When society paints the picture of a man, it focuses on the physical. His body. His strength. His range on the spectrum of fierce protector and hero. But what’s often left out is his ability to show love and emotions. Asad, a late-twentysomething of Caribbean descent, knows this firsthand being from a hardworking family where men are huge–some up to seven feet tall–and expert handymen. But as you’ll soon find out, his story shows that every man shows love, differently.
When I was a kid, I saw masculinity a lot similar to how I do now. Men back then were handy, especially coming from the islands. You could build a house with the toys from your backyard. My grandfather, who was 92, is Panamanian but grew up in Jamaica. He wasn’t the handiest person and reminded me of Mr. Huxtable. He would always try to fix something, and he would screw it up. He would pretend to know what to do. He knew what needed to be done, just not how. He was the exception in the family.
Every other man in my house was really strong and huge–most of the men were between 6 foot 5 to 7 feet tall. They were very handy and knew how to fix cars and just about everything else. When I was finally old enough to do some of the same things, I would build and assemble things along with them, which made me feel like I was a man.
Although the men in my family were really good at building and fixing things, it was actually my mother who taught me how to have male qualities. She taught me to love sports. She was the one who had me watching football every Sunday.
I do believe that women are strong and capable of doing the same things, but I’m also aware that men are still expected to do things like fix and all the heavy lifting. If you can’t, women will look at you like you’re crazy. It’s the same thing when you see these memes on Facebook that say girls these days only know how to update their Facebook status but they can’t make you dinner. Even though we live in a more liberal society, these stereotypes of what men and women are expected to do still exist.
Although the men in my family were really good at building and fixing things, it was actually my mother who taught me how to have male qualities. She taught me to love sports, brought me to the baseball games and monster truck rallies, and got me into cars and motorcycles. My father wasn’t into them. He didn’t really play football or anything like that.
She was the one who had me watching football every Sunday. Because of that, I believe that women are fully capable of showing a boy how to be a man. But I still think it is important for a man to do it, when possible, because every boy needs the connection with a male figure.
When it came to emotions, the men in my family didn’t express them unless it was necessary. My father liked to talk, but he would only talk if he knew that I needed to talk. He had no problem giving me my space because he was an introvert.
He would be in his room for hours and then he would come out and talk to me. And then, he’d return to his room. This didn’t negatively affect me because I was also an introvert. We both loved having our space, but I always knew that whenever I needed to talk, he would be there.
There was a lot of tough love. My father and I would bond a lot by play fighting and him teaching me how to work out. We would always laugh and joke around. He would tell me he loved me, but it wasn’t anything too dramatic or serious.
My grandfather was a WWII vet. So getting an emotion out of him was a task. He would work himself around it, and he would eventually shrug his shoulders. He was a 92 year old guy who didn’t give a shit about anything, it was great. But that meant that when it came to the men in our house, they were mainly quiet when it came to expressing any emotions.
They would all let me know that if I wanted to ask questions or talk that they were always there. But I would stand there by myself knowing I wasn’t going to bring anything up because anything I wanted to bring up would end up with me getting in trouble.
Just because the men in my house weren’t into showing their emotions didn’t mean that I felt they didn’t love me. It just they showed their love differently. There was a lot of tough love. My father and I would bond a lot by play fighting and him teaching me how to work out.
We would always laugh and joke around. He would tell me he loved me, but it wasn’t anything too dramatic or serious. My grandfather was a different case. He never said he loved anybody. My father told me that he never did, but that he still knew that he did love all of us.
For example, I believe that my grandfather always going out of his way to talk and share his wisdom and his life story about the war and what happened was how he showed his love. So, when he did that, I would always just sit there and listen. And that was what we had, a subliminal love.
I didn’t need reassurance. I never questioned any of it. I would either get beat up or talked to–that’s pretty much how the men in the house showed their love. The house was mainly run by women, so when we got a chance to be together, it was about us just being guys.
When it came to emotions, the men in my family didn’t express them unless it was necessary. My father liked to talk, but he would only talk if he knew that I needed to talk.
One experience I feel taught me what it meant to be a man was when my mother passed. I was about 16 years old. She had cancer and it was a horrible, horrible day. My older sister was super emotional–everyone was. I think me and my grandfather were the only ones who didn’t really show much emotion.
During that time, I started to see how emotional my family was, in a sense. And I realized I had to step up to help out. I wouldn’t say they were emotionally unstable, but definitely wobbly. I really had to be there for everyone, especially my older sister.
While my father was sick, I was there for a year and a half, and I took care of him. I did the same with my grandmother. That’s what I do. I’m like the family nurse when things are looking bad. And I don’t regret a minute of it because if I didn’t do that I would have missed out on the spending time with them in their final moments, which I feel is the most important.
When my father died, I really felt the need to step up and be the rock because he was the man of the house. Without him, there was a huge void in the family. At that point, everyone seemed like they wanted to give up, but I was the only one who could cheer them up and help everyone move forward. When things needed to be done, I was there. I did whatever it took.
Although I’ve done my best to stand in and be the glue to the family, it’s been something I’ve had to struggle struggle with. Even though I feel it is expected of me, I don’t always want to. Sometimes I want to just hide behind the scenes. But everyone is expecting good ole charismatic Asad that loves to talk and be in front of people.
So I have to get up and be this guy everyone expects me to be. And as much as I hate to do that, what choice do I have? So I flip the switch and be who they need me to be, even though sometimes I really don’t feel like it.
Just because the men in my house weren’t into showing their emotions didn’t mean that I felt they didn’t love me. It just meant that I realized they showed their love differently.