It’s funny how “thugs” overlook the sensitivity it takes be to be pissed when somebody steps on your new shoes. Or when a so called gangsta gets angry enough to consider murder because a guy looks at his girl. But men aren’t emotional. As a psychologist it would be very irresponsible for me to make a general statement suggesting that feelings shouldn’t matter. However, we suffer when men have limited language, support and understanding regarding the role of emotions. You mad if I look at you the wrong way, but you don’t feel nothing about your community being destroyed in front of your eyes?
My 2nd son was born a few weeks ago. I was 99% sure it wasn’t mine based on information I got from a source I trusted. But that extra .99% from the DNA test was more confident. His mother has been a champ about it. She didn’t slash any tires or drag my name thru the mud. She waited patiently, went to doctor’s appointments, had a baby shower, a natural birth, then met me in the back room of a Family Dollar for the classy cheek swab. And now here we are. I owe her, her mother, and her sister circle for the healthy delivery of our son.
After taking a few days to catch my breath I went over to see him. I didn’t feel anything. Not anger, or fear, or whatever love is supposed to feel like. I didn’t feel any connection. I envy the way his mother talks about the magic she feels. I’ve heard husbands wish they could experience the intimacy mothers feel through pregnancy, but without all the stretch marks and stitches. Perhaps mothers and fathers are different for a reason. I keep going to see him anyway. I’ve literally said outloud “it just needs to hear my voice”. Which I know makes people cringe. This wasn’t meant to be a polite blog (the title was a clue). I’m writing this for colored boys who considered abortion, when their discipline wasn’t enough. But it didn’t matter because it’s not our decision to make.
I’m mid thirties now. I’m in a different position then many of the young men I meet. My work is most effective when I use myself. I get to say: “fam I get it, I still struggle with some of the same stuff, condoms are stupid, and sometimes the world gets dark and you need to feel close, babies are expensive, babies are amazing, single, co, and village parenting is challenging, decisions have consequences, but you powerful enough to handle anything if you approach it right and get support.” Too often, what young men do instead is get overwhelmed by the fear and disappointment, create drama with mother, make himself seem unfit, push her away until she thinks she’s better off without him, so later he gets to call her crazy and accuse her of keeping him from his kids. That’s not what men do.
There are a couple intersecting realities we don’t like to talk about. Technology exposes kids to sex earlier. They have less models of healthy male/female interactions. America encourages pleasure seeking to youth but Black kids don’t have a safety net after they finish playing. Men are encouraged to use women. Black kids are stressed, sex is a natural stress relief, that causes more stress later. The adults are too busy or afraid or still acting like the kids or just have no idea what to say to say young people anymore. These conditions don’t seem to be getting any better. Our definitions of manhood must continually evolve to adjust to the changing realities of family structure.
My son needs my commitment right now much more than he needs my poetry. His well-being is intricately connected to his mother’s well-being. I’m not a scientist but I think stress curdles breast milk and spoils it or something. So I have to do whatever I can to support her, when I feel like it and when I don’t. Nothing is more important. Not my brand, or what people are gonna say, or whether it feels real to me yet. It might not be Hallmark right now, but that’ll come later. It might take weeks or months, but I know it will happen. Once upon a time I had second thoughts about my first son, who became the greatest love I’ve ever known. In the meantime, they need me to show up. To be present. They need my actions, not my feelings. They could use my help carrying heavy things, and changing diapers, and making sure he don’t roll off the couch, and running to the store. One time I was over there asking his grandmother about his grandfather, and the mother said “oh wow, I didn’t even know that.” That’s the stuff that matters now. Getting to know them. Ain’t no rush. I ain’t going nowhere. I will sit quietly and collect these stories and memories of my son’s family. Because they’re my family now.
*I apologize to those of you that are finding out about this through a blog. I haven’t been ready to talk about this.*