relationships

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY 2020

Every Valentine’s Day is a little special to me now, whereas for a long time it held little appeal. Possibly because it was often a painful reminder of my inadequacy as a kind and thoughtful partner. Or, maybe it was that I didn’t care, or could not care. It’s easy to throw stones at capitalism’s manipulative commercialization of human sentiment. Heck, much of that criticism is justified.

But, here we have it, and there are only so many days of the year where a man is called upon to demonstrably honour his significant other: anniversaries, birthdays, Christmas and Valentine’s Day.

Mother’s Day is for her children and less her husband, but some think it should be included. A rule could be if your mother is alive, it is she who takes precedence. With an option to honour the mother of your children once dear old ma has passed. Missus taught me that after I went to visit my mother three hours away while she stayed home with our six-week-old daughter, on her first Mother’s Day.

Of course, men love rules and this one could be debated. Debate away, I say.

Then, there’s the “I celebrate her every day!” angle. This is a fair assumption. Many men do.

I know I’m angling for any reason to show my daily appreciation for Melissa. It’s a small pastime of mine, perhaps truly a way for me to practice being prosocial. I’ve learned it’s easy to take each other for granted so I’ve made it a habit to appreciate more this time around. I’m fourteen years in.

Of course, with my background, I needed to work at being nice. Maybe, most of us do.

I was a nice kid. Nice like the fluffy white lamb-shaped cake decorated with white icing signifying purity, and ample white coconut to mimic lambswool, which my Godmother Marie Chenier had made for my First Communion. For me? Yes, for me! Over the years that followed, from altar boy and class president and cub and boy scout and neighbourhood chore entrepreneur, there was a silencing of the lamb. A fractious relationship with my father anchoring and compounding my confusion in a small house filled with frightened children, I emerged a decade later decidedly a Black Sheep.

Funny how that works. It should be no surprise I’m an extravert, scoring in the 95th percentile on the Big Five Aspects scale. Assertiveness? More than 97. You know how those glib psychopaths are, friendly, talkative, their glad-handing masking darkness.

I have some of that. It’s handy.


Where being an extravert (spelled like Jung did) has its advantages, it’s that damn French saying again: I think it’s spelled, “Ont as tous les defauts de nos qualities.” What it means is we all have the faults of our qualities. All of my qualities are tempered with faults. I know , context is everything.

Extraverts live very much in the present. Yup. Confession: I’ve never been able to read Eckart Tolle’s famous book, The Power of Now. It’s right here on my bookshelf as I type this, still unfinished after two decades. To me, it’s the most repetitiously hypnotic text and for this reason, I recommend it to my insomnia clients. Of course, there is danger in reading to go to sleep. It could mean any reading eventually makes you slumber. Cross that bridge when you come to it, I say. If you are kept awake by a ruminating brain, for now, read Tolle.

Introverts live a little more in the future. That’s not me. Thank God missus is introverted, or I’d never have an educational saving plan for my children. I never would have figured out the Riddle of Addiction because it was her nudging which prompted me to take a good hard look at the whole phenomena, its trends and implications. After practicing and tweaking my approach, I’ve been able to reach folks with this. Doesn’t seem to matter what obsession, I can help you cure any addiction in 90 days.

Which brings me back to Valentine’s Day, the one at my place. I’ve written before how when missus and I were first dating I gave her fair warning. I admitted that I would likely forget all the aforementioned days she was due my acknowledgement. She was amused at my confession. And, she was ahead of me.

She didn’t suggest but TOLD me what to do. “Here’s what you are going to do,” she said, before instructing me to head to the nearest drugstore or card shop. “You will buy up a supply of cards for my birthday and whatever else days you want, and you will keep them in that filing cabinet of yours. So, if you wake up some morning and realize you have forgotten, you can wait until my back is turned and get one of those cards, fill it out, and leave it on the kitchen table so I will know you care and thought of me.” I was dumbfounded, of course.

“Will that work?” I remember asking. “Yes, it will,” she assured me. It was at that moment that I knew she was something special. Decades of guilt and shame about forgetting birthdays and anniversaries came tumbling down at once. So, off I went to the drugstore and did exactly as she instructed.

And, it worked. In fact, it worked earlier this month as she sat on my office couch and asked me point blank, “Did you forget my birthday?” before heading out. I could have lied. I’m glib after all. If anyone could look her straight in the eye and offer her some version of bullshit, it’s me. Yet, I also know that when people are looking for bullshit, it’s much easier to find. I learned decades ago that gig is up. Honesty is my policy.  It’s not worth the time and effort nor the consequences for either to dabble in deception.

“Yup, completely,” I admitted, adding, “I thought I had this one because I’ve been thinking about it since the new year but sure enough, come the day, it’s out of my mind.” She smiled, in a sort of womanly self-satisfying way, perhaps knowing she chose long ago to not make this hill hers to die on. God, I lust after that woman. I’m just as sure her smile was deeper.

You see, when she instructed me all those years ago by offering her brilliant practicality, effectively to “let me off the hook” I’d put myself on, I’m pretty sure she knew exactly what she was doing.

Unbeknownst to me , slipped into her instructions was the element of time. So grateful was I to escape the shame of my decades of disappointing other women, that pain serving as motivation, I followed her orders blindly, I never considered the bigger picture.

She had just made me commit to years with her. Years son. Damn, she’s good. Women are closers.

So, it was this morning whilst the two of us were awakening to the sounds of children and a dog scratching in her crate, missus wished me a Happy Valentine’s Day. I promptly grabbed her ass. “Oh, that’s right,” I answered, “Happy Valentine’s Day to you too.” Forgot completely, again.

It’s not like it wasn’t mentioned in the house. Early this week, the kids were busy filling out cards for their schoolmates. Howie brought a single fake rose to each of his teaching assistants. Last year he gave one of them chocolates and said he loved her. Since her husband forgot Valentine’s Day completely that evening, Howie stole her heart. I’m not sure her husband registered the competition as she told him.

Missus went off to work for a few hours this morning. I work from home and today is the second in a row opportunistic no-school day thanks to striking teachers in the province. With Monday Canada’s Family Day (an excuse to have a long weekend in February), the teachers gave themselves a five-day holiday. Me and the kids checked the card stash. They know about the card stash because of mom’s birthday less than two weeks ago. I think that was a strike-day too.

The cool thing is my father died in November. Not that it was cool that he died, nor that November was a cold month. Although he suffered his last year as dementia ravaged his mind, it was bittersweet to see him go. The cool part is when it was decided by my sisters that dad would no longer be able to return home, it was me who took his records and old photos for safekeeping. That included his filing cabinet, old correspondence and folders chock full of carefully labeled newspaper clippings for reference.

But stashed in the back of his cabinet was a big stash of cards. Blank cards for all occasions.

They say it’s inevitable we find in our partners something of our parents. I supposed it’s easy to stretch what you like about somebody into something you appreciate in your parent or parents. It’s natural enough and this can work out well or poorly, depending.

The very first occasion where missus met my family was at Ma’s 80th birthday party. It was held at a private club downtown and I sent ma and her pals to the party in a big white limousine. Sure enough, ma and missus hit it off. Both were introverts, wall flower types, and spent the time sitting together. Missus never felt more appreciated than that day, remarking how alike her and ma were. I beamed at her happiness, oblivious to the wider implications.

Looks like dear old ma had contrived the same card hack for my father decades before missus did for me. Why haven’t I ever heard of it before then if it’s so common? Probably because dad felt the same shame I did, and ma was as introverted as is my missus. I suppose if you have too public a system for making the effort to acknowledge someone else it might also detract from the gesture somehow too.

I know this because of another thing about Valentine’s Day. It’s often not so much the private gesture but if a girl has her druthers, being singled out at work in front of peers as a box of roses arrives just for her from a romantic interest is heady stuff. It says she is loved; that despite the competition all around her she has backup. I had to own a flower shop at one point to learn that one. Women told me.

But missus went deeper and helped me understand things more clearly. After some of my antics while out with others early in our time, she summed it up this way. “I want others to look at us together and want to be me, not look at us and feel sorry for me that I’m with you.” Boom!

I was probably fifty when she told me that. This young woman from humble beginnings is in so many ways much wiser than me. Women are the primary caregivers the planet over and most of them possess a depth of understanding men often lack. That’s been my experience. She knows how to line up allies and cut loose competition. The good ones don’t have time for assholes of either sex.

Good women also make good men better. A man with a loyal woman by his side has the wind at his back; though, he better stay-out in front of her if he expects to feel it.

A lot of what holds people back in life has to do with shame. Can’t take compliments or criticism? That’s usually shame. Chronic procrastinator? Perfectionism rooted in shame. Not living the life you know you were meant to live? Look at how much shame you carry. It’s a consequence of our interdependence on each other. By itself, it is neither good nor bad except the meaning we give it. A mild corrective within a family can, with repetition and escalation, evolve into a crushing sense of unworthiness.

When we feel like there is something wrong with us, that we are “broken” on some level, shame has taken hold and acts as a burdensome filter through which life is seen. It can become like wearing heavy winter clothes at the beach on a warm summer’s day. Sometimes, it can be like trying to swim with heavy work boots on.

That’s the thing about fatherhood. It’s not a right as the Incels would suggest. Not at all. It’s a not even just an obligation though plenty of men in or from difficult marriages will unfortunately sometimes see it that way. It’s more that fatherhood is a privilege, something that can define a man. If motherhood is part of a woman’s Hero’s Journey, fatherhood is similar. More so, it’s a chance to be someone’s hero.

My father held on to his shame for most of his ninety years. His own father disowned him, despite their looking like different-aged siblings. As my grandfather’s only son, the youngest child with three older sisters, my dad needed his father. It was not to be. Grandpa spent most of my father’s early years institutionalized and didn’t reconnect with his family for decades. Grandfather was still a jerk.

My father did his best but inevitably passed along his pain to his children. He never apologized but he demonstrated his regret. For example, as an editor, he taught me to write when I was in my late forties. It started when he sent back a letter I had written home corrected with red editor’s pencil. At first put off, I quickly realized his corrections made sense.

I decided to take the high road and wrote him back in thanks. He answered. Told me if I was going to write him to make it double spaced so he could do his job. So, I did, and after several years he handed back an essay I had given him and said there was nothing to correct. I’ll never forget that day.

It was as if the more I knew myself the more I knew him. It was our unspoken understanding, and our private conversations in his last few years were honest and warm and unreservedly candid.

I realized later I had subconsciously become a gangster to protect myself from his wrath experienced in my early life.  It took years and deep dives into my subconscious to unburden the pain I held within me in exile. The tough guy was my protector.

