Better Men Than I
I remember last year, a particular night when I was back home for the holidays. My boy and I decided we would go out to this club — or what qualifies as a club in the little old Monterey area where we were raised — and find some trouble to get into with the opposite sex.
A couple hours passed by, a couple drinks were drank, then my night was ruined. I ran into someone I didn’t expect to run into. It was my sister’s boyfriend.
He wasn’t in the crowd like me. He was actually on the outskirts, talking and socializing with club security, which made sense since he is the size of a guy who works club security. But for the rest of the night, my attention went from all the ladies in the place with style and grace, to a man the size of Biggie (geez that was corny), the man who is now the father to my niece. And though he remained by club security, not really giving any women any kind of attention, I couldn’t help but watch his every move. Even after we exchanged pleasantries. Even as the club closed, I wasn’t going anywhere until I saw him go back to his car.
And I realized then, I don’t trust men very much.
When I told my sister the next day I saw her boyfriend, she said she knew. I told her I was looking out. She said he wasn’t like me and I laughed a little, but I also told her I know and that’s why I like him.
Truth be told, I had no reason to be concerned with my sister’s boyfriend. All the years I have known him, I have never had a problem with him, and more importantly, my sister has never had a problem with either. At least not that she’s told me. They’ve been together for years now, and now they have a child together. So to an extent, I trust my sister’s boyfriend, but that’s the thing, it’s only to an extent. The same extent given to my step-dad.
These men who are in the lives of the most important women in my life are good men, but I don’t put anything past them. I love them both — my sister’s boyfriend, my step-dad — but I have also seen my sister and my mother brought to tears by men who came before them. And so, it makes me weary.
What also makes me wary? The times where I have been the same man my mother and sister cried over.
There have been times where I embody the kind of man a parent warns her daughter about; the kind of man I would never want my sister to bring home or my mother to bring home. And it’s nothing I’m proud to say, nothing for which I want sympathy, it’s just a reality I think is necessary to put out there because I don’t think people — women especially — understand the dilemma of men.
Us hypocritical, pot-calling-the-kettle-black, men. We’re willing to fight and defend our mothers, sisters, daughters, nieces, aunts, and sister-like best friends against any man who does them physical or emotional harm, but then turn around and treat someone else’s mother, sister, daughter, niece, aunt, sister-like best friend, the exact way we would defend against. We don’t trust men to do the right thing because there were times we didn’t do the right thing ourselves.
And how can I defend those times? How do I square up the prayers I have for my mother and sister to be treated right by their men, while asking for forgiveness for the way I have treated women?
On the surface, it seems fundamental, something women question aloud all the time. They ask, “Why can’t you treat a woman like you would want a man to treat your mother or your sister?” To which I say “Because I was born with the love of my mother and sister. The love for another woman who isn’t related to me like that is a love I have to learn and I’m learning.”
I don’t know if that’s an excuse or a reason, but I do know it’s something all men have to learn. And as much as I hope to become a master in the art of being a good man, sometimes what I pray for even more, is the men who are in the lives of the women who are most important to me, have already mastered it for themselves.