Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Think Like a Man

[A reflection on 'If Beale Street Could Talk' by James Baldwin]

I wonder what it's like to be a father, not just a father, but a father to a daughter. Women are born mothers, we embrace the world and long to soothe it of its woes; men are born with its weight, resting there, on their shoulders. Struggle as we might to adopt that weight women can never truly carry it alone, and man could never survive without a woman. She is always the pillar and never the roof.

I wonder how this changes their minds, turns them away from us; I wonder what it's like to love as a man, to fear as a man; to know that, in addition to loving someone, you must also protect her and support her and in doing so accept that you might hurt her - even as you love her deep into your organs and the crevices in-between. It must be a painful, terrifying kind of love; seeing the carnage of those before you and knowing they expect you to will fix it, not make it worse.

I imagine what its like to experience that, to hope vehemently against it when it becomes my own daughter; knowing all of the things I did in youth and stupidity, seeing all the damage I created, and knowing I have the potential to do worse, still, even as she stares at me with those big, innocent eyes.

And you always end up doing worse - out of fear, mostly - and all you can do is hope to God she'll be strong enough to grow past it all and forgive you for being so goddamn scared.

You love her, of course; you love her so much it hurts to breathe, to blink, to live and watch her move about the world. You pray for the day she finds someone who loves her a fraction of the amount you do, because you'll have to trust him to take care of her; to make her believe. You just want to be able to feel that relief, knowing that she'll be happy and safe and all the other things you ever wanted for her. You could never give her away otherwise, this tiny little thing that managed to change everything - everything you thought about women, everything you thought about everything.

If you'd had a boy, your view of the world would have stayed exactly the same, but thank God, because you realize now that James Brown was right -  you just had to hold her; just had to know you would do anything to make her world spin. And you realize you don't want her to be like those other girls, the broken ones you've met along the way. And it's this awesome responsibility - greater than the stars in the universe, greater than the universe itself; and while you're proud, always proud, goddamn if you aren't scared shitless.

I know what it's like to be a woman, what it means to love as a woman, but sometime's I wonder what it's like to love, to fear, to feel, like a man.

Tell me your secrets.