By all the usual measures I consider myself a guy’s guy. I enjoy spending time with my pals, love playing most sports, am an avid scuba diver, and am fiercely competitive. I consciously take pride in my physical strength yet understand true strength comes from my mind. I thrive on creating concepts while possessing the determination to reach my goals. Most of all, I take great pride in my fatherhood.
And I love women. And, I like women, too. So, does this make me a masculine-feminist?
I have a highly developed masculine side. With years of learning and training in various physical disciplines, I have learned that true strength is a combination of expanding your knowledge while also knowing that knowledge is best utilized when shared with others. I have created a somewhat endless quest to learn, yet, I am comforted in knowing I am physically strong. Does this sound too macho and filled with bravado? It is not meant to.
Did I mention I value and appreciate the perspective of women, and seek opinion more often from women than men? Could it be that women actually are smarter, or, could it be I have come to appreciate the feminine perspective? Perhaps it is both. But in reflection, some of my most meaningful and deepest friendships are with women. This is not to say that I don't confide or share openly with my male friends, because I do - but it’s a different type of sharing.
Are there things about women I just don't understand or appreciate? Yes. For example, I can get washed and dressed - ready to go out the door in fifteen minutes. I do not understand the two-hour rituals. If you have to deal with this, here is a word of advice: plan ahead so you're not sitting around waiting. I am of the view that life is what we perceive of it: perfection only sporadically appears in life. I am not a fan of a whiner, a complainer, or the spoiled elitist. If you're spending time with someone that complains about anything and everyone, well you should consider if you really want to spend time with such a miserable person. Which brings me to certain social oddities I simply will not ever accept. One scenario in particular that really gets under my skin is when you act generously by inviting a person out for dinner, and that person decides to invite several friends along at the last minute. That in itself should not be a big deal; however, if you are expected to pay for the entourage's entire meal - that is a big deal and speaks volumes about who you are spending time with! I have had this happen a few times - and you know what? I have made it an absolute rule never to pay for that dinner under any circumstance. When someone tries to take financial advantage of another, including inviting every friend and relative they know out for dinner on your dime and never bother to ask or offer to share the bill, well . . . I think that is pretty disgusting. You should run for the hills as fast as you can!
But there is indeed lots and lots of sunshine.
Several years ago, I met my friend Kate in San Francisco. This was right before my own personal Pearl Harbor Day. Kate is an author who came to see me speak about an assortment of topics regarding the publishing industry. She, like the several hundred fellow writers in attendance stayed and listened to what I had to say for well over three and a half hours. I enjoyed the seminar's participants so much that I invited all the attendees to a cocktail reception back in the Presidential Suite I was staying in for a few days at the Fairmont Hotel. Cocktails and lively conversation went on till the middle of the night. It was a fun night for all - and with the sweeping 360° views of San Francisco from the palatial suite, I would have been hard pressed to find a better backdrop.
And as can be imagined at things like this, most folks wanted a few minutes of my time. Kate was one of the writers who patiently waited for a few minutes to say hello. I remember clearly how respectful she was of others.
Kate and I stayed in contact with one another while I was traveling around the world chasing my own cyclone. She was a supportive and consistent friend during a search that took me to some of the most unusual places. It was during this time that Kate asked me if I could read a manuscript she had recently completed. And since I was spending so much time on airplanes, and needed something to keep my mind occupied at times, I agreed.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that Kate had handed to me a key to a whole new world. The pages that unfolded before me as I read Kate’s manuscript were incredible. Like the first time I went diving into the ocean blue to see the life under the sea, in my hands I now possessed a vibrant series of lessons and a new understanding of life. Kate's story was about her life and the lives of two spectacular storytellers; two women no less, who absolutely changed the world for the better, yet, perhaps, at the time of their deaths, the world didn’t quite see it that way. I instantly embraced my new found understanding - perhaps it was part fascination, but in truth, it seemed to me that I was discovering a whole new world and I couldn’t get enough of it. And so, my life changed forever.
Was this due to a manuscript? In part perhaps, but too, it was because of my friendship with Kate - and the lessons she has and continues to teach me without knowing it. I am not sure if I have said it enough, but Kate - they broke the mold when you were created - thanks, and as always a big hug!
So how does this all fit into being a masculine-feminist . . . if there really is such a thing? Well, Kate’s manuscript was a biography of her mother Jacqueline Saix, and, her god mother, Mary Welsh Hemingway. I am not going to share too much since Kate’s book, presently titled 'A QUICK JAR AND SOME LIPSTICK: TWO WOMEN, ONE WAR AND THE BATTLES SEEN AND UNSEEN', will be published in the near future; however, a significant setting of this story was London during World War II. I must have read the manuscript twenty times. And with each read I developed a deeper appreciation not only for the amazing and courageous lives of Jacqueline and Mary, but also a deep appreciation of their distinctly different voices, perspectives, and determination to have their women’s voices part heard amongst the clatter of men.
One of the great things about reading is that a reader will usually grasp the issues being presented by the author. In this understanding there is an opportunity to reflect upon your inner-self in juxtaposition to the material being presented. Typically when this happens, we also take the time to notice our surroundings, including other individuals. This is one of the wonderments of books: we automatically take the time to notice each other. And that’s what happened to me, in a different way, after reading Kate’s marvelous story about these two amazing storytellers.
I still believe in some of those old fashion ways. I open the door for a lady. I stand up if seated in a restaurant if a lady I am out with stands up. I still think that a man should pay for dinner. I like seeing, and listening, and understanding the uniquely different ways of women, and at times, simply marvel at a women’s inner beauty and strength. The perspectives differ from time to time - but truly, I enjoy trying to see through a very different set of eyes. I also feel, quite frankly, my masculine side elevates when I understand a woman's perspective.
Does any of this make me a masculine-feminist? I’m not really sure, but I have a burger on the grill, and a cold beer in the refrigerator with my name on it. Ironically, out on the deck is a book I’m looking forward to reading about a woman who survived the civil wars in Somalia. Perhaps I’m just a guy who appreciates and celebrates our differences, and learns from them.