I lie to myself and I lie to others, particularly when I am in the presence of men because there is a piece of me that feels deficient and defective. This piece of me is part of who I am; it is unacceptable and irreparable and therefore must be kept hidden at all costs. Most of the lies I keep to myself.
This inferior part of myself tells me that I have had no way of measuring up to the impossible image of what it is to be a man, as constructed in popular culture and from the stories I tell myself in my own head and heart. The pull of the male bastions of the Ball field, the Bedroom and the Billfold, identified by Joe Ehrmann, loom large. “I am not man enough” is the “Big Lie” that gives birth to all of the other lies I tell myself in one form or another and there are many.
Enter M3 into my life in the summer of 2003, in Ed’s first Gallery in New Hope. I knew nothing of Ed Adams and little of the Organization but I was drawn to the community of men who endeavored not to “shame” one another and would not broadcast my deficiencies to the larger world. In some strange way the men seemed to know something about me before I arrived.
Before my first meeting I “knew” I would not belong, that the other men would all be much more accomplished, educationally and professionally and would be much wealthier than I. They lived in upper Bucks County for god’s sake and had already proven enough comfort with their own masculinity to participate in a men’s group. Why was I focused on this in the first place?
This is why I took a strange approach to the group. While I was eager to jump in and discuss pent up thoughts and feelings in the presence of other men and to tap into the collective male energy, I was reluctant to have dinner with the other men before the meetings. I was there to “work” on myself, not to make friends.
I have since noticed that many other men behave just the opposite; they are more comfortable participating in the social events of M3 and reluctant to commit to regularly participation in the bi-weekly meetings.
There is nothing wrong with either approach, however from my perspective, they are both incomplete and may be evidence of lies we tell ourselves. I now understand that part of me felt unworthy and apart from the men of M3.
A notion persists that M3 is a group of thoughtful men, as if there is a prerequisite trait of “male thoughtfulness” that men must possess in order to participate. I do not believe this is the case; the only prerequisite required is the interest and willingness to do so in the company of other men. It may seem like a subtle difference but I believe an important one.
I relied on the safety of the meetings. Once in them, I was then prepared to engage issues fully, despite my profound discomfort in doing so. As I result, I did not look forward to going to meetings but was always exhilarated by what had transpired and glad I had attended. Early on I missed out on the loose friendship and camaraderie of men simply being together.
The lies I think I see some other men telling themselves when they participate mainly in the social aspects of M3, is that that they are not up to taking on the difficult issues in their lives; that somehow life can be well lived on the high side, without delving into the darker more painful parts of life. That some things are too painful to acknowledge or reveal to ourselves and others; that somehow we will be overtaken by emotion or taken down by fear.
In both cases our beliefs hold us back from being vulnerable, taking healthy risks and they interfere with our ability give and receive love.
As Dan Gotlieb expresses in a letter to his Autistic grandson, in his book “Letters to Sam,” “My early experiences with girls took place when I was in my teens. And like most boys of that age, I pretended to know more than I did, to be more competent and experienced than I was. I couldn’t turn to anyone for guidance. Not only that, but I didn’t feel any option to stop and think whether I was ready for this activity because there was so much pressure to “be a man.” And so I lied. I lied to the girls I was with about my experience. I lied to my male friends about the same thing, and I lied to myself about whether I was ready.”
“I am not sure why, but I think it is in the nature of men that we have to pretend to know things. If there’s something we don’t know, we try to fake it. But that doesn’t work well at all, especially when you find someone you love.”
Dan had a mentor who felt strongly about the importance of confusion; “Confusion is like fertilizer,” he said. “It feels like crap when it happens but nothing grows without it.”
Since participating in M3, I find I lie to myself and others much less often and I find I am better able to dismiss the “lies” I conjure up better than I did before. I have become much more comfortable with who I am as a man in all aspects of my life, including what I consider to be the three traditional male bastions. However, it continues to amaze me how quickly I can forget this. It is my propensity to forget, along with the grace of other men that keeps me coming back.
My fervent desire for each of the members of M3 and for all men is that you become willing to sit with what is uncomfortable and scary in your lives, to get to know and embrace the parts of yourself that seem ugly and unworthy according to the culture’s false notions of what it is to “be a man.”
In this way you will shrink your fear of not being enough down to size. You will be able to laugh at the absurdity of determining whether your cock is really big enough and all other manner of how men torture themselves. You will be able to relax in the company of other men with the growing sense that you are “Man Enough!”
More to come from me on this in the next Newsletter, please take what you like and leave the rest.
Big Love always,