Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Collaboration With a Purpose: Let’s Talk About Men (International Men’s Day)

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Folks, it’s International Men’s Day. And as promised, the bloggers who comprise Collaboration with a Purpose — including yours truly — are going to talk about men. We’ve talked about International Women’s Day before (here’s my post for that) and I, personally, mentioned International Women’s Day a couple of years ago…so it’s high time that International Men’s Day got its fair share, no?

design 2

(Jane Love made the graphic above.)

Men, these days, often feel underappreciated. Too many times, they’ve been told they’re “privileged,” because they’re men. They’re expected to succeed from the get-go, and yet, they grow up with many of the same fears, struggles, and problems as women — what will I do? How will I become my best self? How can I find love and happiness? And so forth.

When men try to find ways to express themselves, they often aren’t understood. Compounding things for them, there are two big stereotypes that cause trouble; first, men are often expected to be the “strong, silent type,” and so showing emotions can be very difficult. Second, men are often supposed to be the breadwinners, even now, in most situations…to a much larger extent than most women, the garden variety guy out there worries about how he’ll take care of not just himself financially, but his family, too.

There are some folks out there now who seem to undervalue the fact that men struggle as much as women do with finding their place in the world. I don’t understand this. We’re all human beings. We have many of the same motivations, fears, desires, etc., and we all need to come to grips with who we are and what we’re going to do in this world.

But men, somehow, are just supposed to know what this is.

My late husband Michael assuredly felt like this. He told me, on multiple occasions, that when he tried to better himself educationally, his needs were not understood by his parents. He graduated high school a few years early, worked in a comic books store, signed up for the Navy as soon as he decently could (his mother had to co-sign, as he was still under eighteen)…and then, he had some sort of accident while running in Naval training that broke both knees.

He was eighteen years old. The only thing he’d wanted to do was now closed to him. So what was he going to do?

He went back home after his knees healed. He started work as a typist for the Naval Base in Oakland as a civilian, probably because it was the closest he could get to his old dreams. And over time, he became a contracts administrator, because he found he was very good at both problem solving and small differences in contracts…and these two things added up to a job he could do that was useful.

Then, his world was rocked again when the Naval Base closed. He could’ve followed his job to a different base somewhere else, but he didn’t want to do that. He was married — not to me, as he hadn’t met me yet — and his then-wife had found work and he wanted to stay where he was. He loved San Francisco, you see…the place he’d spent much of his young life, and most of his adult life also.

So he stayed. And wrote fiction. And edited, sometimes, for friends. And worked on his art — he sketched, and his drawings had real life to them (unfortunately, I don’t have any of them with me, as they were lost during our move somehow). He also did a type of macrame with ropes, and sewed, and cooked…basically, Michael was creative as Hell, and any way he could create, he was going to do it.

Then he met me. In 2001.

He had been unemployed except for temp jobs and working for friends for over two years. He’d been on some dates, as his previous marriage had broken up (they remained friends until the end of his life, mind; one of the true amicable divorces I know about), and none of ’em had panned out. The women he’d met wanted men who made money. Or had a home, as in San Francisco, that denoted wealth. Or at least had a car, as that, too, denoted more than the average amount of wealth, as on-street parking is rarer than hen’s teeth, and on-street parking where you didn’t have to pay anything at all for it is even more difficult to find than that.

He was in his early forties. Distinguished-looking. He didn’t see himself as handsome. He was only middling tall. He used a walking stick (not a cane; call it a shillelagh instead), because of the old double-knee break and the finding of chondromalacia afterward (a type of arthritis; that’s what put him out of the Navy, when they found that). He felt like no woman would ever care about him.

But he met me. And found out he was wrong.

I think, for once in his life, Michael was glad to be proven wrong. (Michael loved being right more than anyone I’ve ever known.) I didn’t care about him not having work at the time, because I knew how hard-working he was, and the more I found out about him, the more intrigued I was. I didn’t care about him not having any money, because I didn’t have any myself. And I did care about him being creative, because I was creative, too…and had been vastly misunderstood, too.

