A Conversation about Guys from a Guy (1)

It seems a trite platitude now to say that men and women are very different, but I would like to explore this a little more. The reason why I want to is to invite you all into this discussion I having with the lovely “MJ” from the Empowered Grace Blog. I will quote from Robert Bly‘s book Iron John and then share some thoughts with all of you :

bobbyBlyWhen a father, absent during the day, returns home at six, his children receive only his temperament, not his teaching. If the father is working for a corporation, what is there to teach? He is reluctant to tell his son what is really going on. The fragmentation of decision making in corporate life, the massive effort that produces the corporate willingness to destroy the environment for the sake of profit, the prudence , even cowardice that one learns in bureaucracy – who wants to teach that….. but in most families today, the sons and daughters receive, when the father returns home at six, only his disposition, or his temperament, which is usually remote and irritable…. a fathers remoteness may severely damage the daughter’s ability to participate good-heartedly in later relationship with men. Much of the rage that some women direct to the patriarchy stems from a vast disappointment over this lack of teaching of their own fathers. ….. the father as a living force in the home home disappeared when those forces demanding industry sent him on various railroads out of his various villages.

Some thoughts

I want to say that psychologically the process of maturing into adulthood is  very different for men and women. For a woman the coming of her first period is a biological as well as psychological catalyst from what I have witness and studied that sets her on the track towards becoming a woman. For males there is not act which  signals the start of this transition. This is why many so called “primitive” societies would put males between specified ages through an initiation. This initiation was presided over by  elder men inclusive of your father, uncles, grandfather etc. This was very significant. Of course some places were more extreme than others.

imagtmanilinsesI remember my pops telling me that when a boy turned 16 and showed himself a bit capable, he was allowed to wear long pants. Many young guys do not have a father figure at home or if they have one he has been reduced to a sort of clownish figure. Actually what’s interesting when I look back on the many sitcoms I remember watching the father is quite often loud and over bearing and resigned always to a special chair or the corner of the room. he thinks he is running the show but no one tells him how  effete  he has become

Many sons in the US however visualize the father as a simple object of ridicule to made fun of as, in fact he is so often in comic strips and television commercials. One young man summed it up: “A father is a person who rustles newspapers in the living room.”

So many boys look to gangs to get fulfilment and recognition and the initiation into manhood they need. I mean even I, was looking at one point to join a gang. I was filled with rage and wanted to be recognized. I knew some guys in a gangs as does my lady as she is from East Los Angeles. Actually one of her old friends went back to prison recently again for the  4 or 5 time.

I have seen many women do an amazing job as a single mom, but I feel that there is something that one gets from a man from the company of men that helps one along in the maturation process that a woman cannot provide. The point I am getting at is something my male friend and I have noticed is that even as adults we find ourselves lacking in certain departments. The things we are lacking then to show up in a serious way in our relationships with our significant others, there is a kind of attentiveness to detail that isn’t there, an ability to vocalize feelings, and approach intimacy in some settings. There is a kind of escapism too.

archie-bunker-chairThe home is a very political space. There is a place for pops and for moms, and the kid adn the dogs. Look at all in the children   fior examples Archie Bunker sat somewhere, Edith sat somewhere else There clearly many invisible lines in the American household, and that household and fragmentation continues in school, it continues in work.

I could go on and on but lemme stop it here

Lemme know what you think



Iron John: A Book About Men is a book by American poet Robert Bly published in 1990 by Addison-Wesley, and his best known work to the public at large. An exegesis of Iron John, a parable about a boy maturing into adulthood (monomyth) with help of the wild man, and part of the Grimms’ Fairy Tales published in 1812 by German folklorists Brothers Grimm, it spent 62 weeks on the The New York Times Best Seller list and went on to become a pioneering work in mythopoetic men’s movement. It uses Jungian psychology, various myths, legends, folklores, and fairy tales  to analyze Iron John in Bruno Bettelheim fashion, to find lessons especially meaningful to men and men’s movement. Bly believes that this fairy tale contains lessons from the past of great importance to modern men.

