BE A MAN! (WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?)

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Submitted Date 03/26/2019
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Since Feeling Is First
Age 14-17, Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, New Hampshire, 1958-1962

since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;
wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

~ e.e. cummings ~

Manliness is not all swagger and mountain climbing. Its also tenderness.
Robert Anderson, Tea and Sympathy, [about Phillips Exeter Academy]

Hazers are themselves victims, wounded souls who are acting out their own unfinished business.
Jayson Gaddis, Men and Hazing

 

Standing up to pain
became a badge
boys don't cry
take it like a man
be tough
is that all you got?
give me more

as a male it was your fate
to suck it up
never let it get to you
as said in Tea and Sympathy
to be a "regular guy"

and not just physical pain
but also emotional
such as humiliation by a teacher

only there was more to it
we thought we were just hiding our feelings
instead we were learning not to feel

like all boys I paid lip service
to this show of manliness
later I realized it was like playing
5 notes in a 12 note octave
we were denied the full range,
confined to the sounds those few notes could play
as the depth of emotional chords and complexity
were not available

we were allowed to yell at sports
or to be angry - perhaps the easiest emotions -
but sorrow or joy, hurt and affection
were off limits

and then I saw the results:
teachers whose dead-end lives
meant they took their anger out
on boys they were mentoring,
their cruelty masked as a rite of passage

a Latin teacher was noted
for taking a chalkboard eraser
and slamming it against the back of a student
when he did not give a correct answer
or took too long;
often the instructor picked on the same boys
who emerged from class
with their coats covered in white
- like a mark of shame -
and the boys had to pretend to not be bothered

by my senior year I had found the truth:
what they wanted
was a kind of spiritual death,
it meant that my life would be one of shadows
where emotions became so disguised
I could never reach them

so I let some of my classmates think less of me
because as an aspiring artist I knew that
what I felt was at the heart of who I was

"No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader,"
Robert Frost told us
when I had heard him speak at Exeter;
revered like a saint,
that was all the permission I needed

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  • Ellen Gibson 2 months, 3 weeks ago

    I hate that this is true for so many. And I love that you stand against it.

    • Rick Doble 2 months, 3 weeks ago

      Men, in a way, have been robbed of the right to feel. Even a recent survey found that most boys had a distant relationship with their fathers who were their role models.

  • Catherine Rohsner 2 months, 3 weeks ago

    That is an interesting connection, that the idea that manliness means not reacting to things emotionally, to be "tough", teaches boys to become men who are less than men, to not feel the seven other notes in the chord.

    • Rick Doble 2 months, 3 weeks ago

      Like your phrase "who are less than men." In an odd way, it took manly courage to buck the accepted idea of manliness!

  • Tomas Chough 2 months, 3 weeks ago

    Pretty harsh times Rick. I like your point in this poem and how you expose "being a man" for what it really is. Thanks for sharing!

    • Rick Doble 2 months, 2 weeks ago

      This type of thinking affects us for our entire lives along with feeling a sense of shame if we buck the party line.

  • David Ross Washington Jr 2 months, 2 weeks ago

    since feeling is first who pays any attention to the syntax of things will never wholly kiss you; wholly to be a fool while Spring is in the world
    This is so simple, but brilliantly written as you really understand the simplicity of what it means.

  • David Ross Washington Jr 2 months, 2 weeks ago

    5 notes in a 12 note octave we were denied the full range,
    The way you creatively explained toxic masculinity and how men are denied the ability to be human like everyone else and express the full spectrum of emotions like vulnerability, and our being of wholeness that we are all born with! This was amazing. This line and the whole article, and was so necessary. Thanks for this Rick. Amazing work. "No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader," <- Yes, exactly!

    • Rick Doble 2 months, 2 weeks ago

      I am always really grateful when I know another person 'gets' what I was trying to say. Working with words is so difficult at times -- and yes the 5 notes in a 12 note octave is at the heart of this poem.

  • Kiersten Felch 2 months, 2 weeks ago

    I like the way you utilized the quotes, and I'm a glad you could see beyond what society deems you must feel.

    • Rick Doble 2 months, 2 weeks ago

      Quotes give a statement some spice and also another point of view. Thanks for your comment.

  • Miranda Fotia 2 months, 1 week ago

    what they wanted was a kind of spiritual death, it meant that my life would be one of shadows where emotions became so disguised I could never reach them
    Very powerful poem! I hate the way boys are molded from birth to feel that they cannot ever show their feelings. It is really sad.

    • Rick Doble 2 months, 1 week ago

      Studies show that boys are handled differently from birth and these unspoken messages continue up to adulthood.