This is going to be hard to write without sounding jaded, or bitter, but I’m going to try. My nephew, Lewis, turned 18 recently. He’s Jane’s sister’s first-born, and I’ve known him all his life. I don’t know where to start with how I feel about my perspective on all this, so forgive me if it seems disjointed.
So, as I just said, he turned 18 recently. He’s been to college, he was accepted on an engineering course despite middling grades, and now he’s progressed on to an apprenticeship and he’s earning good money and being trained at the same time. It’s like it’s all been handed to him (yes, I know how bitter that sounds, but it is how I saw it and I’m not going to lie). I’ve seen how everyone in the family has helped him and I am absolutely gutted that I never had that when I was growing up. People were giving him lifts here, there and everywhere, accompanying him on college interviews, sorting out paper rounds and jobs at McDonalds, giving him money and buying him smart clothes, writing CV’s and proof-reading assignments, deciding his route through education, everything. And he kinda just took a back seat and let them drive. It was all just so supportive, and the whole thing made me very conscious of what I never had.
See, when I turned 18, I felt I had no-one. I was wrong, of course, I had loads of people. My Mum, my Nan, my brother, friends, cousins, uncles and aunts, it’s not like I literally had no-one. But looking back now I can see what I was missing. I never had the support of an older male role-model/authority figure. All those other people, they played their parts admirably, cheered me on from the side-lines, but my Dad leaving us caused a deep psychological wound in me and his absence throughout my formative years made it deepen, made it grow, made it fester. The lack of a mature male role model is so very destructive in a young man’s life. I believe that most of the problems in society can be traced back to this. “Toxic masculinity” can be traced to this. See my Free-writing post on MasculinityFree-writing post on Masculinity for my expanded view on this.
Anyway, because I had no mature male role-model, I had no-one to keep me on the straight and narrow. Yes, I’m well aware that some kids are kept in line by their mothers after their dad leaves, but exceptions do not disprove a rule. I was not one of those kids. Him leaving meant I looked elsewhere for validation, and I wasn’t taught to make the sensible, honourable choices, to believe in myself, to trust in my masculine frame. No-one sat me down and explained how things work. I was left to my own devices and made some bad decisions, some really, really bad decisions. I got in with the wrong crowd. Did some silly things. Some reckless things. Some awful things. I needed someone to tell me to stop. I needed someone to tell me what I was doing was wrong, because I couldn’t see it myself. I needed to have seen how to behave vicariously, through his actions.
Blah blah, my Dad left, blah blah, yeah, I’m over it now. I’ve gone over the whole thing, come to terms with it, and re-parented myself. Actually becoming a Dad myself helped massively. Having to outwardly project that fatherly persona has made it easier for me to direct it internally towards myself as well. Telling Jake it’s time to finish up on the Xbox and come for dinner has made it easier for my ego to overrule my id, and point me in the direction of my dumbbells instead of my Xbox controller. I’ve still got a long way to go in terms of strengthening my ego, I know that. Shadow-work is never really done. Self-awareness is an ongoing pursuit. Life is a journey, not a destination. It was Jake being born that made me aware of this deep incongruence within myself. I knew, deep down, that I had to perform, to step up and earn money, earn status, realise some of that potential, but I was too scared, too anxious. As I said, I never had anyone close enough, in that fatherly role-model position, to look up to that had done it for themselves. Now I know, looking back, that I should have been building myself up from day one, no-one was going to do it for me. It’s like I’ve discovered this in the last five years, and am playing catch-up in a world that is more geared towards 16-20 year olds to be doing this, not 40-something year olds. It’s tough, but some good decisions I made a few years ago are bearing fruit – my money problems are under control now and the counselling training is going very well – I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
That’s not to say I’ve not had support throughout my life. I have had supportive equals, most notably my lovely wife, but that’s not the same. Her intentions were in the right place, very noble, but I was reluctant to take advice from someone I saw as an equal, as a partner, not a role-model. That sounds like I’m doing her a disservice, but I’m not. It’s because she wasn’t a man I could look up to. I had no one to look up to. I needed a father-figure to just be there, that I could passively learn from, and sometimes sit me down and set me straight. Monkey see, monkey do. Lewis has so many mature men to look up to. So many people in his life care about his future and want the best for him, and are determined for him to get on the right track, even if he doesn’t realise what that track is right now. Maybe it’s that they realise the power of mentorship, and rather than leaving him to make his own decisions like me growing up, they, wanting him to succeed, are doing their best to make that happen. He has a few masculinised women as well actually. Or “strong” women, as they call themselves. “Oh, you’re just not man enough to deal with such strong women!” Well that’s not quite true. I find them insufferable to be honest. Outspoken women that know they are untouchable, they say things men wouldn’t dare say because they know that they’re not at risk of being punched in the face. You see, there’s a constant undercurrent of violence during a confrontation between two men. It keeps them in check, especially if they both have a lot to lose. It’s just not worth it. So they negotiate. There’s a mutual respect, an unspoken understanding of the rules of the game. Most of the time. Not so with those that do not even understand that there are rules. This threat of violence keeps society in check. If someone could visit violence upon us with no consequences, then where would we be? Not in a civilised society, for sure.
Well, I went off on a tangent I was not expecting there, but obviously it was cathartic, as I feel better for having got it off my chest. Give me a warm, submissive, friendly woman any day of the week.
Back to the topic in hand, and yes, I guess I am jealous I never had that supportive experience. I’m jealous I never had a life-plan dropped into my lap, because that’s what I was expecting, you know? I was expecting a job, a career, a life, to just be handed to me one day. I realised far too late that it wasn’t going to happen, so I too things into my own hands. I realised that no-one was coming to save me. So I saved myself. And now, to see him having people bend over backwards to get him the start in life that I never had, that I would have loved, well, it smarts a little. And then him paying them back by buying £700 trainers for himself. My mind boggles. The conclusion I’m coming to is a little incongruent, and I’m still wrestling with it in my head, that someone can fail with no support and not realise they have to do the work themselves, but someone else can succeed with a lot of support and being handed everything; I feel like it’s undermining a portion of my position, but I can’t get my head around it right now.
Anyway, the bottom line that I can take away from this: I’m jealous that I never had a mature, masculine role model when I was growing up. But you know what? I am so thankful that I get to consciously be that mature role-model for my son, Jake.