Little Chrissie, that’s what they called me as very young boy in short pants. Well, I got you now Little Chrissie. No one will hurt you again. We are a team you and I, and I’m strong enough and tough enough for us both. Stick with me kid, I have this figured out for us both. It’s going to be OK.

Dad held his father’s hand when grandpa passed away, secretly hoping for a reconciliation that never came. With several of my siblings, in November I held my father when he died. No reconciliation required.

I’m so glad I forgot today was Valentine’s Day. I’m so happy to find this card tucked away in my father’s collection of cards. Thanks Pops. Also, grateful my children were here with me this morning so that they could participate in writing in a little something for their ma to which I added my expected flirtations for the woman I love, my Melissa.

She came home and found the card in its red envelope on the kitchen table with her name on it. I could hear her voice exclaim, “A card? For me?” She was thrilled. Oh Jiggles…

It was from all us: from where we have been and where we are going.

We exist in each other.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Christopher K Wallace
©14 February, 2020
all rights reserved

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GETTING OVER A FATHER

GETTING OVER A FATHER (in 6 steps)

You can do this exercise even if you don’t know your father. If you do or did, that is know him and felt loved and can say you had a great relationship, I thank him on everyone’s behalf (as do you). We need good men. Though, even if he wasn’t part of your life you can still take from this essay a kernel or two of wisdom. I’ll give you my example, you can take it from there.

Not all but many men have problem relationships with their fathers. The post-second world war period as the west re-industrialized under new technologies meant many men worked away from contact with their children for most of the day and week. Lots of men continue to make not much more than an evening appearance at home and spend scant time with family and children on weekends. Feminism probably didn’t help men’s contact with their children, especially as divorce laws were liberalized to favour mothers.

These six steps I used to deal with my father issues were important for me to gain perspective, to put things in black and white. I knew in the end where my anger came from, my nice guy compensation, and several other compromises I unknowingly accepted in developing my personality. I also learned to understand and accept several of my father-derived traits for which I had no prior appreciation, including a multi-generational understanding of influences. This helped me take better charge of my life.

First step: Acknowledge your father’s weaknesses and strengths while identifying which you have adopted as your own.

Undoubtedly, he left his mark in some way so take an inventory. First, put aside resentment if you have any and try to see things as objectively as you can. Even if you don’t know your father, your ma can give you hints: If you have a trait that is clearly from her, but others that are not, assume those other part of you came from dad. Simple elimination.

Write a list of characteristics and assign them accordingly.

Step two: Assert your reasons for change and gain leverage

Why do you want to do things differently than your father? Recognize, we exist in each other. Epigenetic influences on ancestral DNA are handed down for several generations through the methyl groups and are part of your soul. But you can still make decisions for yourself so it’s best to decide out of anger or out of love how you will proceed with your life. The better you understand the forces operating on how you got to where you are, the easier it is to steer yourself to a better existence. I was damned if I was going to parent as my dad did.

You are bound to have some of your father’s tendencies so it’s worth spending a bit of time deciding which to keep and which to update.

We exist in each other. I tell my kids when they are getting strapped into their car seats, “Watch your fingers, watch your toes, canteen open, canteen close,” the same ditty my father learned in the navy and he used to say to us when piling nine kids into a ’67 Pontiac Parisienne. When I repeat those words, my father in me is speaking.

There are stories of twins separated at birth who find each other decades later and they are dressing the same and have similar interests. While not as drastic as that perhaps between father and son, ancestry might be a third of soul. We can’t get away from that stuff so make peace with it.

My father, Howard Carew Wallace and grandson, Howard Thomas William Wallace (my boy)

Step three: Surmise where dad’s influences may have come from. He had parents and grandparents and lived in a different era.

This is where your natural curiousity comes into play. Even if you don’t know your father you can conclude quite a bit from the area of the country and the generation in which he grew up. These things are easily researched. What would a man who has these traits (name the ones you have that are not from mom) growing up in this area at this time be like? That’s what you’re dealing with.

How little or how much you know about your father’s background shouldn’t prevent you from doing this exercise. What’s important is you develop a narrative about his life that allows you to reconcile his existence in so far as it concerns yours.

In my case, I learned my dad was never accepted by his father. My father’s first memory was of his dad smacking his mom around in the kitchen when my dad was just four. He could hear them and remained frozen at the top of the stairs wanting to intervene but afraid, he told me a few years ago clenching his fist. He was just four years old at the time he witnessed it all, mid-eighties when he told me.


My dad and his big sisters

Regrettably, the argument was over my father’s paternity, dad found out later. Dad’s three big sisters were fine and accepted but somehow my grandfather got it into his head grandma had borne him an illegitimate son. It ended up defining my father’s life and he was still mad about it when he told me about it eight decades later so you can imagine.

My grandfather was institutionalized for many years and didn’t appear in our lives until the 1960s when he showed up with grandma, introduced to us nine kids as “Uncle Gimpy.” It was only later we found out he was our lost grandfather and were given permission to call him Grandpa Gimpy. During some visits, I witnessed my father and grandfather arguing in the living room, shouting at each other, presumably over the paternity issue.

My dad spent some time in an institution himself in the 1970s, suffering from what they called manic-depressive back then, bi-polar now. It forced his early retirement from the navy as he tolerance to stress became less and less. He swung back and forth emotionally in what I call a crazy 8 pattern, from anger and rage to loneliness and brooding self-pity and back to anger again. Once the “horses are galloping” as he put it to me once, it could take him days and days to settle down.

Dad was holding his father’s hand when he died at age 98 in the Rideau Veteran’s Home here in town around 1990. Right to the end, my father hoped for a sign, something which would acknowledge him, or perhaps even a death-bed reconciliation. He got nothing.

I saw his pain retrospectively, with him discussing what his influences were while looking at his life. Though, he eventually got dementia and spent his last two years in a locked ward for his own safety, for two years before he went in, I purposely moved nearby from another city and visited him at the family home each week during the day. We spoke less as father and son and more as men.

He told me many stories of his early years and lifetime. He lived in his living room with floor to ceiling bookcases and read thousands of books. As a kid, we were afraid to ask him something because you might get a half hour lecture about a culture or place in the world. When you are a learner, you must teach.

When he died in November, a month shy of five years since he lost ma, his partner of sixty-two years, a few of his nine children were present, including me. It was at the Perley Rideau Veterans’s home built on the grounds of the old Rideau Vets home where his father died. We held his hands in turn, no reconciliation necessary.

Given the uneven attachments and unpredictable violence of my early years, I gained a good understanding of why my father was weakened so in his lifetime despite it all: his pain was large and lifelong.

Ma was not much better off. Born into a family of nine in Newfoundland, she was given to her grandmother as a child because her mother “couldn’t bear another.” Though cared for, she never got over this separation from her family. At some point in her early teens, she was allowed to stay overnight at her mothers and announced defiantly in the morning she wasn’t leaving. You can imagine the deal she had to make with herself just to stay and be near where she believed she would be loved.

And my grandfather Gimpy, my father’s father. As a boy he heard his two older sisters, the ones tasked mostly with looking after him, crying to each other in the night sick with scarlet fever. In the morning he found them both dead. It was the late 1890s, the milkman had infected the whole neighbourhood.


Then, his mother bleeds to death over three days while delivering twins at age forty, despite the neighbourhood women taking shifts to staunch the blood from her ruptured uterus. Then a wicked stepmother enters the picture.

In 1914, he goes off to war and is shot by a sniper and thought dead. He miraculously recovers leaving an ugly pink scar more than a foot long on his leg and giving him his nickname, Gimpy. He takes up flying, done with the infantry, comes back from a bombing run at war’s end and crash lands in the fog, staying hospitalized with brain damage in Britain until 1921.


While there, he loses his father back in Halifax. My great grandfather is killed racing his horse and buggy through a short cut by a train at a hidden crossing racing home after seeing another of his sons, long before they had those lights and barriers common today.


Thomas Patrick Wallace with his three sons, Howard Vincent, soon to be named Gimpy is on the right.

Looking up my ancestral records, sleuthing through the genealogical tree, I find my great-great grandfather, John Wallace dies of “exhaustion due to excessive drink” on a Saturday night in Oshawa Village. He worked at the carriage maker which later become part of General Motors and leaves a conscientious woman, Mary Hart, in charge of his five kids of whom Thomas Patrick was one.


John Wallace, b. 1824 Ireland (we don’t know for sure) d. 24 May, 1875.
His schedule C gave the reason for death as “exhaustion from excessive drinking.”

John Wallace was the only son of Thomas Wallace, my founding immigrant, who fought in the Gibraltar campaign of the Napoleonic War before sailing to Canada to fight for Her Majesty in the War of 1812. Arriving in 1814 at war’s end, he settles in Oshawa Village.

Thomas Wallace gravestone, Oshawa, Ontario

I can trace five generations of Wallaces before me through these men and see the pain they have transferred to each generation.

Step four: accept, forgive, surrender

Call it compassion, sympathy, cognitive empathy while realizing we are people makers. It is only by understanding that each person lives the best they can under the circumstances and makes the best decisions for themselves at the time. Of course, they do, self-interest is always paramount. If they knew better or could act differently, they would.

Seeing a previous generation through the lens of today’s values and morality is called presentism. It drives historians nuts. Let this knowledge signal greater tolerance and compassion for those who came before you.

Not only were the cultural values different way back in your father’s time and his father’s time, so was the environment. Times of war or of social justice upheaval or economic hardship far removed from our experience precludes our ever being able to completely reconcile their journey. “You had to be there” you have heard people say. Well, we could not, so judge less on that basis.

We didn’t live through the advent of electricity, women’s emancipation or even the vote being extended to all citizens for that matter. We know nothing of two world wars. Most can’t remember the sixties. Two hundred years ago life expectancy was less than fifty and most were living hand to mouth on the family farm or in tiny communities. Religion was stronger and laws often looser.

Step five: seize control and take the stand all men must make.

Ask: am I going to allow my history to determine my future? Or, shall I create a life of my own?

What will be my legacy to others? How will I improve upon my ancestral line so that my legacy flows into the distance intact and strengthened?

Make the declaration. THE PAIN STOPS HERE!

Use this powerful stance to decide your future, ensuring you are an improvement on the previous generation. I remember visiting my mom and dad from out of town once when I had then missus and my first son in tow. Dad noticed how I interacted with my boy and remarked to all around, “Christopher is determined to not act like me.”

He was right. I’d be damned. I haven’t been perfect, but I haven’t been him either, not by a long shot. Though I recognize him in me when shit hits the fan. That’s been an important part of my personal legacy.

No one becomes a parent with anything but the best intentions. No one has kids and intends to fuck them up on purpose. Good intentions are tossed aside when stress hits and we revert to our family of origin programming. Be aware of this and make plans for how you will counter this if necessary when it happens, because it will.