I have always been a big fan and reader of myth, Carl Jung as well as Jospeh Campbell since elementary school. I thought about being a psychotherapist once and during that time came upon the works in passing of Robert L. Moore. Who approaches and talks about many of the ideas Bly discusses but starting from a more scientific point of views



  1. Whew, I’m glad that my copy is coming in the mail. Seems like it will be quite the worthwhile read, no doubt about it.

    I greatly welcome this chance to talk about gender, roles, society, maturity and so on. As someone who views themselves androgynously, these are very interesting topics…but usually I am very quiet about them. It did not take long to learn that most people hate it when you don’t fit into the box they have for you. Even worse is when your life experiences actually straddle the boxes of Female Behavior/Actions and Male Behavior/Actions. Normally I am told that I’m just looking for attention, and that my natural behaviors and thoughts are simply an act.

    For example, my personal experiences lead me to disagree about how the start of a girl’s menstrual cycle helps to give her a concrete point at which to say “Yes, I am now a woman/becoming a woman”. When I got my first period it was the summer I turned 10 (about 3 months before my birthday). Regardless of what my body decided, American society does not call a 9 year old a “woman” under any circumstances.

    Not only that, but I was/am a voracious reader…by that time I’d already devoured books meant for people 6 years my senior. Having a 12th grade reading level by 5th grade has it’s perks. Anyway, I had already read the medical journals my grandma had from nursing school, and thus knew exactly what was happening. I went to the bathroom, put on a pad, and went on a bike ride. My parents didn’t find out until my 5th period that “I was a woman” because mom had noticed that her supplies were being used faster than normal. Even then, it was a 10 minute discussion about needing to go bra shopping and a reminder to use deodorant every day from now on.

    In my mind, I “became a woman” at age 21…the first time I had sex. I had no bleeding, no pain, and I was on top the entire time, but it was the first time I’d ever used my body in such a way that it really drove home the fact that it was/is female. I’ve spoken to many of my guyfriends about the first time they truly considered themselves “a real man”, and all but 1 said it was the first time they had sex…so it appears I’m still a tomboy even at my most feminine point.

    Just can’t do anything right, can I?

    Hey, enough about me though! When did anyone ELSE feel like an adult?


    • Thank for your comment tarnished!

      I really feel that you will like it.

      I shoudl immediately point out some imprecise statement I made that you brought my attention to. What I should have said concerning a womans first period is that physiologically it marks the biology point where the young female in question starts to display the phsyical characteristic iof a women. But feeling like a women has a psychological and sociological aspect too that that statment doesnt take into account as evidenced by the fact that many cultures at that point would engage the young lady in an sort of initiation rite. I think the bat mitzvah is an example of this as is the quincenera ( maybe the quincenera nowadays not so much but the old school ones I’d say def). Physiological being able to get pregnant doesnt not of course relate to being recognized as a women.

      I feel the same way you feel about conversing about gender maturity social roles etc when it come to talking about the african american experience and racism. No one wants to hear it so for a while I felt silenced you know and a bit rejected in a social sort of way. I felt like I had to play along to a script that didnt make sense for me. I am hoping that on this blog at least you cna feel free to express what you want to say without fear of chastisement or recrimination. I never like neat little boxes or coloring within the lines.

      Ok switching gears, I am curious what do you mean when you say that you view oneself as androgynous. I know what the words mean of course, I can understand of course the denotation, but what that means is of course a different thing. What do you mean by tomboy also just so I am on the same page?

      I had the same experience with reading as did you, and my pops teaching my biology made things kind of different. I felt all the changes my body went through as a child and with puberty was no big deal. I think I never felt shame for my body or self because of all that science. It reminded me sometimes of that line from T.S Elliiot: “LET us go then, you and I, When the evening is spread out against the sky Like a patient etherized upon a table;”The body and it’s changes were reduced to a mundane affair.

