Coffee: French Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand
Donald Trump Jr. tweeted “It’s nice to see a conservative man fight for his honor and his family.” He was talking about Brett Kavanaugh. Around the same time, in response to Sen. Patrick Leahy questioning Kavanaugh on his arguably misogynistic comments in his High School yearbook, Kavanaugh defended himself by saying: “I busted my butt in academics…I finished one in the class…I played sports. I was captain of the varsity basketball team, I was wide receiver and defensive back on the football team…I did my service projects at the school which involved going to the soup kitchen downtown.” Effectively, he was arguing his good character as a shield against Ford’s allegations. Tellingly, his arguments reflected every pedestal of the perfect Patriarchal Male: smart; ambitious; well-educated; a sportsman; given to charity, but only in one-off increments, donations of free time.
I want to relate a different picture.
My whole life, I’ve struggled with the label of my Manhood. It was front and center, glaring, prominent. I was well-enough-to-do. I was smart, academically gifted. I had no talent in sports but made up for it in other extracurriculars. I won every award my schools could offer. I won some State awards, too. Early on, I was popular, later I was bullied for my successes, but even that bullying added to my mystique. I transferred districts in eighth grade. The prettiest girl in my new school came up to me and said “It’s cool that you stand out so much.”
I’ve talked a few times on here about the girls I kissed in Elementary. There were a few of them, always unwanted, but one girl, K, became my ‘girlfriend’ after, probably because she felt she had to. I remember hanging with her at the skating rink. She was with friends. I wanted to skate. She told me “Later,” I said “Now.” We skated a run, she hit me. It was hard enough to hurt, but that felt like license: I took her hand and held it for five minutes. Eventually she went away. We stopped sitting together in class. I couldn’t bring myself to talk to her. After that year, we didn’t speak again. When I asked my parents why she hit me, they said little girls have a strange way of showing affection. Teachers, friends, friends’ parents said the same. I didn’t tell anyone what happened after – that I took her hand and held it, half to stop her from punching me, half because I knew I could. Still, I’d seen love. I’d watch my mother cry when our old dog died, then again when she buried her father. I watched my dad get rosy when he came home and took my mom and I out to dinner. I’d seen love. Whatever me and K had, that wasn’t it.
I felt sick for a long time. I started running as far as I could go in the opposite direction. For six years through High School into the beginning of college, I called myself celibate. For even longer, a tee-totaler. It was it’s own form of arrogance, running away from myself instead of fixing the man who knew he could take anything he wanted. Eventually, I lived with a woman, got possessive, fell in love, broke up, and tried to reckon with my Manhood for the first time in a long time.
Being a Man in America is a terrific line-dance: check the footwork, perform the moves, take the girl. People like Trump, like Kavanaugh, have built long careers out of flashy performances. Trump Jr. said Kavanaugh is a man who protects his family. What he means is an animal bearing teeth for territory. That nuclear bubble, that man-and-woman-and-kids, that wife who might be a career woman in 2018 but who still goes home and does the laundry, all of this is currency paid to Men who can perform well, who know the moves, who dance so sumptuously that society forgives them the women whose lives they snuff at 15, the girls they tried to strangle.
Fuck that forever.
I don’t have an answer for what a Man should be. I think about it often, spend hours with my own damn face in the mirror. But America’s vision is wrong, that much I’m clear about. It needs to change. Between the Women’s March and #MeToo, it looks like it will. As usual, we place the burden on women, force them to fight the fight we all should be fighting. I can’t know what Ford and others are going through, can’t in good conscience say I’m a perfect ally, but for everyone’s sake – men, women, my own soul – I can say my blood is there, my thoughts are trying, I’ll vote better, live scrutinously, atone humbly, and teach whatever son I may someday have to hold a different sense of ‘Manhood.’
Until then, I’ll call bullshit when I see it: Kavanaugh, go to hell.
Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith; Cherry, Nico Walker
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“However, once he was selected and it seemed like he was popular and that it wasn’t a sure vote, I was calculating daily the risk benefit for me of coming forward and wondering whether I would just be jumping in front of a train that was headed to where it was headed, to where it was headed anyway, and that I would just be personally annihilated.” – Christine Blasey Ford