Step six: Reclaim your power and gain your freedom.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. wrote at one point: “One’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never shrinks back to its original dimensions.” Think of that for a moment.

Whatever circumstances came before you, you can live differently but only under certain conditions. This is because we live emotionally and interpret things later. Most of what we do happens subconsciously. It’s only by bringing something into awareness that we can bring about the possibility of change or control. It is only with insight where free will begins, not before.

If the soul is comprised of the epigenetic influences on ancestral DNA, contrasted with the collective unconscious of all mankind’s history and then added to by your databank of emotional experiences since birth, the spirit is its voice. You are a unique combination of these influences and to deny any is to deny them all. It is to deny your spirit.

The more aware you are of your history, and the more you accept and surrender expectations and the futility of should have, could have, would have and what if,  the more you can take charge your present and future. Life is lived forwardly, not regressively, though the past has lessons to teach.

Now that I know all this, I get to decide. Some of my father lives on in me as a shadow aspect of my personality. Knowing my shadow allows me to live in the light.  It is a light of my choosing. Power equals agency.

I consciously blame him for this violence in me I had to learn to tame on my own. I blame him for my disregard for money and for my nice guy tendencies earlier in my life. I also blame him for my love of books, for my memory, for my athleticism, for my sense of justice and for the simple love of teaching. He taught me to write when I was fifty. I blame him for that too.

Using our power in service of ourselves and others is how we find meaning and freedom.

Ask yourself: How will I live?  Powerfully or in weakness? How will I be an improvement on the generations which preceded me. As Horace Mann once suggested, “Be afraid to die until you have won a victory for mankind.”

Stay powerful, never give up: You will sleep better at night

cw

©January, 2020, all rights reserved
Christopher K Wallace
Advisor to men, mentor at large

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NATURE’S EDGE: valued women

NATURE’S EDGE: valued women

You will often read me saying women are more valued by nature and that men are the expendable sex. Sometimes a guy thinks this means I am putting women on a pedestal. Of course, this is nonsense. It’s as if they are saying unless you have contempt for women, you are glorifying their existence. Bullshit.

Perhaps we should glorify each other, which is more in line with what what I teach, and that is a long way from pedestalizing women. Don’t be a fool about that but we should look for opportunities to appreciate each other. A lot. I just realize women’s value is a biological reality and I will tell you why: I see examples of gynocentric favouritism all over the planet in both the animal and human kingdom.

For example, there will probably always be rape. It is why women will never be able to walk the streets in the night anywhere half dressed expecting no one will molest them. It’s not fair but then again, life is often not fair. There will likely always be some lesser value male who cannot compete for females effectively who resorts to stealing something of value from a woman, with tragic results.

It is also why women have been “spoils of war” since forever. There is not a culture on the planet where women have not suffered in war because of their value, and either been raped and killed or become captive slaves or concubines for a conquering army. Note, this goes on around the world to this day, for example in Nigeria and the Syrian caliphate war of late.

Look up any Indigenous tribal culture and raiding for women was rampant. In one wonderful book in my library, A Stolo-Coast Salish Historical Atlas, it details how rival tribes used the tides to raiding advantage heading up the Fraser River in the south of British Columbia.

In what used to be freshet flooded plain between the cities of Abbotsford and Chilliwack, BC, the natives who lived there became known as “people of the reeds,” because they would run really fast over the swamp, knowing just where to step, and escape into the hills, They bought extra time by seemingly walking on water while their pursuers would stop and sink into the bog where they could be killed by warriors lying in ambush.

In the old growth forests overlooking the plain, the tribe had constructed hiding places, camouflaged earthen caves dug into the mountain where women and children would wait while the men fought the intruders.

Women have value, and that value is sought after by men. Put all the men over here in one group and all the women over there in another group and soon you will see the men drift towards the women. It’s an irresistible pull, a natural force of nature itself programmed deeply in mankind’s psyche.

It’s why when the Titanic went down, we put women and children in the lifeboats first. It’s the first thing honourable men protect in a society: women and children.

That doesn’t put them on a pedestal but just recognizes this truth. The w.o.w. effect (women are wonderful) is a measurable reality. Right or wrong.

So is a woman’s other side, her tendency to compete covertly using mean remarks, social exclusion and by trying to win over your friends and allies. Her power can be abusive when it’s turned against you.

Neither is recognizing abuse of empathy as her birthright pedestalizing her.

I’m older, experienced and more educated than my missus—all things which count for fuck-all when we argue.  It’s recognizing her power and according it respect. Value judgments are secondary to appreciating how she is made and operates.

Get bitten by anything in the animal kingdom and the chances are it will have been by the female of whatever species. From mosquitoes to lionesses, females are survivors of the fittest kind first and foremost.

There are key differences between men and women. Don’t listen to the social constructionist “move to androgyny” narrative prevalent in western society. Equality of opportunity is one thing, but generally men and women are too different to be considered equals. This post is about her value to nature, so I won’t go over our many differences. It is enough to say the case is strong nature makes her more valuable than men and that men, therefore, are more expendable.

There are good and bad in both sexes, and context is everything. Using scarcity—a widely accepted measure of value—women are more valuable based of their shorter fertility window alone. She has roughly 20 good years, between ages 15 to about 35, before risk to her and baby go way up.

Men have triple or more her fertility period. I’ve already told you about the 90-year-old farmer in Rajasthan who fathered a baby girl with his fourth wife in 2007. I myself am 62 with an eight-year daughter and six-year old son. Women can’t do that and if they do, it makes international news.

Heck just look out at the bird feeder and see the male Cardinal in his bright red plumage (or most other songbirds). Meanwhile, the female is more buff coloured. If a Sparrow Hawk (American Kestrel) happens to catch the couple unawares, he’s getting it first. That is expendability.

This same male expendability is reflected in society where men are 90+% of workplace deaths, up to 95% of deaths from war, etc. These are all things you know. To think men are not the expendable sex is to deny reality. Seems to me we can accept this with grace and make the best of it, or we can whine about it.

We are also far more likely to die in childbirth and die earlier in life. Our life expectancy is less than a female life expectancy.  There are  more developmentally challenged men as well as more bright ones at the two ends of a Bell curve. Women cluster more safely in the middle of distribution.

I agree there were constraints on women in days of yore that do not exist today. This is largely irrelevant to this discussion and so I’ll skip the presentism to theorize about the merits of old cultural norms.  But it’s also true that: “Ont as tous les qualites de nos defauts.” Translated:  “We all have the faults of our qualities.” Both sexes are good and bad. On that we are equal.

I’d like to see more discussion in society about women’s and men’s preferences and differences but without the blaming (and anger). I also think a man can get stuck considering these things and embrace a disdain for women, and I see evidence of this every day. If your view of women rings with contempt, I suggest that is an unsettled part of your personal maturation as a man. Same goes for women.

Just as men have great gifts of aggression, sometimes this gets the better of us. In one context aggression is critical, in another it’s a detriment. An aggressive man who wants to fight you is one thing, one that will back you up in a fight is entirely another isn’t it?

A woman who can maneuver covertly and win over people to her cause is a bitch when it goes against you. But when she uses her power in your favour. it’s more than tolerable, it’s encouraged. I’ve seen this too many times to discount it. Context.

I have spent the last few decades learning sex differences as a result of being disappointed with my father when I mentioned I was having a hard time understanding women. He answered, “You’re not supposed to,” which I thought was weak as fuck. Resolving to do just that I found my father was wrong: we can understand each other, and it’s not that hard.

I have been following along from a behavioural science viewpoint while observing how women work through my relationship with Gallup and as a Strengths Coach.  As VP for the largest paid sales newspaper company in the world where ran teams of teens and young adults in close quarters for a couple of decades—giving me access to a live lab of sorts.

I was never a red pill type, but I listened to Tom Leykis in the early 2000s for a few months and saw the reality many men were facing (with the traditions of womanhood, shall we say, long on the wane). I also lived through feminism’s heyday, something I find contemptible now. Well intentioned but mistaken idealists I call them.

I just think the answer is to know our strengths and weaknesses on each side of the gender energy divide. I’m aware of women’s faults, but also appreciate her gifts. I’m aware of men’s faults but appreciate his gifts. We are a team, and a people, and knowing our tendencies and proclivities is critical to having any chance at winning any kind of game, the game of life included.

I’m not intimidated by either gender’s powers gone awry; nor am I deterred from finding the awe on each side. That’s the thing about male maturation. If you are to become an elder of your tribe, as a man you will need to discover the inter-connectedness of all things, including this energetic female force you may presently find so befuddling.

Men and women have been banding together since the dawn of time to benefit from each other’s strengths and shore up each other’s weaknesses. If we were the same, if she were more like me, there would be no need for each other. Think about that for a moment: what kind of egocentricity demands others be more like us?

Fact is, her depth and wider perception balance out your narrowness and single-mindedness. Her power with people and your power with things are what makes you an unbeatable team. Striking a balance which respects differences while recognizing each other’s value and place in the natural order of things is what makes the pair bond interesting and rewarding. What’s bad about her? Instead, try: what’s good about her? Men lead; women command.

It is only when a man is fully secure in his power that he can appreciate the intricacies of his relationships and see magic in those around him. You must push yourself to find this wellspring of strength, even if it is pain which motivates your quest for consciousness is slow. So little of your existence makes its way into awareness that each small realization is a gift of body and mind and heart.

This is what a man’s power really is: it is agency over his being. It’s him taking the hidden parts of soul and the quiet voice of spirit and finding and living his potential and possibilities. You have a bigger mission in life than just understanding women. Make that part easy.

Find it early, find it late, we must all find love.

Stay powerful, never give up
cw

©2019, Christopher K Wallace
Advisor to men, mentor at large

BOOK YOUR FREE CALL HERE

The rose breasted grosbeak at my feeder. The darker male has white and black colours with a rose breast while the female sitting on top of the feeder just blends into the background and is barely visible…

THE CRAZY 8

THE BOUNCE The emotional crazy 8 involves bouncing from one negative extreme to another. Following the graphic , you see it goes from versions of sadness over to versions of anger and back to versions of sadness and back and forth again and again. You observe it in folks all the time, and you’ll notice […]

GRIEVING LOST LOVE


Photo by Nathan Cowley from Pexels

Regrets? I’ve had a few…
After a breakup, it’s almost certain we will find ourselves a little sad. For some of us, it’s a process akin to grieving. Should you show sadness, concerned friends might inform you of the stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. “Grieve!” they will tell you with the best of intentions. I’m not so sure. Kubler-Ross’s five stages were developed from her observations of people struggling to accept terminal illness. Only later was the paradigm applied to grief and eventually, to any general loss.

