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Far From Typical

by Sean

I loved my dad. From what I hear, he loved me long before I was born. He cried in the delivery room; he was the first to hold me. Growing up as an only child in a small extended family meant I had to rely on my dad for every cue on the road to being a man. I was shy in school, but essentially turned my back on the male population after a series of events that took place between 1st and 6th grade. I quickly learned that I was not welcomed by other boys, that I was “fat” (after drinking too much water at the water fountain during recess one day, earning myself the name “water pig” for a few weeks, but which left me with a dismal self-image), that, while fully able to play sports, I wasn’t needed or wanted on any team, and that anti-gay/homophobic slurs were part of the language used to express frustration or disapproval (first hearing terms like “fag” when i was only 7). By combining the confusing and seemingly out-of-nowhere verbal attacks from peers with the taunts from coaches/PE teachers at school, I simply knew I could not trust many other men besides my father. I’ve always made friends with girls/women VERY easily. I’m in no way saying I’m a smooth talker or that I think I’m God’s gift to the female sex – I simply found it easy to talk to girls and I enjoyed their company. This was especially confusing when, at the age of 8, I was being called a fagot by the other boys for hanging out with mostly other girls – aren’t boys SUPPOSED to talk to girls? Isn’t that what men are supposed to spend their time doing from age 15 until death? I was just getting a head start, that’s all! My father and about 4 other boys who weren’t jerks were the only males that I was comfortable around.

This was before I became more aware of the actions and words of my father. Long story short, he was abusive (physically/verbally) to my mother for 17 years out of their 20 year marriage, and to me from 5th grade until my senior year in high school. The last strong man I knew and loved turned on my mother and myself and destroyed my perception of what it meant to not only be a man, but to be a Christian man. My best friend at the time, Jason, was of little help – not knowing what to say or how to respond to my admission of inner turmoil and public pain made him uncomfortable so much that by senior year he simply stopped talking to me.

My parents got divorced when I was 15, I haven’t spoken to my father since 2003, and I’ve had to figure out what it means to “be a man” on my own, with few living models available (teachers helped, but I was without any solid male support). As I’m writing this, two things pop up in my mind:

1. I sound like I want a pity party (I don’t, really. I know others have had lives far more difficult than I have)
2. I sound pretty pathetic. “What kinda guy didn’t play football, and prefer to have mostly other guy friends growing up?”

I’ve met some awesome guys in college and at work, but again, that strong and healthy male influence just hasn’t been there. I don’t know what it’s like to go to chapel and high five a bunch of my buddies, I don’t make friends with other guys very easily in classes because school + other guys = (usually) bad memories, and perhaps most disheartening of all is the fact that while I do have buddies from work, I don’t have one friend who is a guy AND a Christian. I seem to be fighting something on multiple fronts and, what’s worse is I feel that I’m losing the battle.

There’s no escaping how pathetic this post sounds and I’m just as bored/uncomfortable/ weirded out by this “confession” as you are, dear reader.

I do know that good men exist, that there are fathers who love and build up their families, and that there are men that have solid relationships with Christ… but I have yet to really have fellowship with one them.

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