Tag Archives: principle

Being a Man.

All my life, I’ve been a man.

With all that that means, and with all that that carries, I have been a man.

When I was a lot younger, people older than me would call me “young man”, but only humorously. You see, they were forecasting, for I was still a boy, a kid, a youngster. There were no expectations or responsibilities beyond an assumed interest in girls, and an expected interest in sports. But time went by, and I grew older. People called me “young man”, but meant it. Legally no longer a minor, I was now expected to be living life to the fullest, assumed to be drinking heavily, partying harder and generally doing all those things that come naturally to university students and school leavers. I was expected to work hard at my studies, expected to have some form of additional income (other than my parents) and I was expected to be looking to the future whenever I could focus long enough on the present. It was assumed that I would have a steady-ish girlfriend, and I would be expected to have some form of sporting allegiance to a club in some popular sport.

When I next looked, I was being called a “young man” by a few less people, and just “man” by a few more. I know that I am in my thirties, and that to people under 20, I must appear hopelessly old, if not old-fashioned. For those of you that know me personally, you will know that I am not a person who gives overly much credence to the opinions of others, especially when those opinions are about me or my actions. Life is too short to worry about pleasing other people. Focus on pleasing yourself and the ones you love, and the rest will fall into place, or fall out of your life entirely. And those that do… well, they were not worth having in the first place. That said, I know that at the age of 34, I am now roughly halfway through our promised three-score and ten. That makes me middle-aged. And that is an appellation that is uncomfortable in its bearing. You see, there are certain expectations that come with the role of the middle-aged man. I should be settled, I should be providing for a family. Hell, I should HAVE a family of my own. I should be settled into a career and I should be thinking hard about provisions for my retirement and future.

And there’s the rub. You see, I know myself to be old-fashioned. I understand this about myself. I believe that there is still a place in this world for gallantry and I believe (for better or worse) that being a man entails stepping up to responsibilities rather than letting others deal with them. I believe in self-education and betterment, and I believe that there is nothing that someone cannot do if they would only put their mind to it. I believe that honesty really is the best policy, and would rather tell someone an awkward truth than a convenient lie. I expect this all of myself, and I expect it of others. I have a few “old man” quirks to go with all that dogma as well. I cannot abide reality television. I resent having to allow someone else to edit my perception of reality. I cannot abide the shallow tackiness of it all, and I find television 99% garbage. I have hit an age where a lot of the new music really DOES sound alike to me, and I struggle to keep track of new starlets and one-hit-wonder boy bands with more abdominal muscles than lyrical ability. I like to choose my words carefully, and I like to use the word most appropriate to a given situation. That I sometimes confuse a listener (I believe) speaks more about their lack of vocabulary than my poor word choice. I read. A lot. Not always fiction either. I believe in personal choice. In all things.

So you see, I can understand it when younger people look at me as though I am hopelessly outdated, possessed of a bygone ethos and old-fashioned morals. But there is more than that. I’m a follower of science, a disciple of empirically proven, repeatable and documented fact. There is no room in that doctrine for religion, and thus no room in my life for it. I like to think that that makes me something of a liberal, a far cry from an old-fashioned conservative. I use the internet. Frequently. For a hobby. I like to keep up to date on social memes and viral videos. I am online for at least an hour every day, more often two or three hours a day. I enjoy a range of “younger” pastimes, not the least of which are blogging, playing the guitar or playing online games.

And I don’t think that I am alone. I think that there are others like me, men that are trapped somewhere between the manly virtues of the generation before us, and the worldly requirements of the world that they have bequeathed us. I think that there are others who have adapted themselves to a world where political correctness is king, to a world where equality supersedes merit, others who have had to find an acceptable middle road between chivalry and perceived chauvinism.

I believe that being a man means standing by your principles. I believe that being a man means listening to the opinions of others, but making judgement for yourself. I believe that being a man means having no master but yourself, and being subject to nothing but your standards.

Ironically, I believe that believing all of this probably DOES make me middle-aged.

So be it. I am content to be myself.

Friends, Enemies and the Little People…

When I was a kid, I remember reading something along the lines of this. “Only a fool can go through life without making enemies.” I remember thinking at the time that there was something fundamentally wrong with the statement, and that it was perfectly possible to get through life without making enemies. Of course, I was in my teens, and could reliably assume that I knew everything. (Some things haven’t changed, I know.)

Flash forward a decade or so, and I know different. I’ve made some enemies, and made even more “fucquainances”. Thankfully, I have more friends than those categories combined.

You’re wondering what the hell a “Fuquaintance” is…. and I guess that I owe you an explanation. I’m quite sure that I am not alone in stating that there are some people on this planet that seem put here by a higher power. A higher power with a malevolent bent, and a penchant for testing my patience. Fuquaintances are those people that you meet during your day, the other half of the random encounters that define our lives. You’ll know them when you see them. YOu’ll smile in greeting and prepare to exchange banalities and small talk, and you’ll be cringing inside. For whatever reason, fuquaintances are disliked, encounters with them are dreaded and any contact with them is barely tolerated. The sins of a fuquaintance are legion, and petty. They pick their nose in your house. They eat far too much garlic. They stand too close. They always talk to you when you’re late. You know who I mean. Fuquaintances are a fact of life.