      This may sound odd but there was never a time where I didnt feel like a man. My parents never treated me like kid. In the language spoken at home I was always considered “a little man”. I felt that socially there would come a point where I would have to step up to the plate and prove it to the world. Reading all those books and being taught all that science nad being put in charge of looking after the little sister really cemented for me that I wasnt a kid as much as I was a little guy. For me being a man meant to live responsibly in such a way that my work enriched the lives of others around me. Shaving, getting laid, working a job, paying bills where all stepping stones or necessary station along the way in me proving what I felt inwardly all along.

      When did I feel like I proved it when I left my parents home with my lady got an apartment of our own and I took responsibility for providing. Getting laid was all kinds of awesome but you can pay for it. Self independence you cannot pay for that you can only earn it. That was just my take though


      • Well, my post this Monday will be about what it means to me to be…well, me. How I personally relate to gender roles, my physical sex, other people’s expectations/assumptions of me, etc. So I’ll be covering that part of your question later. 🙂

        Something else you mentioned has piqued my interest though. Namely, your lament on how difficult and taboo talking about racism is. I basically agree…while being overly PC in public company leads to less hurt feelings, I also think that it can cause more tension due to an inability to talk about misconceptions and “race” related issues. (I hate using that term. There is ONE race/species, as we are all human. I’d prefer to use the term ethnicity.) Anyway, I was wondering if you and others would also be interested in having frank discussions about THIS topic as well?

        You say that there was never a time you didn’t feel like a man. All of my friends say that it was the same for them…at no point in their lives did they feel they were “not male” or “not masculine”. I can’t speak for other women, but I can honestly say that this was not the case for me. In fact, when my mother remarried when I was about 7, it was my stepfather who made me aware of my “femaleness” and “childness”. Until that point, I’d lived my whole life with my mother, 2 aunts, grandmother and great grandmother. Four generations of women all in the same house (uncle lived at college, grandfathers were already dead by the time I was born). There were no men/boys other than neighbors…in my home, female was the default. I was not treated like a child. Much like you, I was simply a “little adult”. My love of reading/learning was given free reign, and I was taught to ask questions and expect real answers.

        Not so once mom and I moved in with stepdad. Now I was constantly reminded I was a child and a girl. He took away any books he deemed inappropriate for my age…disliked it when I played with action figures and trucks/cars…thought that I wore pants too often…and that I thought too highly of myself. “Children are to be seen and not heard” was his literal rule. I could only talk at the dinner table when asked a question, and had to stay in my room when company was over. This strictness only lasted for about 2 years, but it was enough to make me wish I was “unfortunate” enough to not have a father figure for far longer than that.

        I’ve often wondered if its not so much the lack of a father than supposedly harms young men, that perhaps it is the lack of just any positive masculine influence. In my mind, based on my experiences of Stepfather vs Friendly Male Neighbors/Peers…I still have better memories of the neighbors than my stepfather. When I think of men who gave me positive ideals and what it meant to be a “good man”, I think of men I haven’t seen since I was 6, not the man I saw at my mom’s house last week.

        Just something to consider, I guess.


  2. I agree with everything you’ve said here, and I really like Bly’s excerpt you posted. I’m actually very aware of the “father as comical figure” dynamic that has pervaded our culture. I’m a writer by trade, and I’ve had to deal with this very thing in something I’ve just written and illustrated. In creating a universe, a family, characters, etc, I have wanted to avoid this. I wanted to create a father that was not the equivalent of The Village Idiot, bumbling around, never knowing how to even tie a shoe, requiring shepherding from The Omnipotent Wife/Mother figure. Plus, I’m a white chick from the ‘burbs writing characters who are clearly not. So…I understand the dynamics and “the politics” as you diplomatically put it better than I let on. It’s not easy, is it? And, I think it’s easier to understand when one isn’t invested. When I step back and put it in the realm of the academic, it’s a lot easier to see why Man A behaves in a certain way, and why Woman B responds in her own way. But, add sex, hormones, fatigue, love, promises, expectations, and children to the mix? And nothing is academic anymore, is it? It’s all personal, and then it’s just…hard. Harder anyway. And not in a good way. 😉


