MEN DON'T DO INTROSPECTION
By ALLEN ALLENSWORTH IV
I’m a man. Nowadays, that doesn’t tell you much. Gender roles – hell, gender itself – have become more fluid. That’s generally speaking a good thing, but for old heads like me it’s a change. It also blurs the image that the statement, “I’m a man” once conveyed. So let me be more specific.
I am a 49-year-old heterosexual, Black man raised in a Detroit neighborhood where almost everyone worked at an auto plant. I grew up with very well-defined ideas about what men do and don’t do. Men work (themselves to death if need be), take care of their families, make decisions, take responsibility for their actions, and know how to fix shit. Men don’t cry, doubt themselves, back down from a fight, hit a woman, go to therapy, or turn down sex.
I know I sound like an anachronism, a fossil. I’m just being honest.
But here’s the irony. I was the skinny nerd with thick glasses who loved to read science fiction and write poetry. I was beyond shy. Much of my personality reflects my early desire to avoid confrontation of the physical variety. Most of my friends were girls because they didn’t beat me up. (The girl next door being an exception. She also wasn’t covered by the “don’t hit a woman” rule.) And sex, ha! If it weren’t for a high school classmate’s mother, I’m not sure I’d have ever lost my virginity. True story: In high school, I wrote a note asking a girl to be my girlfriend. I saw her write her answer and put it in my locker. I was so sure she wrote something mean I never went back to my locker, I cut that class for the rest of the semester, and I started taking a different bus home.
Despite my shortcomings in the manly department, it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t grow up to be a “man.” In fact, the conflict between how I thought a man should act and my own actions/inclinations didn’t bother me. That is, it didn’t bother me until the moment it did, the moment when I stood in the middle of the smoldering dumpster fire that was my life and I literally said out loud, “what the fuck just happened.”
Did I mention men don’t do introspection either?
Now I guess there is one other thing I should mention because it’s part of the problem: puberty. It may have come late, but it came. I didn’t stay that skinny kid. My eyes got better and I didn’t even need contacts. Turns out I was attractive. Who knew?! I still got into fights, just not with women any more. I started winning them too because, hey, I’d been in a lot of fights and knew how to do it. And all that reading paid off after high school; that Ivy League law school isn’t even the most impressive academic credential on my resume. I was making six figures before I was 30. Turns out women like that too.
So far, what you’ve read is called foreshadowing. You probably have an idea of the kind of mess I made of my life. Surprise! You’re probably wrong; it’s not what most people think. But realizing your life is a mess isn’t the same thing as knowing why it’s a mess or how to fix it.
Fortunately, I have friends, mostly women, who are more than happy to help me with the process of introspection (or do it for me if necessary). This blog is part of that. The idea is to put down in pixels some of the lessons I learned crawling from the rather unpleasant mess I’d made of my life to the slightly less unpleasant mess that is my current state. Hopefully, somebody will get some amusement, if not insight, from reading this.
Let’s get started, shall we?
©2017 Allen Allensworth IV