The good thing about a fuquaintance is that they are survivable. There is nothing really sinister about them, nothing calculated in their transgressions. There is a little old lady in my building that is a particularly dreaded fuquaintance. Her sin is that she is old, she lives several floors above me, and she takes forever to get into and out of the elevator. Oh. And she seems to keep the same hours I do. Whenever I am running late for work, whenever I am desperate need to get on with my commute, the elevator heads for the 13th floor. There it stays… slowly minutes ticking by in the winking floor indicator light. Finally, it descends, and I am free to step onto the elevator. The next problem of course is that we alight on the same floor. I stand aside to let her off first. I can’t help it, I’m polite that way. (Polite and weak!) This means that I have to walk behind her to the door, have to help her open the door, and have to wait while she shuffles through. An encounter with her adds a minimum of six minutes to my ten minute commute. And I’m a last-minute arrival employee. Which makes her a fuquaintance. You understand? Chances are that you have many fuquiantances, chances are better that you are someone else’s fuquaintance… it’s just an inevitability of life.

Enemies. These are different creatures entirely. Far from the pleasant/irritating banality of a fuquaintance, an enemy is an active frustration. My teen aged self thought it possible to get through life without making any of these. Of course, my teen aged self was an apathetic sort, more inclined to slink away from confrontation than to take it head on. But we grow up. And part of that process is the formation of opinion and principle. We draw lines in the sands of our psyche, lines beyond which there is no retreat, lines beyond which there is no compromise. When someone tries to muscle past those lines, confrontation is inevitable and lasting. There are certain things that to me are unforgivable… acts which resign the offending party to a lifetime of enmity. Speaking with the new-found wisdom of an impending mid-life crisis (I’m getting towards the “Harley Davidson and comb-over” stage.), the trick is to identify those lines before they are crossed, if only to maintain your dignity.

Making enemies is not a pleasant experience.  Nonetheless, I believe that it is vital to our growth, our mental health. Without enemies, we cast through life blindly, no principles to guide us, reduced to public opinion. Every enemy that I have made has been made for good reason. It’s human nature to believe that. Of course we were wronged, of course we were the just defendant, and they the aggressive party. I think the challenge in life is to accept that sometimes…. just sometimes… YOU are the asshole. Sometimes, it is your fault.

Enemies find their redemption in what they offer to teach us, what their nature shows us about ourselves. They are the darkened mirrors, the shadowed reflections of our inner selves. Think about each of them carefully. There is no point to an enemy that has taught you nothing. There is no point to an enemy for whom you have no reason. Identify what it is that they do or don’t do that riles you, and know yourself better for it. I know, thanks to Sarah and Frank that I have little patience for small people. Small of mind, that is. Petty politicking and shallow manipulation leave me cold. When they come from someone in a position of authority, they are worse. I know it now, and hopefully in the future, I’ll be able to head off any situations before they escalate into hostilities. My challenge to you? Make a list of your enemies. Figure out the core reason behind the altercation. Be honest, nobody else is going to look at your list. It may give you closure, it may give you growth. You may make the miserable bastards useful to you!

Lastly, the Little People.

Not dwarves or midgets or pygmies or gnomes… The Little People are the people that live around you, that work around you, perhaps even work for you. They are the often anonymous people that make your life possible. I spent a lot of time working as a waiter for a series of restaurants. And I was constantly amazed by the ignorant arrogance of a lot of people. (Normally wealthy white kids.) Any good waiter will tell you that the power in the restaurant is NOT the manager, is NOT the hostess or your waiter. Everything rests on the shoulders of the kitchen. Everything. Waiters with a good relationship with the kitchen staff were more successful than waiters who did not, or waiters that shouted. Later, when I managed a restaurant myself, it was obvious to see. Waiters who were polite, who passed on compliments, who said please and thank you, basically acknowledged the kitchen staff as humans and equals, they got great service from the kitchen. Wrong item ordered? Rush job required? No worries. The Little People are on it.

It’s a lesson that I have taken to heart. I go out of my way to acknowledge the receptionists, the co-teachers, the security guards, the “kitchen staff” in my life. Simple courtesy goes a long way. It’s a proven fact that remembering your waiter’s name and using it leads to better service. It’s not because they’re impressed by your memory. It’s because they are pleased to be acknowledged, to be given a face, to move from “Hey you…” to “Excuse me, John?”.  I am not advocating being polite to the Little People out of some desire for better service. The fact that their often menial jobs can have a direct impact on your life is simply a by-product.

I’m saying that being nice to the Little People is in and of itself a good thing.

And nobody wants to be a Fuquaintance.