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 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.