I was nine years old, and very disappointed in my father.
An unnecessarily dramatic and entirely unfair judgment for a kid to make, but that’s how I felt. I felt like this great, heroic figure in my life was suddenly not one at all.
If there’s a point in every child’s life where they make the revelation that their parents aren’t perfect, my realization with my dad occurred over inconsequential things that would dent his otherwise shining armor.
He would come home after a long day at work, slightly irritable from an hour of traffic, and a ten-hour shift at a job that he never really enjoyed. Understandable to any adult, but as a kid, I always took offense to that.
I thought the fact that he was moody was rude. And more than that, I thought it was irrational. In my little kid brain, I didn’t understand why he couldn’t control his emotions, and believe it or not, I thought less of him for it.
My Dad was a big, strong man. He could pick things up and put the down. He knew the answer to every question. He was always fair and took my side in stupid arguments with my mother. And here he was, being cranky with me, when he obviously had no right to be.
As ridiculous as it was, I seriously expected my father to function as an emotionally stable (or even emotionless) strong man who never needed anything from anyone, and provided everyone with everything.
And while I learned at a young age that this was unrealistic and unfair, I still believe a lot of women out there feel this way, or at least feel the remnants of having once thought this way (myself included).
We’re used to hearing about (and bitching about) what’s expected of women. But I’ve yet to have a formal discussion about the idea of masculinity, and how repressive it can be for men who struggle to meet such standards.
Sure, a guy doesn’t have to look that great. But he’s gotta have a good job, be able to exert his strength, provide for those he cares about, sexually satisfy his mates, and show no signs of weakness, fear, or inability in doing all of the above.
To this day, I’m still slightly surprised when men show some sort of vulnerability. And you can’t tell me I’m alone in this.
The head honcho at work gets defensive of his decision-making? He’s unprofessional. The one night stand who wants to cuddle and be held? He’s overly sensitive. The too-nice guy you’re dating? He’s a doormat. The friend who can’t really get a long-term job? He’s worthless and unmotivated. The guy who’s uninterested in sports? He’s a pussy.
I don’t think he intended on it, but as the very first man in my life, my dad would teach me about all subsequent men in my life. Whether those men were relatives, friends, sexual encounters, or romantic endeavours, they were all just people. Real people who possessed real strength, intelligence, and abilities, but also real faults, insecurities, and fears.
I know it may sound elementary, but I don’t think it’s as obvious or as easy to put into practice as it should be. Accepting the fact that men are just as vulnerable as anyone else only helped me understand them that much better.
And as women, we need to be just as strong – or stronger – to stand by them.