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The Man I Am

Dave Frank

Chief Content Officer

men mental health

Truthfully, I don't really care that I'm a man. Sheesh, that sounds bad, doesn’t it? As I reread that sentence, I can see how it sounds like it comes with some negative implications. I don't say that in a negative way, it's just the truth. I have male friends, but don't place any priority on spending time with an exclusively male group. I enjoy things that typically attract a male audience, but I don't enjoy them because of the audience they attract. I appreciate being a father and having a strong paternal presence in my daughter's lives, but I don't think there's anything one parent can provide that another couldn't based on their gender. There's evidence of that everywhere.

I also don’t think that a man can be completely healthy and well, without an understanding of himself. Not just an understanding of how his body works and what it needs, but his mind, too. Who is he? What does he stand for? What causes him pain or happiness? What does being a man even mean for me at this point? I certainly know what I don't want it to mean, but I'd like to think that an identity can be summed up to more than just the remainder from a process of elimination. So maybe it's time I identified that.

I am a man who is a husband.

Eartha Kitt once said, "I've fallen in love with myself, and I want someone to share it with me. I want someone to share me, with me". I can think of no better way to describe what I strive to be in a partner. I may not always achieve that standard that Eartha set for her potential partner, but it is still what I strive for. Each and every day, I ask myself if the woman I married feels she has enough room to love herself in the same way and to the same extent that she wished for when she was growing up. Does she have room for her aspirations? For her dreams? For her passions and humor and peace? Does the person closest to me in this world feel they get to truly share her love of herself with me? Partnership is not constriction, it is an embrace. This isn’t a task accomplished just once and then left alone, It’s ever-changing. People grow endlessly, and as they do, so does every part of who they are. My identity as a husband is to do justice to the miracle of sharing a life with another human being.

I am a man who is a father.

Parental guilt is a bitch. This never-ending feeling that you're doing something wrong, missing opportunities, causing resentment; the list of what you try not to do is endless. On the opposite end of that, is this feeling of limitless potential. The potential to help your children find themselves, to do things differently, to give the best pieces of yourself to them and to shield them from the worst ones. I dislike parental guilt, but I think it's a built-in function for parents, just as anxiety (as much as we dislike it) serves an actual purpose. Each day that I see my kids learn something, make their own decisions, learn from their mistakes and battle through emotions, it reminds me of my true purpose as a father. They have a path ahead they can run, but shelter to always come back to. They have their own choices they can make, but someone they can always turn to for guidance. They have the freedom to live the miracle of human life as they see fit, but a father they can always share it with.

I could list more, but the truth is, my identity as a man can all be boiled down to this:

I am a man who _____.

I find no place within those first four words alone. It feels the same as asking for meaning or merit in saying "I have blonde hair", or "I wear a size 11 shoe". I've come to realize, for the sake of my own identity, being a man means nothing to me. I don't resent it, but I take no pride in it either. Why should I?

Those first four words are only as strong as the ones that follow it. That is what being a man means to me, and what will continue to give me peace of knowing what my true purpose as a man on this earth is.

That is the man I am.


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