Fact is, loss is not a one-size-fits-all process. While important to consider if you get stuck, there is no rule which says you must pass through all or any of these stages to regain your sense of self. On the contrary, many people are liberated after a breakup, reveling in their newfound freedom, even asking why they didn’t do it sooner. Others have their whole model of the world shattered and require time and work to find their footing again.

New interpretations of the 5 stages of grief emerge every so often. One with good keywords shows up in search as the 7 Stages of Grief. These include 1. Shock and denial; 2. Pain and Guilt; 3. Anger and Bargaining; 4. Reflection, Loneliness and Depression; 5. The Upward Turn; 6. Reconstruction; and 7. Acceptance and Hope.  I suppose these seek to expand the stages to include wider loss by adding key ideas about the moment we might turn things around as well as the work involved in rebuilding a life after loss. I like the expectations in these, they seem familiar.

In some respects, this is a variation of the Hero’s Journey, which also follows a predictable pattern. Derived from extensive research by the mythologist Joseph Campbell adding to the work of CG Jung and others, we go through a series of these Hero’s Journey’s as we live our lives, usually in these predictable steps.
1. Hero confronted
2. Rejects challenge
3. Accepts challenge
4. Road of Trials
5. Gathers Allies and gains power
6. Confronts evil and is defeated
7. Dark Night of the Soul
8. Leap of Faith
9. Confronts evil and is victorious
10. Student becomes Teacher

The Hero’s Journey always means transcending ourselves for someone else or for a greater good. A sure way for women to do this is to give birth, whereas outside of war, men must find other means of moving & growing through its challenges. That could mean college or university, joining the marines, training for a charity marathon, moving cities or taking on a new job somewhere. I say breakups are one of those ways.

Let me give you another perspective: we exist in each other. The idea that you and your loved ones are separate entities is an inadequate way to describe human existence. It’s far more likely that our attachment to each other encompasses more than just a physical safe haven we return to. It also involves a much deeper connection at the soul and spirit level, and more obviously using intellect and memory.

Think of a pod of dolphins. Evolving in the ocean for fifty million years, they are said to have a greater para-limbic system—the emotional part of the brain. One dolphin hits the beach and suddenly, the rest of the pod follows suit. The good citizens in the area rush to the seashore to “rescue” the dolphins from the horror of beaching. And what happens? Sometimes a freed whale or dolphin swims merrily back out to sea. Often though, if one dolphin is still on the beach, the others simply beach again, over and over, to everyone’s frustration. It’s as if they must as one pod; it’s as if they exist in each other.

Every close relationship we have with another person means part of that person is “left” with us, just as we leave part of ourselves with them. I find myself saying and doing things like my father and mother did when they were alive.

When my son shits his pants out back a couple of years ago after being at the top of the Chokecherry tree and not being able to get down on time to go, I knew exactly how to handle it with kindness, patience and generosity. Why? Because my father had done the same for me more than half a century before when I was about four or so and had an accident out in front of the house in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In fact, it’s my first memory of my dad, one of a half dozen or so I’ve never forgotten. Confronted that day with my boy’s dilemma, it was not me but my father who answered.

This is what happens when we love someone and lose them in whichever manner. My father died a couple of weeks ago, surrounded by sons and daughters, He went with his hand held just the same way as he had held his own father’s hand back in 1990 near the same spot in the veteran’s home. Where I exist in my father was put into doubt at that moment. This could sustain my grief longer as the existential question, “where is that part of me now?” remains open and unresolved. But where my father exists in me is never in doubt.

One’s beliefs play a part in how loss is maintained. It’s the idea a part of me “over there” (in the other person) is now unknown… whereas it WAS known until recently. Religious faith can take advantage of metaphors like heaven and earth, purgatory, or reincarnation to lessen our pain. An aspect of this dynamic is present in any loss. In a breakup especially, it is as if the other person is leaving with a part of you. Absent the metaphors of religion, how do you handle it?

In the case of loved one’s death we welcome this idea of existing in each other as comforting, for they are never really gone. Their influence and the memories of our shared existence echoes endlessly down through time in those left behind. When I shut my car doors with the kids strapped in their car seats, I say, “watch your fingers, watch your toes, canteen open, canteen close.” It’s the rhyme dad learned on the ships in the navy and which he said before slamming the car doors of his 1967 Pontiac Parisienne loaded with his nine kids all those years so long ago. He’s not gone at all.

And what of the other half of that equation? If we exist in each other and she has left with part of me, that means she has also left part of her behind. Now you might be thinking, “that’s my problem!” and you’d be partially right. Can we realistically excise a part of another from our soul once it has been placed there by love? It’s unlikely.

If the soul is the epigenetic influences upon your ancestral DNA passed along through methyl groups and added to your emotional experiences since birth, then contrasted against humanity’s collective unconscious, the spirit is its calling. Lifted at sunrises, at the stars, at nature, and sometimes or often at each other, the spirit is an action which should regularly awaken awe within you. It is a deep stirring, an indomitable will to live, a creative calling to serve the universe with the gifts of your unique potentials and possibilities.

In that context, what should you do with this part of you left behind by your former lover? Should you poison your own spirit out of fear and loathing? Should you deny the lessons learned and the love once shared? To toss the whole of it is to cut of your nose to spite your face. You were once good together, that changed. Lessons learned, perhaps even cherished.

The problem is often one of self-concept. That’s comprised of how you see yourself contrasted against how you believe others see you. You play a balancing act between those two most of your life as a social animal. To do the work is to rebuild the self-concept so that it is once again imbued with confidence. Both parts are under our locus of control.

Everyone one of my long-term relationships left me something beautiful. It’s up to me to find this wisdom and claim it as my own. From Sylvia and Claire to Marie as teenager and young man, and as a mature (debatable) adult with Debbie and the women in between, each of whom I trusted and was vulnerable with to the best of my ability, each of whom taught me to be a better man than I was with her, each of whom sent me forward to be more. This is nature’s way, the calling of the universe.

Currently, missus gets the best version of me though I’m not done yet, not by far. And, neither should you be.

If we are not expanding into the night and days of our travel through time, we are stagnating or retreating. A man using his power in service of himself and others finds meaning and freedom.  What is love but an internal projection, a part of self reflected outward onto other as if they were a tableau upon which you are laid bare. Think of that for a moment.

Like two comets streaking across the sky at night, you and your ex’s orbits were just sufficiently different to ensure your eventual separation. Blame physics if you must.  It doesn’t have to be anyone’s fault unless the pain of your regret serves you in some way, perhaps by letting you know that to feel hurt is to be alive, to suffer is to exist. I am reminded pain is inevitable in life, though suffering is usually a choice.  Be careful of that one.

What if we haven’t lost love at all, but instead, have been given the opportunity to find a deeper love within us? Unshackled from unsustainable confinement, insecure attachments can next become secure. Now you get to check in with the soul and answer the spirit, and to rebuild your self-concept in a version of your choosing.

What if you exist to learn to  love and give? What if living IS giving? What if this your Hero’s Journey, your pain a Dark Night of the Soul awaiting its Leap of Faith? How will you rebuild even better than before?

Find it early, find it late, we must all find love.

Stay powerful, never give up,
cw

©2019 CKWallace, all rights reserved

Christopher K Wallace
Advisor to Men, Mentor at Large

Reach me here for a free call

JUST ONE THING

JUST ONE THING: re-establishing devotion
Sometimes, it gets to the point between a man and a woman where she feels she can no longer rely upon him, and this is a problem. The pact she makes with the universe to choose the right guy is put into doubt.

This is especially true when a woman has children. This is her Hero’s Journey. For a woman to go through childbirth and create life is a situation that can only be called heroic. How many men can even fathom this?

A century ago, her risks of dying during childbirth were great. My great-grandmother died at age 40 giving birth to twins. For three days the women of Truro, Nova Scotia took turns sopping up blood with towels in shifts until she died. It affected generations of Wallace men. Women still die giving birth today.

We should never take for granted their struggle. And, once the kids are born, there are countless sleepless nights and diapers and suckling and it just goes on for years! My boy was born with some challenges and I can say he would not be alive today at almost six years old without my woman. She says he’s her little bear, and for now, he’s all hers and she is his. There will be time to make him King later.

Outside of war, it can be argued her challenge is as great as any man’s, maybe far more. How many men cry when the baby comes out after witnessing the birth of a son or daughter like the modern practice calls for? I didn’t, but I would not look down on any man who did. Fact is, mothers are heroes.

And her journey, like all Hero’s Journey’s involves subjugating her own existence for the sake of another’s. It’s a sacrifice in service of a greater good. Sound familiar? All the heroes do this down through time. A man who uses his power in service of himself and others finds meaning and freedom. You and I need to seek ways to do this. She only must have a baby.

Women are way ahead of us gentleman, in the nurturance and giving departments, by far. While it’s true they are also sexual human beings, if there is a man-child in the house, expect the resentment to build over time. She needs a powerful man, not a boy as a partner. Nice guys are boys. |

I was one, admittedly, and I wish I knew then what I know now. It may not have changed anything, but it might also have made ALL the difference in the world. I regret I’ll never find out because we let trust go too far, irretrievably far.

I can tell you this go around I am all man and she is happy… and shows it. I have earned her loyalty.

How to recover? Assuming there has been no cheating, where trust is fundamentally broken on both sides, is there a way back? Maybe. All she wants is a powerful man. She takes a HUGE risk on whichever man she chooses because she has twenty good years of fertility, and she spends most of those years caring for little ones so can’t prepare for old age like a man can.

Think there is nothing to the feminist rant about these things? Think again.

I’ve had guys see success using this simple strategy I’m about to share with you to regain their wife’s trust. It doesn’t always work but it’s a wonderful exercise, nonetheless. Get this, I use this at home every so often to mid things up and everything is going great. And don’t tell me you don’t want my life because I assure you that you do (your version of it).

Here’s what I think is worth a shot:

Guys start and first ask their wives, “what’s one thing I can do for you today?” and then do it. Doesn’t matter how small a thing, just get it done. Fix a drawer that gets stuck, repair a light, tile that needs cementing, a bike tire that is flat, drop off a parcel or pick up dry cleaning, whatever it is just do it. Doesn’t matter if it takes until five minutes to midnight, get it done. Then say nothing. NOTHING. ZERO. FUCK ALL. NOT A WORD.

Next day, one more thing. ONE THING and NO expectations, NO looking for points, NO pat on the head, NO sniffing for pussy or angling for compliments. NOTHING. If she says thanks, it’s “your welcome” and NO smile, NO lingering eye contact, just GO about your business.