Anyway, I put that in there to try to illustrate why Michael felt there would be no one out there for him.

I wonder, sometimes, if other men feel like this. They aren’t wealthy. They don’t have big houses. They don’t have fancy cars. They don’t have Rolexes, or any status symbol possessions. And our consumer-driven culture makes them think that no one will care, no one at all, unless they have these things…

But being a man is about much more than making money. It’s about caring for others, nurturing them, helping them. It’s about finding out who you are and maximizing your talents. It’s about sacrifice, sometimes. It’s about making choices, and rolling with the punches, and finding your own way through the thicket of what is supposed to be “masculine” behavior. It’s about finding yourself, and working on yourself, and doing whatever you can to do good in this world.

My husband succeeded, as a man.

And I will celebrate that success, all the days of my life.

*****

Anyway, here are the other bloggers this month celebrating International Men’s Day with me; go read their blogs, too, and let them know what you think!

Ipuna Black — International Men’s Day: A Father

Jane Love — A Real Man, Part 1

Mylene Orillo — A Tribute to All the Men in My Life

Sadaf Siddiqi (will be posting later due to family illness)

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Written by Barb Caffrey

November 19, 2018 at 9:50 am

10 Responses

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  1. c4c

    Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    November 19, 2018 at 10:00 am

  2. […] Barb Caffrey: Collaboration With a Purpose: Let’s Talk About Men […]

  3. Oh, Barb! This was absolutely beautiful. I could feel your love for Michael with every word. What a beautiful relationship that often only comes once in a lifetime or for some, never at all. Thank you for opening up your soul to us. I really struggled with this blog post because, to be honest, I didn’t have great male role models in my life growing up. My husband is wonderful, so I’ve been blessed.
    I love how simple you are, and you saw Michael’s heart not wallet. I loved this. Have a great day! Love, Ipuna

    Ipuna Black

    November 19, 2018 at 6:34 pm

    • Thanks, Ipuna. I appreciate the kind words.

      Michael and I both shared a common ethos, if you will. But he was in San Francisco, and I was in the Midwest. We didn’t have a mutual friend until 2001. We were introduced by that friend. And then, good things started to happen…he told me, several times, that he was very glad we met when we were both ready for each other. (He said this mostly because I wished very strongly that I’d have met him when I was eighteen!)

      I’m glad you have a wonderful husband, too. That’s great. I want everyone I know to have a fulfilling, mutually beneficial relationship where you feel lifted up and blessed every day, even when times get hard and bad (as they will do for anyone, because life can be like that sometimes). That’s the best way to live, IMHO.

      Barb Caffrey

      November 19, 2018 at 7:11 pm

      • Sooooo sweet. I love it. Thank you for sharing that with me.

        Ipuna Black

        November 21, 2018 at 11:04 am

  4. […] Barb Caffrey @ Barb Caffrey’s Blog (“So, if you believe in any sort of Higher Power, one of the things you need to remember is to forgive yourself once in a while.”) Let’s Talk about Men […]

  5. […] Barb Caffrey: Let’s Talk About Men (International Men’s Day) […]

  6. Super loved this paragraph, “But being a man is about much more than making money. It’s about caring for others, nurturing them, helping them. It’s about finding out who you are and maximizing your talents. It’s about sacrifice, sometimes. It’s about making choices, and rolling with the punches, and finding your own way through the thicket of what is supposed to be ‘masculine’ behavior. It’s about finding yourself, and working on yourself, and doing whatever you can to do good in this world.” Nice to hear from you again!

    Mylene Orillo

    December 9, 2018 at 6:26 pm

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it, Mylene. 🙂 All best to you and yours. 😀

      Barb Caffrey

      December 10, 2018 at 2:34 am


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