Guinevere Gets Sober

Recovery news, reviews and stories, by Jennifer Matesa.

On G’s Gratitude List: Men.

They’re unfathomable creatures, men. I don’t understand them (and, actually, I do).

I love most things about them: Their hair. Their skin. The fact that they’re bigger and stronger than I am, even the small ones. Their minds. Especially their voices. I love listening to men talk and sing.

Right now I’m listening to Tom Waits … he wrote this beautiful song.


Many of my feelings about men, of course, have to do with my father.

I was NOT daddy’s little girl. That was my little sister. My mother claimed me as her best friend, confidante, and ally—which might be why I think men are such incomprehensible, mysterious, unreachable, alluring beings. I originally wanted to have a girl, but I’m very, very glad I gave birth to a boy.

For most of his life Dad had a big beer-gut, and he was not hairy. (I like men with hair on their arms, their legs, their chests.) When I was growing up, I didn’t consider Dad handsome. I was kind of ashamed of the way he looked, actually, because he didn’t take care of his body.

But this is a picture of my dad in college.

Dad, senior photo, University of Pittsburgh, 1961.

(The flattop and skinny tie kill me.)

He was handsome. He was six-feet-two; he wore a size-12 shoe and a size 46-long coat. He was smart and dependable and spiritual and utterly unafraid of people, and he Read Books. He sang bass in the church choir.

Dad’s message was, “Everything will be OK.” Sometimes (especially when the Dow crashes, or when one of our kids has a real problem) my sister and I call each other and say, “Tell me what Daddy would say.”

His hugs were the best. A hug from Dad was like receiving a hug from the entire planet. Market shares could be tumbling, buildings could be burning, hurricanes could roar through and flood even uplands and when I hugged Dad, the world would be put back together and I’d be standing again on hard, dry ground.

His hands were large but finely boned, with square nails. Like a scientist.

He had blue-gray eyes. Like rain.

My son’s eyes are deep, dark Bournville brown, like my brother’s. His eyebrows are heavy and black, like Dad’s.

My son.

My son.


My son is one of a number of important men in my life. Another is Jacques, who lives in New York and has 30 years sober and who’s like a brother to me. And another is a tall geeky guy with a magnificent sense of humor, who rents out his car because he cycles everywhere within a 20-mile radius of his house. There’s yet another tall guy, with long hair and superb taste in music, whom I’ve known since the last days of post-punk. Both these tall guys are enjoying raising young women. … There’s also my son’s father, who gave our boy that dimple in his chin and who, in both his sons, has raised two good men.

I’ve learned many lessons from men that I could never have learned from women. My son has learned many things from the other men in his life that he could never have learned from me.

I’ve spent much of my life being afraid of men, as if they were bears in old-fashioned zoo cages. My mother taught me that if I trusted men, if I was nice to them, they’d eat me alive. Please Don’t Feed the Bears. My fear was actually not a fear of men but a fear of my own sexuality. One of the primary side-effects of using drugs was the depression of my sex-drive. When I was using, I didn’t look at men. On the whole, I didn’t notice other people. I was immured in my own bubble, within the curved walls of my skull.

Now that I’m sober, I notice men all the time. As a sober straight woman dedicated to honesty and integrity it’s important for me to pay attention to the fact that I have a serious attraction to these bears. Even if I don’t act on that attraction—because to act or not to act, and how to act, are choices recovery gives me—it makes life more alive.

Thank you, all you Bears, for being who you are.

10 Comments

  1. The best line: “On the whole, I didn’t notice other people. I was immured in my own bubble, within the curved walls of my skull.”

  2. i love this… poetry

  3. Without the men in my life what would be the use of being a woman? A unicorn without a horn is just a horse.

  4. Great post – is amazing how there are not so many sober male bloggers out there, I guess the ratio is about 8 or 10 female to 1 male bloggers. Why is that?
    Wonder if I should write a post about the women in my life.
    Thanks for provoking these thoughts…

  5. Would love to see you write such a post. Your blog is awesome and I’m also grateful for that. /G

  6. Thankyou very much…I will treasure this post, and hope that my hugs are as good for my kids as your Dad’s were for you. I have also had to learn to appreciate women’s beauty, perhaps feel a bit of desire, without acting on it. Mike

  7. Ahhhhh, this truth is so conflicting for me! As I grow in my sobriety & spirituality, I am awakening to my sensuality & sexuality with nowhere/one to place it. To deny it seems a crime, but I don’t want to commit the same crimes to my soul sober, as I did while under the influence of all that altered my mind & body. I am just in the awareness phase of this journey. I am not yet at a solution other than denying my own needs for what I hope will be the greater good ????Great post!

  8. guinevere

    January 23, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    Frances, I think the biggest (maybe the only) “crime” I can commit with regard to sexuality is to lie. Deceit and charm are also ways of lying. Charm always covers up something the charmer does not want you to look at. … Seduction and flirting are fun, even sometimes necessary, as long as they’re honest. “Denying my own needs” sounds a bit problematic and dishonest. I think the culture leads me to believe that only certain behaviors and attitudes are acceptable, especially with regard to sexuality, and this leads in turn leads me to think that I have to deny my own needs. When in fact I simply need to inquire whether a different attitude is possible—especially if it’s honest. … Finally, I think as women we’re conditioned to believe that we have to take care of others (“the greater good”) at our own expense. Which will just wind up in my using sooner or later.

  9. G., haven’t been here for a while. I think that it’s true that many of the women I know seem to find men better friends than other women. I wonder sometimes whether women don’t support each other more. Instead, so much time is wasted on backstabbing and gossiping about each other. Seem pretty sad.

  10. Hello G!!! you have an absolutely beautiful website filled with healthy, useful information!! Thank you for all the time you take to make your site so awesome!!! if you have time, please check out my blog about my journey with alcoholism recovery, girlrecovering.com . Thanks again!!! -Jill

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