Adventures in 21st Century Masculinity

Let's get this out of the way on the front end: I’m a 44-year-old, overweight, bald, heterosexual white male from a Christian background with little to no childhood trauma to speak of who is firmly ensconced in the middle class. It would seem I’d be the poster-child for whatever the opposite of “woke” is in the 21st century, and yet I’m drawn to this term, this colloquialism of millennial youth, mostly because I don’t subscribe to much of what the anti-woke bro-dudes seem to personify. So I’m gonna use it. 

About This Blog

This blog will cover a lot of topics, mostly coming from stories and experiences from my life as a husband as well as a military kid growing up in California and then in NC. We’ll explore relationships with girlfriends, parents, friends, teachers, and even pastors over the course of however long this muse sings to me.

So why a blog in 2018? First, I feel like I have something to give to those out there who are as equally stymied as I am by the hyper-macho, testosterone-driven concept of manhood that seems to be effervescing in the cultural climate. Secondly, I hope that some of my experiences can be of help to those struggling in their marriage (or relationship), and I hope some of my experiences can be a guiding light (even if ever so dim) in a moment of their own darkness. Thirdly, there’s a certain catharsis that comes from the chronicling one’s life and experiences that serves as both therapist and counselor. In the end, though, it’s my sincere hope that the sharing of my experiences as a son, brother, boyfriend, fiancée, and husband can be a learning tool for others on their own journey.

What This Blog Isn't

  1. This blog isn’t just for married white dudes. I have to approach this blog from a straight, married perspective because I am a straight married man. That said, I feel anyone of any gender or sexual orientation could find words of hope, comfort, or maybe just a chuckle of agreement in having done some of the same boneheaded things I’ve done in their own relationships.
  2. This blog will not be religious. Yes, I grew up Christian, and still claim Christianity, but I have no goal in proselytizing anyone to anything. I won’t be able to talk about my story without talking about God, Jesus, and the other usual cast of characters that inhabit a person sprouted from the soil of southern Christianity, but again: I’m not looking to convince anyone of anything regarding their own spirituality. If you come away from these writings with questions, I’m certainly happy to answer (you can leave a comment or contact me), but I’m just letting you know on the front end, that’s not what I’m trying to do here.
  3. This blog isn’t political. While I’m sure to lean into some issues that may tangentially veer towards policy and civil rights, it is not my aim to convince anyone of anything political in nature. You do you, but don’t get mad if I think what you think may be kind of dickish (I’m looking at you, AR-15 guy).

What is Woke?

Allow me to backfill some more about my co-opting of the arguably too-hip-to-use term, "woke" (and let's all agree to not bang on about the grammar, mmk?).

To be woke is to be awakened, meaning, to see things through another’s perspective such that it illuminates your own understanding of the world, how it operates, and in that, examine the inherent bias/prejudice/privilege that sculpts your view of it. As such, I consider myself a “woke” man of the 21st century who does not believe in the inherent superiority of the male gender, nor do I subscribe to ideas of gender roles in relationships historically forged by tradition and/or religion.

Let’s be clear, I’m still in my own awakening process, and I will likely be on an ever-evolving pilgrimage of awakening as the edges of the map continue to be drawn for me; however, I do feel like I’m a product of my upbringing and it’s life and observation that gives me license to co-opt the idea of being “woke.”

The #MeToo movement was a real wake-up call for me – not because of my own skeletons in danger of being exhumed; on the contrary! I was stunned at 1) how many women have been targets of unwanted sexual advances, 2) how frequent these occurrences are, and 3) how many guys out there just seem to be dirtbags! Jeez.

I can honestly say I’ve never, ever, made a sexual advance at a woman (mostly because I was a fat band nerd growing up, but that's for another time), and I’ve never cat-called, whistled, or made gross kissy noises at a passing woman on the street. Sadly, until recently, I was pretty sure this kind of thing was limited to sad tropes from film and TV but I've come to the shocking realization that this is currently a problem that should have died a century ago and yet, here we are.

