Reaching Out Past Myself

I thought about sharing a piece of my old writing here. It came up during a conversation with a friend. We were discussing the awkwardness of men trying to open up emotionally to other men, and I mentioned that I’d written a line about that in a short piece I wrote nearly a decade ago.

But I’m not going to share it here. It was a different time, and I’ve changed a lot since then. It was an angry bit of writing, filled with self-loathing, frustration, entitlement. I see that I had begun to touch on such things in that piece, but I was nowhere near where I am these days. I intended to preface the (coincidentally around 500-word) story with info like I am now. Then I began figuring out what tags I should give it for content, and that was when I realized, you know what, some things are better left in the past. So I’ll just share that particular line, summarize the important parts, and reflect.

The line in particular isn’t brilliant, but it was salient for that point in my life: “I let him go, then. We both stood up straight, averting our eyes from one another in that implicit agreement to stop being people and start being men again.

One of my friends from my time abroad in Japan showed up at my door one day shortly before we were all due to start flying back to our respective countries, and his girlfriend had just broken up with him. It was an expected event, but he was sad all the same, and he was crying. I had never seen him cry. Instinctively I reached out and hugged him. It was second nature, but mere seconds after I had, it felt awkward. So we had that moment.

What does it mean to be a man? That’s always a question I wrestled with through my teenage and young adult years. I had a lot of pitfalls–I suppose I would easily have fit the profile of a school shooter, or an MRA; I certainly was A Nice Guy and much of the awfulness that implied. Thankfully with a bit of self-awareness and a lot of luck and support, well… I’m able to work on myself with a clearer head.

Even so, I find it difficult to be emotionally open even with my close male friends. There are these fleeting glimpses, gaps in the armor so to speak, but it is difficult to maintain that when someone notices. I think there’s this instinct to recoil and bring things back to a more neutral, “rational” level. To admit we’re having a moment, and just keep having that moment, I don’t think I’m there yet.

That said, it’s easier on the Internet. Probably because there isn’t that palpable “in the air” feeling of tension whenever someone gets a bit emotional.

In summary, I regret the awfulness of my earlier years, and while I can’t take it back, I am happy with the man I have become. Am still becoming, really. There’s always more to be done. For all my pain and regret, the deck is stacked far worse against people without my bountiful set of privileges. By focusing on that, by trying to be there for them, I also enrich my own life.

See you tomorrow for another 500 words.