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Father’s Day Musings….

Adult son with his father, and older man with a white beard
Happy Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day everyone! For those of you who are fathers, and for those of you who maybe had a father, this is a day to celebrate that masculine energy that helped make us who we are….

For better or worse!

Ideas of masculine/feminine are going through a radical (and imho a necessary) shift in how most of the world has seen this (up until recently) binary “choice.”

From the earliest days of human history, male and female seemed to sum up all possibilities, and on the surface, that seemed logical, “normal,” self-evident. After all, seems pretty clear that you are born as one or the other. All the animals on the planet have their sex and their sexual roles clearly defined.

This breaks down, scientifically, when you get into the plant world where many plants have both male and female parts – in other words, they are bisexual. Many flowers (roses, lilies, tulips) are bisexual, as are others, like squashes, corn, and birch trees and many conifers.

Of course, in many tribal cultures around the world, the idea of a third gender – and even a fourth gender –- was accepted and even celebrated.

And even this concept has found critics who assert that it “ghettoizes” and over-simplifies the subtle and nuanced ideas of gender, and gender fluidity, that exist in cultures around the world.

We are starting to realize that the ideas of a person’s sex, and especially those concepts of gender are not at all simple. They are widely varied, multi-faceted and fluid.

Gender identities refer to a person’s personal sense of their gender, not something that society imposes on people from the outside – pigeonholing someone into a category that fits a society’s standards.

The list of gender identities is long and includes people who identify as:

…. among many, many others. Click this link for a good, although probably not complete, list of gender identities.

But specifically for Father’s Day, the idea (and the ideal) of male, masculine, testosterone-fueled energy is seen these days in a difficult and troubling light – thanks to tens of thousands of years of patriarchy, toxic male behavior, oppressive laws, religious dictates and language (i.e. God as we understand Him), etc.

Ancient ideas of “manliness” have brought us a millennium of male domination, rampant and culturally acceptable homophobia, and the aggression that manifests in everything from road rage to nuclear war.

These energies have predominated for centuries in western society, and they place intense cultural pressures on men – a need to act tough, to avoid showing emotions, the exercise power (social, physical, sexual and financial). This overarching system has proven harmful to males of all ages, and it has distorted the lens through which everyone – all society and institutions –- looks at life and how it “should” be, how people “should” behave.

On a personal level, many of us have had troubling relationships with our fathers, relationships that run the gamut from absent fathers who are not physically present at all, to ones who are emotionally distant, controlling or abusive.

Certainly, there are many good fathers, men who “get it,” and have found a balance between society’s beliefs about masculinity and who exhibit nurturing feminine traits as well.

The old, rigid roles of “men go to work, and women stay home. Men mow the lawn and take out the garbage and women do the dishes and raise the kids,” is fading fast. Thankfully.

My own father was an amalgam of many of the best and the less-than-healthy traits that made up men who grew up during the Great Depression and the World War II era.

He could be tender and gentle. He was adventurous. He loved the outdoors and camping. He was a master craftsman who could fix or build anything. He had a wry, dry sense of humor. He was smart. He was open-minded to intellectual ideas.

He was liberal in his politics and regarding racial issues and gay issues. When I came out of the closet, to the surprise of everyone, he accepted me. And when I told him I was HIV positive, again he took it in stride.

He loved roadtrips, packing the roof of the station wagon before dawn to head out. South to Florida. East to Martha’s Vineyard. North to the Adirondack Mountains or to Maine. One summer we camped all the way to California and back, a month-long journey to many national parks.

He smoked a pipe. He couldn’t pack tobacco (Bond Street) while driving so that was my job.

But he was also closed off emotionally, guarded and distant. He was in a lot of emotional pain, pain he didn’t know how to process and deal with, so he drank a great deal, especially later in life. When I stopped drinking, he couldn’t conceive of doing the same for himself – and for his family.

Other than on a few occasions, he wasn’t available to do things with me: teach me how to throw a ball or hit a ball, work on projects together. He didn’t know how to handle a headstrong, stubborn, troubled oldest son. I know I frustrated him.

From him I get my intellectual curiosity, my need to be in a relationship with a strong personality, my looks, my sense of humor and my laugh. I also get my knee-jerk reaction when something is wrong, unfair or unjust; a visceral hate against prejudice, bigotry, racism and intolerance.

I get my sense of right and wrong, but also a streak of self-righteousness and know-it-all-ism. A psychic once told me that she saw me in a past life as a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse, with the attitude of “this is how it is. Period!” She couldn’t have known that that stern, hidebound teacher energy runs through my veins, legacy of my father – and his father!

Here's to fathers! My father. Your father. For better or worse – and usually a strong mixture of both – they’ve made us who we are.

It is our job, I believe, to take the best of what they gave us, and heal the wounds, the patterns, which not only heals us, but heals them as well.

Happy Father’s Day.


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