That’s not to say I haven't run into other guys who were bent towards this type of behavior, and I’ve certainly been privy to my own fair share of raunchy jokes when the ladies weren’t around, but #MeToo opened my eyes to the very pervasiveness of the issue en masse. For this I say to these guys out there, “c’mon man,” and to the women I say, “some of us good ones got your back.”

About My Marriage

I’ve been married to the same, amazing woman, Shannon, for nearly 24 years (as of this writing), and when I say she’s my better half, I don’t use that phrase lightly. She’s taught me so much of how to be a man, not by nagging or brow-beating, but by walking with me, as an equal, through our years together.

We’ve been together since Nov 1992, and as corny as it sounds, it was love at first… mouse (more on that in a future post). After just a couple of weeks I knew I would spend my life with her, and I would’ve married her within a month, only, we just had to wait for the rest of the family and society to catch up so we wouldn't completely freak everyone out.

I’ve been asked what’s the secret to my marriage. My first, cynical thought is, “well, we don’t have kids so we’ve never had to grow up!” I’m sure there’s some truth to that, but I’m not convinced that’s the whole story. (Plus, I’ll definitely be diving into the whole kids thing in future posts.)  Honestly, I’m not sure I have a concrete answer, especially since what worked for me might not work for you. 

Shannon was my first truly serious girlfriend, and I consider myself astronomically, nay, hysterically lucky that she turned out to be the one, especially when I had decided to say, “screw this nice guy crap, I’m ready to party” when we started dating (yeah, more on this in the future as well).

She’s two years older than me and to this day challenges me and makes me laugh. Even as I type this, she’s lying naked beside me in bed playing some silly iPad game which is laughably below her intelligence level, and yet, the fact that she can match descending candies for hours on end is so endearing it only serves to deepen my love for her.

And Now for the Cognitive Dissonance

With all that understood, you have to know that I hold the door open for my wife - all the time. I insist on driving on road trips, and I won’t let my wife pump the gas. I clean up cat puke, reset the WiFi, and hang all pictures. I do the bills, make the calls to take care of house stuff, and am the first line of defense when a spider needs swift justice. But the catch is I want to do these things. I enjoy doing these things because it lifts me up as a husband to take care of my wife in these ways. It’s not because she can’t or won’t do these things, nor is it because I’ll do it better (Lord knows she’s the superior accountant in the family), but the honest truth is this: I find deep joy and value in giving of myself to her in these ways. 

Doing these things doesn’t diminish her at all but releases her to be her best self!  We’ll dive a lot deeper into this line of thinking in the posts to come, and there are some other things mixed up with this (like the fact that deep-down there’s a still little 12-year girl who wants/needs a knight-in-shining-armor to come to her rescue). I’m in a bit of a cul-de-sac here, and maybe this will invalidate my “Woke” card, but I don’t see it that way. Like I said, more to come on this topic later.

Let's wrap it up, Dave

So that’s what I hope to accomplish with this blog. I want to share my personal experiences of navigating relationships in an ever-increasingly polarized world where toxic masculinity seems to be on the rise contrary to sanity and decency. It’s my sincere hope that there’s a guy (or girl) out there, just like me, who needs someone to tell them they aren’t crazy, that it’s ok not to conform to whatever societal norms were imprinted on them, that’s it’s ok when roles in a relationship aren’t determined by gender, but by cooperation and understanding, and that while it’s ok to hold the door for a lady, do it because it honors her, not because you think she’s weaker than you.

Thanks for reading! I hope you find these writings encouraging, insightful, or even dare I say, helpful.

DK

P.S. If any of this pissed you off, you’re in for a bumpy ride, so, uh…  feel free to comment? Yay Internet things!


Header photo by Jacalyn Beales.

Dave was born in Hawaii, grew up in San Diego, and wound up in Orlando, FL by way of both High Point, NC and Memphis, TN.

He is a husband of 24 years to his wife, Shannon, and is a crazy cat dad. When he’s not rambling on about life here, he can be found writing music for film and TV, playing music, or teaching music at Full Sail University.

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