    • As you alluded to, part of the issue with the academic approach is that one has to put a distance between what we are observing and ourselves. Of course in daily life we cannot afford that luxury. When things are stressful and we are trying to solve problems and balance what we needs with what the people in our lives need of us all that academic stuff falls to the way-side. In trying to address that issue in myself I have no sure fire solutions. Somedays its a win like when I bring my lady some red velvet cheesecake for no reason, othertimes its a dismal failure. Like procrastinating with walking the dogs, or letting the laudry pile up to sky scraper like heights or not cleaning out the fridge lol ya know what happens to cabbage improperly wrapped left at the back of the fridge lol.

      I can share though something that has worked:
      I have found that these behaviors become all too prevalent when I become overwhelmed. A lot of times my body shows signs long before it registers in my mind. A lot of times there are many stresses and I don’t really know a healthy way of dealing with it once it reaches a creschendo my mind becomes very forgetful and i do everything sloppily

      I have also found that I need to have a long term goal that has nothing to do with work/home. A person thing just for me the person not me the scientist, not me my lady’s old man. a lot fo time after the bills pile up and stuff I have lost touch with that creative and fun spark that I had. When I am not in touch with that i start to feel caged in by responsibility and life. It reminds me of wild lions held in captivity too long, after a certain point the lion wont go out the cage even if its open. It looses that sort of imperial spark. I fele that work and the feeling of being overwhelmed do that. I picked up the harmonica and started bodybuilding again it’s really helped.

      I have also found that 15 minutes two times a day where I sit down in silence and have no one disturb me really helps me destress

      anyways this is long answer, hope it made sense. I will be doing a series on this book in the future. It be nice to have your input. it always helps me see things from another angle. It helps a lot.



      • That’s really good input. I was at a farm in Devon, England two years ago, and they called what you describe “IA”–individual activity. The owners of the farm looked at me when I was looking stressed and suggested that I have some “IA”. So, really, that’s what we’re talking about–continuing to differentiate and honoring the individual which I encourage! I want everyone in my family having their IA. What someone pointed out to me ever so wisely was: “Perhaps he doesn’t know HOW to help or HOW to pay attention. It’s not a desire thing. It’s a knowing how thing.” And, that got me wondering. Three of my kids have executive function problems. I do not. Did they inherit it? So,I asked him. He said he really related to that statement. He needed help knowing how. The brain can be taught to organize steps and information and learn better executive planning because he does it really well in his job, but he was mentored there. But, who mentors men to be in relationships? This is a very important issue. When the father and mother divorce as is the case for my husband, and the mother even abandons the home causing the father to take on the maternal role of nurturer which my husband’s father didn’t know how to do AND the remaining parent must be provider as well leaving the remaining children to fend for themselves (as you talked about in your post), then who is modeling masculinity, healthy sexuality, fatherhood, and appropriate conflict resolution to boys? Pop culture, the TV, video games, and their own sub-culture. The prevailing idea is that they get no modeling, but they do in the media I just mentioned. So, my husband was allowed, as a kid and adolescent, to come and go, never learned to delay gratification, never learned a skill through the work of doing chores, etc. This is all too common in young men today, and the people who end up “mentoring” them are their partners. It ends up being a strange dynamic because boys need masculine influences in their lives to legitimize separating from their mothers and encourage individuation. Does this make sense? I actually want my husband to get out there and make friends, have a life outside of me and his family, because if he does, he’ll bring positive energy back with him. He’ll bring personal empowerment rather than…inertia.

        This is very interesting.

        Thanks for putting it out there to discuss. Have a great Friday!



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