You ask: “what’s one thing I can do for you?” and add it into your schedule. Don’t bat an eye.

Next day, one more thing. Just one. And it’s not, “is there anything I can do for you today?” because that’s a trap. It’s always, “what’s one thing I can do for you today?” Said just like that. Matter of fact, no emotion. Like you are asking her to pass the salt. Write it in your book, phone or schedule and be on your way.

SO now, you do it. You take care of your job, your gym time, your children, and your whatever else responsibilities, AND this one thing for her. Just one thing. That’s it, that’s all—no more, no less.

DO this for as long as it takes. JUST DO IT. Stop trying to predict the future. Stop trying to weight the pros and cons. Stop trying to balance fairness and make it transactional. STOP ALL THAT.

Just do the one mother fucking thing every day and forget about it. FUHGETABOUTIT…

Do it for a month. Do it for two months. Do it for three months. If she hasn’t kicked your sorry ass out of the house and you are still there in month four, do it all that month too.

I’m not saying this will work for you. I’m saying I’ve seen it work for dozens of men in my time. Not all, but some of them probably bullshitted as to if they did it perfectly or consistently… or at all.

A man who uses his power in service of himself and others finds meaning and freedom.

What part of that don’t you understand? It’s about service. Living is giving.

And the guys who do this find that their women respond. Not right away, she’s too smart for that. She’s been gamed before by the universe, most notably when she chose you. She needs a track record of service like she has a track record of service to her children. You are not one of her children, and that was the problem.

No woman can love a man unconditionally, and it’s best to disabuse yourself of this expectation for good. Oh, maybe she can muster it for a short time, but don’t get sucked in by this, not one bit. Your mother didn’t (bless her heart) love you unconditionally and neither can your woman.

We band together as man and woman for mutual need, to shore up each others’ weaknesses while benefiting from each other’s strengths. It’s about surviving against a harsh world. No one has time for white flags.

One of your strengths is supposed to be your power.  Her archetype for love is the powerful father. It’s a gal’s first love and she will never lose this need for the masculine’s powerful love. You were gamed by your mother’s love and it left you searching for her in your partner. My missus has some of my mother’s qualities, but can she love me like my mother could? Ha! Not my missus. Can’t happen. In fact, she loves me just as my mother did, conditionally disguised as unconditional but clearly conditional.

Don’t be fool.  The boy must leave his mother to become a man.

In time, the men who have consistently applied this strategy have reported good results. Some guys save their marriages. It’s because as they get lost in the daily habit of doing just that one thing for their partner, the joy of service to each other returns to the pair bond. That’s where the sacrifice lies. Would I die to save my woman from harm? Of course, I would, I’d easily defend her to the death!

Then, why wouldn’t I do one thing for her? Each day.

Sometimes a few days or weeks or months go by before she starts to respond. “Here, I sewed that shirt you ripped last year,” she says as she hands you a bundle of material and turns and walks away. That’s a test, a shit test if you like. Or maybe it’s something else, but her nature, her very nature is to nurture, for God’s sake. You think if you give her an opportunity to do what she is best at it won’t surface? Chances are it will.

Don’t count on it. If her one thing is “sign these divorce papers giving me the house,” see a lawyer. Don’t be stupid. Don’t jump off a bridge because someone told you to. You may have heard your mother tell you that.

But if you can re-establish service, you often can re-establish why you got together in the first place.

Almost 70% of things in a marriage are not resolvable. My wife hides shit. Changes where she puts stuff. Opens something and leaves everything right where she opened it. Used to drive me nuts. She couldn’t take a picture of me and the kids worth saving. And, the house was not up to my standards. It’s not that I’m Felix from the Odd Couple, but I like stuff to go where it’s supposed to go, so I can find it again.

So, I bought her an expensive camera for Christmas one year. She’s frugal. What does she do? She opens a photography business and learns to take pictures. We live on two hundred acres and soon she has people over posing in front of our artisan well, the apple blossoms in spring, the old rail fences, etc. Her goal was to pay for the camera. She’s been at it for three years now and has added to her income every season. Camera has paid for itself twenty times over, and it was a gift! She takes great pictures of me and the kids now. She’s a whiz at photoshop.

Once the kids were in school, she searched for something she could do, yet still be able to cancel at any time. She tried having daycare kids over last summer but didn’t like it. One kid was a handful and despite my help at times when he acted up, she lost her taste for it.

She starts cleaning houses for $25-30 bucks an hour. I shut up, remembering what happened with the camera. Holy shit, wouldn’t you know it, not only was her calendar full of happy customers, it shows at home where she elevated her game and lowered her tolerance by several degrees. I just stay out of her way and never complain about her approach.

She still hides my shit though. “You can’t always get what you want,” goes the Rolling Stone’s song, “but if you try sometimes, you will find, you get what you need.” Indeed.

We train each other. And the magic is in having a little more awe for our partners. Awe, that sense of being small in front of the stars, or the majesty of a mountain, the distance of the sea. A man with a loyal woman by his side has the wind at his back… but must stay out in front of her to feel it. Holding space in your heart for awe when it comes to your partner is part of what makes it all worthwhile.

Just do one thing, selflessly. Women command, men lead. Do it because you can. Not because you have to, not for any reason other than you are a man and you can do this one thing every day for this woman.

It’s what men do.

Stay powerful, never give up
cw

CHRIS WALLACE
Advisor to Men

©CKWallace July, 2019 all rights reserved
Book time with the Advisor to Men here

ASSHOLE: accepting criticism


  1. So, I once knew a guy, we’ll call him Bill, and as he’s growing up, all kinds of shit goes on leaving him living with shame. Dad hits him often, told him how “disappointed”  he was with him almost every day. Seems like the only time he got attention from his mom was when things went wrong.  Only, he doesn’t know this lousy feeling inside of him is shame because he has internalized things so deeply, he thinks it must be the same for everyone.

It’s funny how that works, but how could it not? “I’m a human, you’re a human, we must be the same,” is a fair conclusion to make. “If I feel this then you must feel this and so this is how we all feel,”  is how a kid might think under the circumstances.

He doesn’t pay much attention to life and how it seems kind of shitty. There always seems to be someone telling him no, or some good reason he can’t get what he wants, usually because he comes up short somehow. It’s him, he knows it, and he gets the message loud and clear, over and over. You are not enough, it says.

This pisses him off. He sees others who do seem to get the things he wants and wonders if there is something  to gaming the system. He starts to compare more and more, and he concludes there is no justice between men. It`s all who you know in life, what your connections are, luck of your family.

In fact, his sense of injustice is so great, as time goes by and he develops into a teenager, he begins to fight back. Only now, his body and mind are greater allies. He has muscles and his brain can spot the bullshit faster than ever. When the inevitable criticisms come his way, he doesn’t take it anymore.


The first time was when someone called him an asshole. It was high school by the smoking pit with no teachers around. Boom ba-ding bing bang! He punched the shit out of that person and felt great about it.

Soon, he got a reputation. No one talked to him that way and got away with it. He had no real friends and the interactions he had with others were mostly utilitarian. He could sense people were a bit afraid of him, but he thought that respect was better than being mistreated. His isolation was worth it.

Soon enough, Bill was out in the workforce and he had to negotiate a new set of circumstances. He often found himself drinking with others on Friday after payday and felt great laughing and joking with people while having a few. He managed to find a girlfriend this way. That relationship was difficult and his anger a problem between them. But they loved to drink and lose it at the bar.

Until, inevitably, someone there would call him an asshole. Boom ba-ding bing bang! Off he’d go and punch someone out. Soon, the cops would come, he’d be charged with assault, taken away in cuffs.

At work, he’d be criticized for his performance and argue with his foreman about every little thing he was supposedly doing wrong. He thought they demanded way too much and just didn’t like him. The foreman was the asshole, he thought. Until, one day they gave him his pay and told him not to come back.

At the bar that night, a repeat of what happened months before at a different bar. A fight broke out, it was the asshole thing again. Boom ba-ding bing bam! The cops come, he’s charged again, and this time, his girlfriend breaks up with him. He thinks it’s unbelievable at how she is taking the other person’s side!

He lives like this through most of his twenties and now he’s thirty. He moves cities and jobs often. He’s single, drives an old car, has had a succession of lousy jobs, and a series of girlfriends but none who will stick around. He hangs around low-quality people who are not great company but who don’t give him a hard time.

One day, his father dies. He was never in good with the old man, who he thought was a prick. His grandfather was an angry man and so his father ruled the house with an iron fist the same way. His ma was his one refuge the odd time but even she wouldn’t stand up for him when the old man was in a rage. It was just how it was done.

He was ambivalent about his father’s death. A part of him didn’t give a shit, and why should he? He did notice his dad never amounted to much. Worked at the same garage his whole life, had few friends, and drank every weekend. In fact, it was his liver which took him in the end.

Maybe there was more to life, he thought for the first time ever. He saw that he wasn’t going anywhere with his own life either. He didn’t own a house, had no family, had loved and lost some decent women, and would only work at a job so long before the nitpicking by management became too much.

My father was an asshole and I’ve grown up to be just like him, he thought to himself, never admitting it to anyone else. It was his worse fear confirmed. He sat with that reality and felt the weight of its burden.

At the bar after the funeral, he stayed long into the night. He had a lot on his mind and was tired. He didn’t drink that much but hung around talking to Marty, the bartender. They had a good relationship. Marty seem to get him and as he sat barely sipping his beers, Marty listened in between serving others.

Sure enough, a couple of guys down at the other end of the bar got a little rowdy. One of them knocked over glass and it shattered on the floor. Startled, Bill could feel his blood begin to boil but checked himself. Marty will handle it, he thought.

A while later, he noticed one of them eyeing him a bit. He’d seen this look before and knew that it was the beginnings of a challenge. He was being tested, and there might be trouble. He saw the routine play out in his mind: the fight, the cops, the screaming people, the weekend in prison, the appearance before a judge, to maybe losing his job for not showing up on Monday. His car would be impounded, and shit, he might even get barred from his favourite watering hole. Marty sensed it too.

But no, the two rowdies weren’t going to take his problems into account and emboldened by it being two of them and one of him, they played their dangerous game. One of the two of them tries to start a conversation, a half-ass effort he wanted no part of.

Our man tells him he’s not interested in talking and they should go about their fun. “Too good for us,” one of them says. Marty intervenes, and out of the side of his mouth, he quietly explains the funeral, cautioning them to leave things alone. Marty is good like that.

“Oh, sorry about your father dude,” says one of them loudly, insincerely. “No reason to be an asshole.”

And, Bill feels his blood pressure rise. He can sense that this is beyond the pale. What an outrage it is someone would say something like that on the day a guy buries his father! This is just too much.

