August 28, 2009

A Visible Mark of Manhood? A Question

When I see a pierced and tattooed young male, I somewhat understand the ancient call he hears. Beneath the bravado, I understand the desire to make a statement, to be visible at all, and to wear the proof that he can handle the pain . . . like a man. It's actually an ancient custom.

However, in our masculine history, it used to be the men of the tribe that marked the young male. That event took place after the boy had negotiated all the trials, training, and rituals that define a man. The marking was painful for both the men and the boy (see the men's faces in the photo below), but when the deed was done, it was clear to everyone the young male had crossed into new territory.


Is it possible, that however alone and unguided, today's marked young men are trying to lay a claim to Manhood?

August 23, 2009

Michael Jackson on (Lost) Boyhood

OK, just for a moment, withhold all your judgments about this man. Try to get past the glamor and his late life history to listen as he begins to touch on his very real pain and speak some truth about lost boys. The clip is from his 1993 acceptance speech at the 35th Annual Grammy Awards.

If the clip below doesn't show up, click here.

Can you find some compassion for him? There are hundreds of thousands of lost boys like him.

August 17, 2009

Father Hunger

I was severely under-fathered. My father was an alcoholic, an emotional terrorist, unavailable to me or the family. It's a long, sad story I've spent most of my life trying to understand, accept, and heal from. The Man-Making book is part of that legacy.

I've heard similar stories from so many men and witnessed that longing in countless young males. When I received a story by an almost 60 year-old man, speaking of father hunger, longing, and emotional confusion, I thought it would be important to share. I believe the hole left behind in the psyche of males who were under-fathered (or who had no fathering) leads to a powerful but subtle form of low-male-self-esteem. I know that sense of insufficiency personally and I also know it's part of the reason men don't show up for boys.

Father's, hug your sons, tell them you're proud of them, and then listen for the father hunger in this story from Charley:

My ending with my dad was very unsatisfying, like nearly all of our relationship. He died a year after my first son was born (now 17 years ago). He never saw my son, never seemed very interested. I found out later that he had experienced a series of mini-strokes that left him impaired in ways more serious than his lifelong alcoholism. But even years before that I found him uncomfortable in social situations and stiff and ungenerous in any expressions of

affection. He was quick to make a satirical comment, though his lack of connectedness to the world made his humor dull and mean.

I can't help thinking I was a big disappointment to him, though being one of ten it's easy to exaggerate my importance (even as a disappointment) to him. I was "supposed" to be "the" priest in the big Catholic family. The idea was if you have 10 kids (7 boys) surely you can spare one for the priesthood. Puberty convinced me quickly that wasn't a good idea. Then came "the hippies." We fought about everything, but in the end mostly hair, believe it or not. When I came home from college for the first time and had managed to grow my hair a bit, he didn't want to let me in the house.

I have a few good memories of him. Like Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino, he had tools and taught me a little (not too much) about them. He liked to tell ghost stories and was good at it. He tried in his clumsy way to give us experiences -- dune buggy riding at Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes on Lake Michigan, canoeing down the Au Sable river in Michigan, shooting rats with a .22 in an abandoned house. But overall, I pretty much dreaded his presence, stalwartly put up with his interrogations (with TV blaring in front of us)... my mom hovering about with snacks, trying to keep the worst from erupting.

Yes, it's hard to find "the good" in all this, though I do try. I did learn to work and still take some pleasure in "task" that may have something to do with him.

If you can touch the father hunger in you, you will have found a reason to step up to support a young male who is starving for the kind of male acknowledgment that can fill some of the emptiness. It's never going to be as powerful as what might have gotten from his father, but it can be life saving.