December 17, 2006
Being a manly man
Originally published February 18, 2005
I was raised from an early age to NOT show my emotions. It was the hillbilly way. We were tough people and we were supposed to behave that way. You kept what was inside you INSIDE YOU, where it belonged.
Wimmen could cry. That was their job. Grown men pulled their own teeth, with nothing but a shot of moonshine to dampen the pain. They DIDN'T cry. That's how I was raised.
That attitude helped me a lot when I was young, getting in fights or playing football. You could hurt me, but I'd never let you know it. I've been hit so hard on the football field that I KNEW that if I got up, my guts would still be laying in the dirt because I had been evicerated by that hit, but I got up anyway. I wasn't going to lay there and whine. I'd keep playing without intestines if I had to.
I also had a family that didn't believe in a lot of touchy-feely expressions of emotions. We were stoic. Nobody expected to be told "I am LOVED!" You just KNEW it by the way you were treated. I had wonderful parents and a very happy childhood. I wish I could give that same gift to my children.
I tell them both that I love them, but words are cheap. I look back now and see what my parents DID for me and my brother, and I know the shit they waded through to raise us right. That's an impressive feat to me now. I realize how much serious commitment and love it took to get that job done.
My father never told me that he loved me. That wasn't the hillbilly way. I know that he DID, but I wish now, 13 years after his death, that he would have broken down all the barriers just once and said it out loud. But he didn't, and I never saw him cry, either.
My father was a manly-man, and he did his best to raise ME to be one, too. I tried my best for a long time to meet his expectations. But somewhere down the line, I realized that I was different. I couldn't do it his way. I wasn't like my father. I was too emotional.
I still think I'm a manly-man. But I'll cry on occasion, and I'll damn sure tell you that I love you if I do.
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