He takes a deep breath. And, from out of nowhere, the pressure releases and he answered, “Sure buddy, there are times where I probably am an asshole.”

What? How the heck did that come out? Did I just say that? he thought to himself. He was tired and drained and really didn’t want to have to take on the two of them and piss Marty off, so he let it stand.

He hadn’t agreed that he was an asshole in that moment, only with the possibility. There’s a big difference. Surely, everyone’s an asshole at some point whether they realize it or not. He’d lived long enough to know that for sure. Like these two fucks over there sitting at the end of the bar, for example.

There was no doubt in his mind, looking back over his history, that he had indeed been an asshole at other times. These flashed before him in an instant—old bosses and girlfriends, times at school—so that when he said it, he meant it. It was convincing because it was true. He rarely intended to be an asshole but had to admit, it happens.

It was as if at that very moment he finally allowed himself to be human. His walls came down suddenly, and he was no longer a guy who had to keep up an image as a hard ass. He was just a faulted human being like everyone else. He could, indeed, be an asshole, just as the other fella could too.

And in his confusion, Bill could feel relief. As soon as he said it, he lost some of his anger.

The tension which had been building seemed to dissipate into thin air. He no longer had the usual imagined scenario playing his mind, the one where a brawl ensues and mayhem rules. The foregone conclusion carried by the power of the asshole word, was gone. Asshole as an insult held no power over him. The trigger was neutralized. These two assholes would have to find some other asshole to be assholes with.

Sure enough, that seemed to satisfy Rowdy Boy at the end of the bar too. In fact, he answered, “that’s true, we can all be assholes at times, sorry again for your loss,” as he went back to his friend and his laughter, moving to a table over by the dart boards.

Marty looked at our man incredulously and smiled. “What the heck man, way to go. I didn’t think you had it in you, but you handled that like a pro. Next beer is on me, Bill.” But, he didn’t want to drink anymore, so declined the beer and left soon after.

In the weeks and months to come, he tried his strategy over and over with everyone he could. When the boss at work gave him feedback, he took it and agreed that sometimes he came up short. “Well, I suppose that’s possible,” he’d say, realizing the criticism was over THE WORK  and NOT him personally. Boy, that was a revelation, one that allowed him to sidestep the painful parts of learning while getting better at his job.

The new girl he’d begun dating sometimes complained to him about something or rather and his new tact was to agree with the possibility she was right, without agreeing completely. “You know darlin’,” he’d say, “you might have a point, that’s possible.” Slowly but surely, she felt heard and they managed to argue less and less.

Best of all, he’d been in at least three other situations where someone had directly insulted him, once using the actual asshole word, and he practiced agreeing with the possibility. It was the greatest thing ever, because it gave him time. He used that time to get out of the situation and consider it more carefully later.

And, the truth was he got a bit of a chuckle out of how it affected others, at how it deflated their attack. He felt like it was a perfect defense, like the boxer who leans on the ropes, gloves by his ears and elbows pointed out, jaw completely protected from any attempt at a knockout. When you sort of agree with someone, they’ve got nothing.

If someone told him he drove like an asshole, he could say, “Yes, it’s true, sometimes I’ve been known to drive a little fast,” and come back to the scene in his mind later.  Maybe I was driving too fast, maybe my passenger was scared, he’d think.  It was about the driving more than it was about me, he’d say to himself, differentiating between genuine criticism and beating himself up as a lifelong habit. That was important.

He no longer accepted someone’s disapproval as if it confirmed his low worth, instead searching for the truth in their words. Suddenly, just agreeing with the possibility allowed Bill to review and contemplate and become aware. And this, introduced the possibility of change. Bill began to see most his problems were his own, just repetitions of the messages of his youth.

Over time, he realized he’d been fighting his father all this time. It was his father’s criticism which hurt him the most and which made him feel so ashamed, so ashamed to disappoint him. When people criticized him, he was that little boy again, and he felt their disapproval each time like he was losing his father’s love once more.

And, he knew his father was unfair and he was just a kid and now, he was an adult and his father was gone. He saw his father in a whole new light and realized his grandfather had acted harshly with his father and so his father had acted that way with him. “It was all he knew,” Bill told his girlfriend; he could see it so clearly.

One day, a few years later, once he’d married his gal and she gave him a beautiful baby boy who played and laughed and called him “papa” and followed him everywhere when he was home, he got mad at the kid.

In that moment, he saw his grandfather and his father and him and his son as a continuous line of faulted men who were handing down their pain to the next generation. It dawned on him with all weight of the ages bearing down upon his soul, and he screamed inside against this injustice squashing his spirit.

He sat sheepishly on his front step. The sun was shining, kids were playing down the street, a slight breeze rustled in the trees as the end of summer neared. It was the house he’d grown up in. Bill and his wife had moved in with ma to look after her in her final years. Here he was, on the same steps he played on as a kid, looking over the same driveway where his father often yelled at him.

Behind him lay the rooms of the house where he’d hidden when his dad was mad. These streets, these trees and fences, and beyond, these fields, were a road map of his existence. He could see the generations now, the longer history of his family line down through the men who had preceded him.

As he sat there, an epiphany came to him all in a rush and he stood up and declared, “The pain stops here,” vowing to do everything he could to end this line of harsh denunciation. He vowed to encourage his son, and to learn to handle his own pain without transferring it forward to an innocent. No matter how bad he felt, he couldn’t get past that it’s not the kid, it’s him. And, if that were true, it was probably true for most other situations too. If I’m pissed off, Bill said to himself, it’s MY problem.

Thereafter, he would sense these feelings and give them their due. He’d allow himself the space to acknowledge the shame he carried. Now that he had it identified and labeled, he was set on getting good at recognizing this shame, and letting it go. He understood his reactions were a way to compensate for feeling lousy inside. It was all held in him, in his belly, and it was up to him to let it out.

When he felt triggered by these old shameful feelings, he began to take a deep breath into his stomach, so it swelled up like a balloon and then, let that shame he carried there empty completely as he slowly exhaled fully. This gave him just a moment to compose himself and seemed to reset him, allowing his best side to surface.

And, the more he did this, the easier it got. It was as if he was parenting himself, while parenting his son. Instead of denying his pain, he sometimes had to say he was sorry when he let it get the best of him. They’d all learn together he figured, and he could see why it was so necessary to lead his family away from his father’s legacy and into one of his own choosing. If all he did was break the chain of pain by not transferring it to this little boy, that would already be enough.

He wanted love for himself, his wife and ma, and especially his son. By having more compassion for himself, he had more tolerance and understanding for others.  That’s where it all started, with him. With possibilities.

That little boy in the house deserved better. The little boy inside of him did too

Stay powerful, never give up
cw

Chris Wallace
Advisor to Men
©July, 2019 all rights reserved.

INFIDELITY RECOVERY


The problem with humans is this damn memory of ours. There is no new-age or old-aged techniques that`ll make us forget what we have already experienced. We`re kind of at the mercy of our memories, for good or for bad.

What makes things worst is our feelings are based on experiences too. No matter what we do, our past follows us. And, our feelings about stuff remains prominent, at least until we can put a little time between us and a past event. This interlude allows new experiences to supersede old emotional states when we create new feelings. It gives us, the brain that is, a wider experience to draw upon.

The brain operates predictively in any situation using the body and that databank of prior emotional states to determine how you will feel in the present moment, correcting afterwards given the social reality before you. Helluva sentence to follow, I know. Well, the brain has been at this gig a while.

With classical conditioning working its power beneath the surface, we can be triggered as the brain seeks to safeguard us from danger by best-guessing emotional states in response to the environment and messages from the body. It’s good to know this so we are not totally blindsided to past fears. Knowing how it all works can take the sting out of things when circumstances catch you unawares.

As for infidelity, the subject of this essay, I’m not sure we forgive it at all. Cheating is so personal. Within the pair bond, at first glance it’s such a clear rejection of you and a preference for another. It seems to confirm every person’s worst fear: I’m not good enough and because of this, I am unlovable.

It screams at me: UNLOVABLE.

There is more… for this is our Achilles heel. It is the human condition, conjoined with a need for others and knowledge that we will one day leave this world. We have only each other as present-day salve against the inevitable wounds of time. That’s a lot to ask in the name of love.

Like most things, it is both our weakness and our strength. Find it early, find it late, but we must all find love. Giving to others is the greatest expression of your humanity. I don`t know if that`s how we start, but I`m convinced it`s where we should end up.

But what if you saw that person who cheated as just as fallible as you, suffering from the same questioning of their worth as we tend to do our own? Could it be they secretly believe they are inadequate and unlovable? Did something inside them scream UNLOVABLE as well? What if we could separate the act so it is less about me, and more about them?

What if they didn’t even think of you or me? What if you didn’t even come to mind? What if the other person was able to compartmentalize their existence and put me on a shelf, fully intending to take me down and resume life with me afterwards? It happens all the time. In part, that’s how its done. I know it`s the same for men cheating on their women as women cheating on men. Cheating is betrayal pretty much universally, no matter the gender.

What if you were not as big a factor as you believe? Attachments weaken and strengthen over time, and we hope the good times see us through the bad.

What if it’s not so much a repudiation of you but a signal the other person cannot find love even if it is staring them in the face? What if it was their blind spot, and not yours or mine, which made it so?

Everyone makes the best decisions for themselves at the time, they say. If they knew better, in that very moment of whatever they decide, if they had the wherewithal to do something differently, emotionally, physically, spiritually, they would have. For them, it was their best decision. The act is proof. This is hardly a satisfying answer. We don’t have to like it. We don’t even have to respect it. But it is what it is. Often sadly.

Gabor Mate likes to say two people in a relationship find each other at the same level of trauma resolution, quipping smartly, “only 100% of the time.”  It’s what attracts us to another, under it all, a sharing of pain rarely understood and usually unmentioned. We all carry pain; it’s just the way nature builds resilience. It is by overcoming pain that we assert much of our wisdom. My pain won’t be the same as your pain. How could it be? We each travel this internal journey alone.

Empathy? Mostly projection. We guess at what each other feel and can only use our own experiences to gauge the other’s emotional state. Don`t get too excited about mirror neurons. The saying goes, “monkey see, monkey do,” not “feel,” and that finding was based on macaques, not people.

In any case, the disconnect between us is our challenge but can be our reward as we move through pain in the normal course of living. We re-find love and compassion for each other over and over

However, it takes two to do this. Or does it? Most of us marry what we can tolerate at that moment we get together. Gottman, famed relationship scientist I’ve read since the 1980s, says 70% of issues between a couple are not resolvable. That annoying habit of hers or his? Nope, not going anywhere. We put up with them and learn to appreciate them or we don’t. Missus hides stuff, has an uneven system for putting stuff away. Used to annoy me, now I think it’s cute. Choice is ours, the agency to decide how to live.

