The other day I was driving a group of young women into the city for an event. I was the only guy in the van surrounded by women and as usually is the case, a conversation about gender eventually ensued. At some point, we started talking about things men don’t understand about women that are never properly communicated. For example, in college, I used to think that if my wife ever hit me, giving her a brief shake would be a healthy alternative to hitting her back. I learned the hard way that women think differently. But this is something that virtually no woman ever tells a guy so guys go around legitimately thinking this would be okay.
I then decided to explore things from the guys’ side and asked the women if they wanted to know some things women don’t understand about men that men find annoying. They, of course, were intrigued. So one example I gave was that whenever a man is asked to do something by a woman like find her purse, clean something, or ask for directions and fails for whatever reason, the woman’s response is often, “You’re such a man.”
Women don’t seem to realize that comments like that take some men back to their childhood when their mothers first castrated them by telling them, “Boys will be boys.” every time they did something bad. I find that I walk around failing at things left and right and subconsciously thinking it’s because “I’m such a man.” If our society tells us that to be like a girl is to be weak, then to be like a man is to be stupid.
At some point in this conversation, I arrive at a traffic light and realize that I’m in the wrong lane. If I don’t switch lanes immediately, I’ll head straight into a tunnel and have to pay some hellishly expensive toll. There’s a traffic cop ahead of us waving traffic along. I quickly scan the road to make sure the lane on my right is empty and swerve into it to avoid the tunnel. What I don’t know is that there is a line of cones that I don’t see and the van crushes one of them as I switch lanes. What I also don’t know is how angry this will make the traffic cop.
This guy goes from zero to one hundred quicker than Usain Bolt on a conveyor belt.
“What the F$%K is your problem?!” he screams, marching up to the van.
The women behind me quietly start pleading the blood of Jesus over whatever demon is manifesting in this man and I try not to laugh. Laughing would not be good. No. Not at all.
“I’m sorry,” I reply.
And he proceeds to let out a string of expletives at me for being so f-ing stupid that I couldn’t see him f-ing waving at me. He stomps up to the window and is 4-5 seconds from reaching in, grabbing my collar, and dragging me out of the car. I may have failed to mention that he’s also white. Which makes this situation all the more sensitive.
As this guy is about to pop a blood vessel going off on me, 3 thoughts go through my head.
One: This man is coming for my life in front of all of these women. This is embarrassing.
Two: I’m not about to let this man embarrass me in front of all of these women. I should tell him to calm the f down because it’s not my f-ing fault his boss is f-ing his wife. I should open the door and smack it into his chest and knock the wind out of him so he’ll stop talking so reckless. I should switch the radio station and blast Chance and scream, “YOU DON’T WANT NO PROBLEMS WANT NO PROBLEMS WIT ME!!!” A whole host of “manly” responses go through my head, but I realize that none of them are like me. So…
Three: This man is gonna keep roasting me in front of these women and I’m gonna take it because I’m a “nice guy”. I’m also a bad driver because I couldn’t see these cones.
But thankfully, God inserts His own two cents into the situation and whispers to me,”This is NOT a big deal. You’re fine.”
So I let this guy go on grilling me to no end and periodically respond with, “I’m sorry…This is my mistake…Do you want me to move?”
Apparently, the cone is now lodged underneath the van and the guy gets down on the ground to remove it, cursing up a storm as he does. He eventually gets it out, puts it back then launches a few more f bombs at me before the light turns green and I drive away.
Two years ago, that kind of thing would have destroyed me. I would’ve smiled on the outside and apologized profusely to the women. But once I was alone, I would’ve crucified myself for being so stupid, such a failure, and for being “such a man”. Thankfully, I’ve grown a lot since then and I just sighed and brushed it off, mildly worried that the women had to see that. But then one of the women said something to me that made my day.
“Thank you for keeping a cool head, Emmanuel,” she said. “That was a very manly response.”
“Thank you,” I said.
“If that had been my husband,” she went on. “We would’ve gone to jail.”
We all laughed. But I held onto that. As small as it seemed, that one sentence landed somewhere deep in my soul and fed the man inside me who’d been starved of affirmation.
Ladies, you know what it’s like to be belittled with phrases such as “like a girl”. Don’t return the favor. If you know a guy, take a moment to affirm him today and encourage his manhood. Trust me. It’ll go a long way.