This post has been really difficult for me to write. It’s a complicated ball of emotions that is very tightly tangled. I’m not really even sure how to pick it up and examine it, let alone attempt to untangle it, but I feel that it is vital for me to put voice to it.
I never thought about it actively, but for the most part, I have been raised primarily by women. I grew up with my mom, my abuela, my aunt, and even when I did go to visit my dad, I spent a large portion of that time with my stepsisters, my stepmom, and my aunts. I will be forever grateful to the incredible women in my life who have helped shaped me into the woman that I am. It’s not uncommon for men to be sort of checked out emotionally from the people closest to them. Most of the people I know have some kind of tense relationship with their fathers, and I think that there’s a commonly supported belief that you can get on just fine without them if you need to. While I don’t have a bad relationship with my father, I don’t have a particularly close one either, and for most of my life I also subscribed to the belief that I didn’t need to be close to him in order to feel whole.
My uncles, and I do have them, never seemed particularly interested in spending time with me, aside from the standard how are you doing? My dad made efforts to do things with me, take me places, etc. and I think attempted to connect through activities, as many men do. But I never got the emotional connection that I so desired through that. My maternal grandpa was probably the closest I came to fatherly love, as he was always very affectionate towards me, but I also never spoke with him about anything that required much vulnerability. I have one brother, cut from the same cloth. While he is able to recognise the lack of love from our shared male figures, he himself isn’t able to be particularly vulnerable or emotionally giving. And how could he, brought up in the same emotionally crippled environment that is our patriarchal culture?
Very rarely do I reach out to my father or brother for emotional support, but when Chris died, I felt compelled to call them. For the first time, I felt like I needed to lean on the men in my life. Both of them had a similar reaction, which was a quiet discomfort. They didn’t really know what to say to me, so they said something akin to “I’m sorry to hear that, that sucks.”
It’s taken me a few months of reflecting to really pinpoint this. I’ve been feeling the loss of Chris in a lot of ways that I can’t quite describe. From the outside looking in, I lost a friend. A really, really, good friend. Hell, a best friend. But that’s not quite it. When Chris died, I lost the only real male love that I had in my life.
This is a particularly jagged piece of my soul that I’ve never been able to directly address.
Male love doesn’t necessarily have to come from your father, but ideally that would be the first place you’d find it. Male love, as female love, is a balancing, necessary force. As all of us are carrying both male and female aspects, so we need those balancing forces in our lives. Don’t get me wrong, my dad is a nice man who is very responsible, and I do think tried his best to do well by us with the tools that he had. He always made sure we went to do things, taking us to the park or amusement parks, trying to make sure we had fun. But I honestly don’t remember much of those things. I remember the conversations we’ve had, where we would just hang out, and of those, there are few. I remember in those conversations, him absentmindedly telling me that he never wanted children. That when he took my stepmom and stepsisters on trips without my brother and I, that he “didn’t have a choice” because of my mother’s rules. It always seemed like rather than fighting to have a personal, loving relationship with me, despite whatever my mom did or said, it was just easier for him to take the path of least resistance. It was easier to see me just once a year, and not insist on anything more even though I was his kid too. All I really ever wished was that my dad could express some tenderness towards me, some level of intimacy, to let me know that I was important to him. Instead, we talk about work, or politics, and he endlessly dishes out advice that I expect he hopes I will follow. To tell him that I love him, then and still now, feels somewhat like a lie. How can you truly love somebody who you cannot trust with your heart, and who cannot share even a small part of their heart with you?
Chris and I dated a few times. We went from being in love to being out of it, and then to this place of indestructible love that is usually reserved for family. Chris was my family. I’ve said this before but he was, even through boyfriends and girlfriends, the man in my life for almost half of my life. Chris was the kindest, most loving, giving, tender man I knew. At first, like most men, he was limited in his ability to express his emotions. But I think that after we broke up, and still remained friends, our friendship became a safe space to be vulnerable without the risk of rejection. I knew, without a doubt, that Chris loved me and if I needed him, that he would be there. He proved that every time. Rather than call my dad or brother for support, I would turn to Chris. If I needed a man’s opinion, I would ask Chris. He gave me his love without question, and I loved him for everything that he was. He was the most stabilizing male force in my life.
With the death of Chris, so has gone that stability. Again, I have nothing but incredible, loving, supportive women in my corner and they are invaluable. But how many times I wish I could just turn to the arms of my father or brother or uncle and be held by them and feel their love. Instead of them trying to fix things and give me advice for everything, or feeling that my vulnerability made them uncomfortable, that they could just embrace me and let me be there with them.
When Chris died, I was living with my best friend and her husband. I was in the living room while her husband was on the couch. When I read the message, I started to hyperventilate and he rushed over to me. All I could make out was “Chris died” and he immediately wrapped his arms around me for probably a good 5 minutes, without flinching. He didn’t try to offer advice, or tell me what I should be doing; he didn’t say anything at all. I will never forget that moment.
With this realization comes a lot of questions. It’s liberating to be able to speak on your truth or pain, but what do you do with it? Sincerely loving men are hard to come by. Men who can give of themselves emotionally and know how to love wholly are unfortunately rare. I’m coming to the realization that I need men like that in my life, in some capacity, and right now, without them, I’m finding it hard to cope with the loss of the only one I’ve ever had. In all honesty, I’m scared that without finding a way to address it, I will end up looking for that stable male love in romantic partners, and I don’t think what I’m looking for can be found there. I’d like very much to end this post with some sort of answer, some kind of clear path to healing that hurt, but I don’t have one. I’ve never really gone to therapy for myself, but I think it’s about time that I do.
In the meantime, I’m trying to examine the emotional tangle. I don’t even know if my dad or brother read this blog, even though they have the link, but if they do, I hope they know that this isn’t an attack on them. Both of them are also victims of a patriarchal culture that doesn’t allow men to express the full capacity of human emotions, so how can I expect them to be able to connect with me on that level without doing the serious undertaking of learning to love? Still, the pain is there, and I’m feeling the acute loss of Chris radiating through every aspect of my emotional life. In the meantime, I remain squarely within the tangle, from which I hope one day to be removed.
Happy trails x