Getting naked in front of someone requires a fair bit of trust. It encompasses safety and danger all at once. We usually reserve this for those with whom we trust the most. It’s also why infidelity is so hard to reconcile as the aggrieved and non-involved party. Because without trust, you’ve got nothing.

I don’t think forgiveness is the right word for getting over infidelity.

But can you let it go?

Perhaps by realizing you were not the right man for her. Or she the right woman for you. That your maturity and needs and experiences didn’t match up. Your trauma resolutions played out on different tracks. You would know for sure if you were playing out your own drama and living a second life, a secret one. Women know these things, more so than men I think.

We know an atom looks a lot like a solar system with its revolving planets, the billions of stars out there like the billions of neurons in here. When we look at the way a tree grows into the sky and then look at map of a river approaching the sea, or the way our veins spread out on our hand, we may notice the same mathematical fractals occur. There is a great inter-connectedness in the universe, much of it we don’t understand.

The philosopher Douglas Hofstadter says we must leave more than a little room for mystery as we move through our years, implying we might resist the need to come up with an answer for everything. I think that’s a good idea. Shit happens by surprise too often to think we’ll sail through our time unaffected by calamity. And my father had a quote by Robert Louis Stevenson handwritten in black marker upon his bookshelf, the one directly behind his reading chair where he spent most of his days: “None of us can ever know the all of anything,” it said, reminding the reader to remain humble in the face of knowing so much.

Can we view this unraveling of relationships metaphorically as two similar but different stars revolving around a sun who are in the same orbit for a while, but subtle shifts in the composition of their mass and magnetism means over time they are doomed to slowly begin to separate and edge away, eventually flying off into a different part of space?

Then, it’s not me, nor is it you, it’s just physics. It’s a form of inevitable physics beyond our control. When I imagine floating above my existence, perhaps as I move out into the space above me, high up, maybe to the clouds and beyond, I see things differently. If you could sit on the moon for a while and look at the general spot on earth where you live out your life, what would you see?

Would you notice the others all around, some dealing with the same problems? The numbers of people teeming all over the planet going to and fro, living, dying, being born, eating, running, playing, working and loving, might give us both perspective.

And, can we use this pain we feel over infidelity to grow ourselves? Was I perhaps just as unfaithful, perhaps in actual deed but if not, then of heart and mind? From this resentment, can I accept I was not meeting my partner’s needs, my weakness so entrenched only the catastrophic bomb of adultery could wake me from my stupor? The falseness blasting away my complacent attitudes about my masculinity, her femininity, our relationship expectations, and of power, loyalty, lust and love?

And, could I work hard to shore up those parts of which left me bare, exposing me to this kind of turmoil? Could I use this pain, not to be crushed by it forevermore, but rather, to be rebuilt better than before? Is this one of my hero’s journeys? Is this your challenge?

And, would I one day realize that time and new experiences, especially the work I did making myself into a more powerful man, allowed different and better feelings to prevail when I consider my ex? Can I reserve my sympathies for what could have been, knowing I disappointed her just as she disappointed me? Could I be honest enough, powerful enough, wise enough to see this?

And, might I even thank her, though through the tragic lenses of both our lives, through the anger and confusion, and instead, salvage something of great worth from our mutual suffering? When I think of how beautiful and talented and in so many ways how amazing my ex-wife was, I can only feel sadness. She failed me, I failed her; and ultimately, we failed each other.

It was Robert Brault who said, “Life becomes easier if you learn to accept an apology you never get.” Absent that small act of reconciliation, you have only you to both apologize for your shortcomings but also to accept an apology from time for the failings of others. Accept the apology you will never get. Accept it.

So, I didn’t bother with the cumbersome idea of forgiveness. It carries too great a burden, too many unanswered questions philosophical and emotional, of principals and values and beliefs. I’d constructed a world where I could live, such are the entanglements of love, and all of that was too great a chore to dismantle.

No. I reminded myself, if happiness is a decision, then so is love. And if happiness and love can be decided, so can forgiveness. What I did was I let it go. You might do the same. See it off in your mind’s eye, perhaps like a child might watch a helium balloon drift away to the clouds after an inadvertent release of the hand, knowing it was pretty while it lasted, but also that it was never ever coming back.

The experience will help you to be stronger, and a far better person than before.

But then, all of life is like that isn’t it?

Stay powerful, never give up.

CHRIS WALLACE
Advisor to Men

©CKWallace, July, 2019, all rights reserved

reach me at advisortomen@gmail.com

DO I LOOK FAT?

DO I LOOK FAT?

This is a question which comes up often, dreaded by western men everywhere. How do you answer this interrogation? And, is this even fair to ask of a man?

Despite all the hoopla about objectifying women, while imploring men to focus purely on their partner’s “inner-worth,” everywhere you find men and women this question is asked. Someone, somewhere, is posing the question today, perhaps before heading off to church with the family.

Women’s concern on this issue is often laid at the feet of the supposed patriarchy. This would be where men objectifying women’s bodies has ostensibly put enormous pressure on women to be the perfect avatar for male lust. Of course, well-intentioned but mistaken idealists cling to this narrative, often desperately. “It’s your fault I have to even ask this question,” it says.

If you ask men about this dreaded quiz (and it is not always dreaded), their answers generally fall into two camps. Denial and acceptance on one side (includes bullshit), and naked truth on the other. Both approaches have consequences.

If a man answers his gal with, “Yeah, I noticed you lost weight,” even if she hasn’t, he’s set off her bullshit detector. You’ve heard the expression, “Never lie to a woman.” Now he’s fucked, because she knows full well she’s ten pounds heavier than a month ago—probably the last time she asked this damn question!

Or, maybe he senses the trap. No fool our man, he tells her she looks perfect to him—just the way she is—and he can’t see anything but her inner beauty. He thinks this gets him off the hook, and he basks in his virtue, feeling impregnable to criticism.

And, truthfully, this may seem like the romantic’s answer, an exemplar for all men, salve for the female neuroticism at the core of the question. But, mostly likely, he’s dead-wrong.

Hearing this, she tells herself, “You asshole,” and contemptuously, “so, you think I’m fat, thanks,” said declaratively, as surely as if he’d uttered the words himself.  His avoidance tipped his hand and she wasn’t fooled, not one bit.

Aye, it’s a litmus test this one.

Some men seize upon this scenario to introduce a little self-improvement into the marriage. One man was asked by his beloved if there was anything wrong with her. To which he nobly answered he loved her no matter what, but that she has a hunchback, probably from poor posture, and wondered if she’d like to improve how she sits at the computer to alleviate her condition.

There’s discord in that household, still ongoing.

Another fella took the high road (as he saw it), and in answer to the question “Do I look fat?” responded using the infamous turnaround, the rebound, the redirect, the mirror, by asking a question in return.

“I don’t know, do YOU think you look fat?” To which she answered, “Yes.”

His response? “Okay, you got your answer, but it’s not about what I think, it’s about what you think. To me, you’re normal but what you see is what matters to you. My love has no vision.”

He reports, bewildered, she insists he called her fat. Poor sap.

So, what women are looking for when they ask this question is anyone’s guess. The risks involved are real, as you can see. Perhaps she’s looking to confirm the diet and workout plan she’s been on the past week is paying off. Or, maybe she’s looking for reassurance she’s loved in all her glorious imperfection. Those two possibilities are pretty much the limits of most men’s perceptions.

But, it could also be a setup, a way to punish a man for something he did this morning, yesterday, last week, or last year—real or imagined. The question could be her version of Firestarter, like the flint, birchbark and moss you have tucked in your combat pants when you hit the back country.

There are layers to these kinds of trick questions, and trying to discern the true motivations behind them is to descend into areas of subterfuge and feminine energy. This disadvantages most men.

If you are the sun, the stars, the fire and the light, she is the deep of space, the vastness of the oceans, the power of the wind. That about sums up what you’re up against, my brothers.

There’s another context we need to keep in mind when considering this question. We think we are involved as a principal player: a reasonable conclusion since we are being asked and we are usually present during the asking.  Not at all.

Fact is, she’s probably not even considering you in her question. It’s far more likely she’s asking you what OTHERS are seeing and could care less what you think. She’s already fucking you, and knows she has your loyalty.

Women tend to compete firstly with their peers, just as men compete with other men. Do you primarily compete with your wife or girlfriend? Pretty rare.

Men tend to compete above board, either heads on, “best man wins” style, or by putting someone down. One is prosocial, the other antisocial, but both approaches light up the same competitive reward areas of the brain.

Women tend to compete differently, sometimes by maneuvering covertly using mean remarks, social exclusion and by winning over each other’s friends and allies.

Women can do pretty much anything a man can do but have general preferences. Whereas men tend to know many men in a diverse number of groups, and operate easily between them, not so for most women.

Our gals tend to have a small group of sisters, friends they guard jealously, usually less than five and often just one or two, and with whom they rely upon for emotional regulation. You could argue their standing among their close peers carries more risk because it also comes with more reward.

Like I said, women are deep. Men are shallow, thankfully (not said at all derogatorily).

So, the question, “Do you think I’m fat?” could just as likely mean, “Do you think OTHERS think I’m fat?” Duh. Uh-oh.

It means she’s asked you how she presents to the outside world, to those she competes with on a daily basis. At his point, mentioning her hunchback means you are telling her others see her as a hunchback. How’s that going to go over?

Now, to be fair, some couples can manage literal honesty between them. This kind of union exists and thrives on pain and suffering as a stepping stone to lust and bliss. If she asks a question, she’s getting the truth. It goes both ways.

To these types, there is a power and trust which develops as a result of their brutal honesty. But, there is also hurt feelings. And, in every case I’ve witnessed, over time the man learns to soften the blow of his forthrightness as his emotional IQ blossoms under her influence. She is the power of the wind.

Now, just how does a man safely negotiate this age-old question?

You could try the finesses answer. She asks, “Do I look fat?” and you answer, “Did you get your hair trimmed, it looks great!” standing fast with smiling admiration.

It’s a signal you’re not answering such an asinine question, suggests you didn’t even notice her body, and can only see and appreciate her overall radiance, refreshed somehow in this instance. Add in a, “you must have done that just for me,” followed up by a rush to hug her powerfully. If timed right, it might get you off the hook completely.

You could also try saying, “Yes, you look fat and I hope you put on another ten pounds so I can watch that jiggle bouncing around all over upstairs when we’re alone. You must have put that on for me, nasty girl,” and see what happens.

But a better option when dealing with the “Am I fat” question is to say “No.”

