There is only one thing you need to know about men, we are boys. I'm not trying to be flip, I don't mean farts and butt jokes and the word duty and weird dances and, well, boobs - heh-heh, duty.
Peel back your onion please.
Men are formed as boys and... Listen, let's just get this out of the way, I am generalizing here, stereotyping, profiling, even. I am not marginalizing or devaluing any one's experience. Stories need archetypes. So, when I say boys, I mean me and my friends growing up and when I say men I mean me and the thousands of guys I've had the privilege to know over the fifty-plus years I've known men.
I am watching two boys become men, which is in my mind simply growing out of boyhood. I, of course, saw this coming. Or at least I thought I did. As it turns out, I am also witnessing my own childhood and remembering my own boyness. I am finding that a bit offputting and, well, melancholy.
I was recently at the grocery store and, as I was checking out, I recognized a face in the little bank they have in groceries these days. It was the bearded, bespectacled face of a big man in a tailored suit and striped tie. I couldn't place it. Once I was done, I glanced over one more time and the right neurons sparked and I remembered him from a group I'd been involved with a few years back. He'd been watching me and when I looked his way he was smiling and gave me a little wave.
Here's the thing, though, I didn't see a grown man, I saw the little boy who still lived in him. I saw a shy boy with an impish grin looking to be recognized, longing for attention, hoping for connection. I saw the shadow sadness that fills so many boys as they struggle to fit in. His beard and glasses faded away from his face, his suit became a sports uniform, his shoulders dropped a bit and a certain pureness come over him.
I was watching a grandfather at church the other day. He and his wife, both easily in their seventies I'd guess, had two young children with them, three and five maybe, and were working hard to keep them quiet and at least somewhat engaged. The woman held the three-year-old girl in a pretty yellow dress and white sandals for most of the service. The older man was left with the boy with plastered hair, khakis, a white shirt and nice clip-on tie. The grandfather looked tired and a little stern. The boy was fidgety and that seemed to frustrate him a bit. The boy had two little yellow plastic trucks - the same yellow as his sister's dress - and wanted to play with them.
I looked away, distracted by our boys who were nearly as fidgety as that little boy, and, when I looked back at the boy and his granddad, I saw something different. I saw the little boy playing with the trucks, moving them slowly and quietly on the pew, occasionally jumping a hymnal or ending up vertical on the one in front of him. And then, I noticed his playmate. Another boy, perhaps a little older, rolling his truck, bumping the other boy's, a look of conspiratorial happiness on his smiling face. The weight of seriousness, of piety, of time, had melted away and I saw the older brother he'd perhaps been. I saw his boyness, tarnished perhaps, flicker in an old-time movie sort of way. I saw him as he once was and, I am just coming to understand this, as he, we, still are.
I am in the bathroom washing my hands. I look in the mirror and check my teeth using the classic Cheshire cat grin. I raise my eyebrows in surprise. I try one singularly, and then the other, failing both times. This results in a sort of grimace because I've forgotten to shut my mouth. I smile at how silly I look. I try a little grin, unable, as I've always been, to muster up anything better than creepy. I make a scary face. I, well.. mug.
I unexpectedly realize that it is not the graying, wrinkled, wizening old man that should be the visage in the mirror, no, it is this boy.
|Me, Grade Five|
There's more, there's always more. Nick has been watching me and, as I am drying my hands, he comes in and starts mugging in his own style. I give him a dirty look when he raises his eyebrows one at a time, he knows I can't do it. He favors a raised chin, sort of profiley, approach. He laughs as I mimic him. He pulls his ears out and and taunts me. I roll my eyes with exaggeration, he does it better.
A not unpleasant sort of vertigo overcomes me, brought on by the strange swirl of faces - one in front of me, him in the mirror, me in the mirror, the real me, the boy me, him now, him watching me seeing myself as him and... I want to jump into the looking-glass, to be that boy, because that is when I best understood the man I would be, the man I am.
I put my my towel away and wink at him. He winks back. I leave, but I sneak a peek at him just as I am almost out of sight, he is practicing his winking...
He never questioned what I was doing, never thought it odd, he just jumped right in. Boys are like that, and, in their little boy's soul, men are too.
I think on my boyhood more now than I have ever done in the past. I've always remembered it, childhood, carried it with me, but, the truth is I never spent much time reflecting on it. Now, though, the boys have given me the keys and legend to the map that gets me from now to then and, indeed, back again.
If I were you, I think I might grow weary of hearing my cry of "wait, there's more."
You might remember from pre-algebra that if an equation works one way, it works in the other way as well. Something about the inverse being true or is that a syllogism...?
If men are indeed boys, then, inherent in that statement, boys are indeed men. It's a sadder equation, I think, and...
Well, that's a story for another time.
Thanks for coming around, I know it gets confusing around here, I hope you'll forgive that.
From Marci's "... things you don't expect to hear from the backseat ..."
"I am a majestical monkey goat ... Baaa!"
(yes, it's weird here)
I get it, but, I am just a boy... hehe, "butt."