my definition.