That’s a powerful stance for a man to take. He sees through her classic overthink—loaded in the question like high caliber weaponry—and simply sidesteps her neediness by refusing to play by her rules.

It is him recognizing she sometimes needs to be rescued from the brink of her own insanity. As her powerful man, that’s your job and you handle it with grace.

A simple, “No” and moving on to something else puts you back in control. I’ve been asked this question; I usually try to grab her ass as I answer.

You own your thoughts, feelings and behaviours; she owns hers. And, never the twain shall meet. Boundaries here are critical. Maintain them now and set the pattern for later.

But perhaps first ask yourself if perhaps she’s asking the question because she does not feel suficiently worshipped. Check that opportunity box first. Otherwise, in the moment, the simpler the answer the better. No reason to complicate this more than needed.

Seems simple enough: Just say no

Stay powerful, never give up.

Wally

© Christopher K Wallace
Advisor to Men
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WOMEN IN AWE


WOMEN IN AWE

It’s a peculiar thing to consider different aspects of sex differences and run into a wall of protestations by ideologues lamenting women’s purported weaker position in the world. This may be true in some cultures; however, in the west, I disagree with that view. I think women are the real power in most societies; moreover, in general, men are their proxies.

Maybe I just can’t get past my own experience. Call it confirmation bias and dismiss it. Know this though; I fully realize I’ve been working to make one woman or another happy most of my life. I don’t see signs of it letting up either. Canada is also one of the most multi-cultural places on the planet, and so I talk to a lot of men from all over. Seems to me these guys are all trying to keep their women-folk happy too.

From my mother and big sister in our family of eleven, crammed into a tiny bungalow in Ottawa’s south end, for me the pattern was set early. If ma wanted something done, I was all over it, grateful for the chance to score points and curry favour: a pat on the head, being able to lick a blender beater after she mixes icing. No doubt also to make up for my many shortcomings. I grew up from toilet training on knowing I was a disappointment, with the odd glimpse of glorious self-worth derived from getting lucky doing something right. A little redemption can breed a lot of hope.

Big sister was number two. We called her Dita, a contraction of her full name. At eight months old, the family did a five-year stint away from the capital to Halifax, following dad as he did his thing for the Navy. When I was about five, her status was made official one day after I’d teased her, calling her, “Di-ta Pi-ta, Di-ta Pi-ta,” taunting in common singsong. Well, ma descended upon me like a raptor after prey. Shaken and berated, I can remember it like it was yesterday, and I don’t think I gave my sister much trouble again. She, in turn, proved to be a good stand-in for ma, a tolerated and loved Little Mother, providing directions and explanations, a direct conduit of power from the top.

It was the same with moms who gave a little extra attention to the baby boom kids on the block. Ma once told me 62 children lived just on our part of Falcon Avenue. Mrs. Seward, across and a couple of doors up was as welcoming as her big doorstep, upon which kids would gather to bask in her attention. Kindly, loving, accepting, she could raise an army of children followers if needed.

Mrs. Rochon across the street was a French-Canadian, with long beautiful hair and movie star looks. Me, and my lawn-mowing, car-washing, snow-shovelling partners, would fall over each other at her beck and call. She’d toss us a few dollars, never quibble at our prices, and let us paint chairs and tables, fences, cut hedges and grass and whatever else she wanted. At ten or twelve years old, the sight of her sunbathing in a bikini in her backyard while we were on official business tending to some task, was like being humbled in the presence of a goddess.

Devotion to women was also true for the old gals for whom I’d do gardening and snow shovelling. Mrs. Adams had a super long driveway I’d shovel by hand for five bucks. In summer, she’d get me to cut her lawn, two bucks for the front, two bucks for the back. Afterwards, she’d insist I come upstairs to drink beer with her. She was a transplanted Newf and spent a lot of her day in housecoat, gray hair in curlers, and smoking furiously. When I’d go home smelling like booze and cigs, I’d report Mrs. Adam’s made me split a beer with her and my parents would just accept it with, “Is that right?” and nothing further.

Mrs. Forward across the street to the right was probably my best customer. My main partner, Graydon, lived next-door, straight across from me. We did everything for her. That lady didn’t plant a tulip without it being done by one of us, but preferred to do the weeding herself. She was tiny, wore glasses with gray hair, and had a big smile and a twinkle in her eyes. I can imagine as her younger self she was probably a real beauty. Her husband had some kind of respiratory problem and would spend twenty minutes at a time coughing so loudly from his upstairs porch, the whole neighbourhood knew it was he. Sickly and reclusive, he looked upon his wife’s little helpers with amusement, always kind but staying out of our way. It was she who was in charge.

My best teachers in school were women, where the tradition of pleasing women continued unabated. My early teachers were sometimes mean and sometimes kind, but always powerful. Some grades I had a Catholic nun as a teacher.


Probably the most beautiful face I can remember seeing to my mind was my grade three teacher, Sister something. She let me down that one. After tossing notes back and forth in class with Junior Lefevbre, she sent me home at lunchtime with a note for ma. I have the family record of hits with the hockey stick handle as a result of that incident, seventy-two or so whacks on my bare ass at eight years old. My brothers counted. I remember showing her my backside the next day at school, black and blue, my shirt still sticking to the bloody contusions, and reassuring her I’d learned my lesson. She recoiled momentarily at the sight, in what I assume was horror, composed herself, and then barely spoke to me for the rest of the year.

In grade five I had Mademoiselle Lapensee. She was there, and not there. She could smile at you one minute, and be somewhere else the next. Her lessons were from the book and little personality shone through her words and voice. It was all body language. She wore a mask. No. I mean it, a real mask of make-up so you could see the line under her jawline about where a man would shave a trimmed beard. Her face was completely painted, more than I’d ever seen. Weirder still, once she gave us something to do, she’d walk around the class in deep trance, looking off into the distance, a moving daydream vivid with scenes for she’d smile and chuckle and frown and arch her painted brows as if she was in a conversation elsewhere, which she was. Once every ten or fifteen minutes she’d return to earth, correct some errant classmate—sometimes me—and return to her revelry. It was intermittent reinforcement for children and you had to be on guard in case. She taught me, something.

Mrs. Stewart in grade six gave me a boost. I used to deliver the morning Globe and Mail by bike to her house three or four miles down Heron Road at 6AM for a while. I must have been nuts but she had singled me out as promising and I’d do anything for her. I was class president that year during the first Trudeau era and so I had male role models from afar, but worked for women in my daily orbit.


In grade seven, a new middle school opened up so those grades ceased to exist at Lamoureux, my little French school at the end of my parent’s street. This was a shock, being bused in with kids from all over the city to a place far from home. In one of my classes, my teacher asked what we wanted to do as careers. I said teacher—she talked me out of it. I said farmer—she talked me out of it. Said there was no money in either one and to abandon them. And yet, those yearnings still exist in me. I can’t blame her, who can predict the future? I teach lessons now and live in the country so: I’ve compromised.

There is little doubt in my mind I worked for my women during my three longest relationships too. One of five years, one just shy of twenty-five, and my current at thirteen or so. In each of these cases, making the missus happy has occupied an inordinate amount of my time and energies. Where at first I was so programmed to follow orders and please my gal, it took me many years to discover this was a mistaken approach.

I’m afraid I don’t buy the institutional gambit of women having lesser power. There’s even a book called, The Myth of Male Power, written by former feminist Warren Farrell, a male. I missed it when it came out in the early 1990s, perhaps because I was too busy working 60-hour weeks. I recently bought it to read on Kindle, so it’s on my list. But, I confess it’s not a priority because I suspect it’s going to be one of those reads confirming what I already know. Eventually, I’ll get to it.

But, men have likely always been, and are likely to be forever programmed from an early age to seek the approval of their mothers. There’s not a shrink anywhere who will discount the magnitude of family of origin influences. If pleasing mom is the order of the day while the very neuronal circuits of my brain were forming, those pathways don’t get paved over easily. I’d suggest these are permanent and indelible to such a degree as to become an almost drive-like force for men: eat, sleep, please women.

Look at Sherry Cohen’s Harvard research where she slapped fMRI on a hundred and sixty or so couples. She determined what makes men happy is this: notice what makes their partner happy and then attempt to recreate those circumstances. Happy Wife, Happy Life has a real basis in the male brain. You decide the nature/nurture bit; I just know it’s there without question.

And, since everyone has a mother, and every little boy’s first order of business in life is trying to please her—whatever the situation and without regard for her mental stability—you can bet it is women who hold the real power in most of the world. The tiny minority of men who head companies and countries, owe a lot of their success to this same drive to please their moms and gain status before the women around them.

Recently, for interests sake I sought to define what it meant to me to be a man. I started with some things I thought were essential. Things like: a man takes responsibility for his actions; is decisive and carries through on things; doesn’t play games with people and is a straight shooter in relationships; expects to work and carry a heavy burden most of his life, finding ways to make it meaningful while producing more than he consumes; cherishes family and protects them; abhors a bully and can defend against one, and most of all, recognizes himself as a man and doesn’t apologize for it.

To this my friends added more depth, mentioning a man elevates those around him; seeks the truth in all endeavours; shares stories about himself and how he came to his wisdom; embraces his male sexual essence in a healthy way; lives his life in service; and is a hero to his family because through sheer perseverance he is the guardian of their hopes for each other. Finally, a latecomer put it this way: “the definition of manly is anything women disproportionally reward in mating. There is no other definition.”

So there you have it.

And that brings me to my last point. It’s just that these forces have been with us from the beginning. It’s been a long time since we split from the great apes—something like 8 million years ago—and began the hominid line. These needs undoubtedly go back much further, maybe back as far as time itself.

And that’s the problem with this stuff. It’s the Lindy effect. A book published a hundred years ago and still in print will undoubtedly be in print in another hundred years. It’s likely we’ll still be reading from Twain to Nietzsche then, amongst the other greats of our literary past. But a book being published today has almost no chance of being read let alone published one hundred years from now.

I think we need to see a much bigger picture. These forces acting upon men for women are not going to change unless we force it, unnaturally. What we really need is awe. Just to realize the sun heats up to 27 million degrees Fahrenheit and one day will turn into a red giant, swell up and engulf the earth. The same force creating that made us. It took a long time for women to get men to stay connected to one partner and live a life in service of them and their children. Don’t mess it up now. Adjust, sure, make corrections, but be careful you don’t undermine the whole system. We need to look up at the stars and see ourselves as tiny, infinitesimally small before the universe.

Less well-intentioned but mistaken idealism.

Less hubris, more awe.

Stay powerful,

Christopher K. Wallace
©Advisor to Men, Jan, 2019, all rights reserved
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