When Men Were MEN!

Today I was reminded of a conversation I had with a dear friend of mine several years ago. He told me of a time when he was embarrassed about ‘needing’ to work a second job. He had a professional job, a career, but at the time he had some personal, financial goals that his professional job didn’t allow him to meet. So being the responsible adult that he was, he decided to get a second job stocking shelves at night. It wasn’t illegal or immoral, but it also wasn’t what was expected of a professional man of his caliber and career potential, so he kept it a closely guarded secret. He didn’t tell his friends or family because he didn’t want them to think less of him. He finally told a close friend after having to miss her birthday party to work. She ridiculed him for taking a job doing menial labor. After that he didn’t tell anyone else. But he continued to, quietly, work toward achieving his financial goals.

I was reminded of that conversation today while reading a story about former American Idol Justin Guarini. In one of his blogs he mentioned that he’s gone without meals to feed his children. The comment made me cringe. It’s reminiscent of the men who ‘brag’ about taking care of their kids. Um, THAT’S WHAT YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO DO!!! If you create a child, man or woman, you’re SUPPOSED to take care of that child at all costs. If you’re raising a family and times are tough and someone has to miss a meal, it SHOULD be the dad/the head of the household. It’s not like we live in the agricultural age where the men went out and toiled away in the fields all day and needed the extra nourishment. Guarini sings for a living. He’s perfectly capable of singing on an empty stomach. I guarantee it – I’ve done a lot more with nothing in my belly.

Guarini’s story reminded me of that conversation years ago because I realized, once again, that men come in two different forms: Actual MEN and boys pretending to be men. MEN WORK. Period. A man does what he needs to do to meet his responsibilities. And they do it without seeking or needing praise. I remember telling my friend that all the men I knew had a ‘hustle.’ When I say hustle, I don’t mean anything illegal. By ‘hustle’ I mean that they used whatever skills they had to earn extra money to take care of their families. I knew men who had jobs, some white collar jobs, but could also fix cars, do carpentry work, do taxes, mow lawns, shovel snow, help people move . . . anything they could do to make sure the bills were paid and the kids had all the nice extras. It’s all I knew growing up in the working class cities of Detroit & Inkster, Michigan. I wasn’t used to a man saying he didn’t have enough money and then doing absolutely nothing about it. In fact, when I moved to Chicago in the early 2000’s I was shocked by the number of “men” I encountered who said, “I don’t make enough money on my 9 to 5.” I immediately wondered, “Well, what are you doing from 5 to 9??” It seemed to me that they had a lot of spare time that they weren’t using effectively. My motto has always been, “I don’t want to hear you complain if you’re not doing anything to fix the problem!!”

I shared my story with my friend and let him know that he hadn’t had anything to be ashamed about. Today, he’s older, more mature and is no longer ashamed of having been a responsible adult in his younger years. I told him that if more ‘men’ were like him, that our society would be in much better shape.