It seems to be open season on our black men, but I have something on my mind that I want to explore. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about men and their emotional health – specifically, I have been wondering if our men are abused. I am not talking about physical abuse, although that is an important consideration. I am talking about the emotional and psychological abuse that leaves a lasting impression long after the pain of physical abuse is gone. It is quite interesting. I was listening to this lady talk about her son’s relationship. He is living with a young lady who is now pregnant. However, she [the mother) wants her son to send the girl back to her mother’s house, and he should then move to live with his grandmother. This conversation had me thinking about the role women play in the abuse of our men. Single mothers are the head of a significant number of Caribbean households – the man either abandoned her when she got pregnant, he died or moved away in search of more lucrative employment. Whatever the reason, the woman is left alone to raise the kids, and this type of situation brings with it psychological traumas, and with those traumas come certain kinds of behaviours.
I was chatting with another friend, and she told me that when she found out that her husband had revealed to his mother everything that happens within their marriage, she was furious about it. I wonder what causes that type of behaviour. I remember my ex-husband would go and eat by his aunt every day, and that made me upset. I often wondered if I would ever be able to measure up to her. His mother died when he was young, and his aunt raised him. It did not matter if I cooked or not; he had his meals at his aunt’s. I eventually solved that problem by letting her cook for both of us. My philosophy in that situation was if you can’t beat them, join them. Remember the lady with the son and the pregnant girlfriend, well she had a litany of other complaints about the girl, some of them entirely legitimate, but my question to her was, why can’t you leave him to make his own mistakes and learn from them so that he could find his path in life. Mothers, I get the point that he’s your son, but you must allow him to be a man, in his way, just ensure that you give him a solid foundation.
I was listening to another conversation (you can tell I eavesdrop quite a bit – it’s research), and this young lady was saying that she wished she could build apartments onto her house so that all her kids could live with her. I cannot help but wonder if this is obsession or control. I grew up with six brothers, three sisters, and a powerful mother who, while she was pregnant with my last brother ask my dad to leave and never come back. My brothers were always quiet. They never got into quarrels, and for the most part, did what was asked of them. Even with my mother’s strength, she was never domineering. So, although my brothers are quiet, they are strong mentally, but I am wondering about their emotional health. Did the females in the house somehow act in ways that helped to diminish them?
As I think about my brothers, I am also thinking about and observing all the other men in my life. Sometimes I lose my patience with what I consider to be the lack of assertiveness, and other times it just pains my heart. I have started to check myself and my response to them, genuinely wondering if my behaviour is a contributing factor. I’ve gotten quite curious when I see some men act “small” or helpless in situations that clearly demand that they take a leading role – not in the “me man, you woman,” caveman sort of way, but in ways where their voices are strong and powerful, yet gentle. Are we as women unknowingly abusing our men? I was reading an article that talked about how the lack of touch is destroying men. In the article, the author is asking how often men experience touch without it being sexual—quite a poignant question. In our Caribbean context, our fathers are neither huggers nor kissers to their sons – they think it’s offensive to kiss their boy children. That is so far from the truth, men crave platonic touch, and it is essential that they receive affection from their fathers, as well as their mothers.
We need to give men and boys permission to experience their full range of emotions. We can no longer tell them foolishness, such as “big boys don’t cry.” We need to remember that they are humans and vulnerable, just like the rest of us humans. They experience the whole range of emotions, fear, shame, humiliation, uncertainty, love – these are not emotions only reserved for girls. I am at a point in my life where I want to be kinder and gentler to the men in my life. I want to figure out how we can change the narrative and stop with the “man-bashing” and the emasculation of our men. How can we help them stand tall and proud? How can we help them to walk beside us and not in front of us nor behind us? Remember, if our men are well adjusted emotionally and mentally, the better they will be at creating a stable life, emotionally and financially, for the family unit.