Thursday, August 22, 2013

Stumbling in the Man Box

I'm watching TV with my mother, who can't hear and has long stopped caring.
"Just put on Channel 7," she says.
I've learned to just put on Channel 7.  Nobody ever died of too much Wheel of Fortune.

What I find interesting is the way that disabled in so many physical capacities, she makes the best of each bad situation, even hopeless situations. So she can't hear, but she can watch.

Later on, in my home, I'm watching HBO's The NewsroomDon Keefer (Thomas Sadoski), a news producer, is struggling with his office chair. He is on the floor in his office, has dissembled the legs, the wheels, and is changing them so that the chair will glide easier. He tells whoever it is that catches him at this that he is mechanically inclined. Later in the show we see him at his desk, seated very low. He looks like a child, too small for the man-size furniture. He leans back and the entire chair falls apart. He makes the best of a bad situation, but then, he could also have asked for help.

Different scenes, of course. My mom would ask for help, although she never liked it particularly, asking. But she always did when she needed it, and helping her, as children, developed character. (After all, we did nag for the dog, even if she was the one who asked for help walking him.)

If there was something anyone could do for my mother's hearing loss the other day, she would have asked for it, but at her stage of the game, it is the least of her problems.  Don, in The Newsroom, won't ask. It is a matter of pride. He'll stumble along and make the best of a bad situation, like my mother. His situation.

As a man, Don is stuck with certain, shall we say, man-isms.  A guy can fix his own anything.  A guy is capable, doesn't need to read the instructions, either.

One particle board kit and this myth about the necessity of instructions, bites the dust.  FD, who once stumbled in the man box, refusing to read instructions, put together a cupboard for me, a great deal, too, if a person doesn't mind hauling hundreds of pounds of particle board. Even with a good dolly, there is much muscle work here.

Before this new stage of life, the one in which instructions become valuable, deep middle age, he wouldn't do that, referred to the paper and print. The challenge is in figuring out the kit without instruction, without help. But now FD reads first, during, and last. That said, he won't be buying another this large and this heavy again. We humans of both sexes  are educable.
For Whom Would You Like to Make the World A Safer Place

We learn all kinds of things, and unlearn them, sometimes.

For example, we could say that not reading instructions, not asking for help, is learned behavior. The role models of boys in their Wonder Years, the heroes, the mentors, inadvertently or sometimes consciously buy into machismo (a word on Wheel of Fortune yesterday). They learned machismo when they identified with role models, other men, usually fathers but sometimes uncles, grandfathers, or foster parents.

Therapists often hear explanations about why people parent the way they do.
"I do what my parents did.  We didn't have books.  I parent like my father parented me, and I turned out okay."
Like ducks who follow the first thing they see after they hatch from an egg, we follow our parents and early guardians, at least until adolescence, and even after that, much is cemented into those neuro-pathways. What we do, what we believe, doesn't just die with childhood.

Assume, then, that children with role-models who freely display rage, who vent to children, break walls, for example, slap, crack the chandelier with their decibels all for a bad report card, model violence.  The role model might say that it is all for the cause, the edification of the child-- grades are important--they mean so much--but it is what it is.

So I went to a conference about stopping violence, always relevant.  I go to as many workshops like this as I can because some of the presenters are so incredibly talented and I always learn something. This one was presented by Up2USQSI.  You can find them on Facebook. Strangely enough, while visiting my mother in the hospital a few weeks ago, a rabbi stepped into her room. I thought  saw her there.

Rabbi Eileen introduced herself and began to discuss my mom, kind enough to include mom in the conversation, not talking around her. I recognized Eileen immediately as the woman who spoke up the most at the Up2Us workshop. She answered those thoughtful questions at circle time. She owned it, that she was there, in this other role, social worker, and effusively Liked the workshop, asked me if I learned anything that Thursday morning.  I said, "Why yes, of course.  The Man Box."

At the workshop, as a group, participants threw out adjectives about what it means to be a man.  Below is our Man Box. Woe to be in a box like this.  Not so good, being a guy.  I've always been thankful to be a woman, except when lifting something heavy.

The presenters, school teachers interested in changing the world, one workshop at a time, do it by teaching kids to shout out when others demean women, usually with verbal violence. They also teach professionals like me, people like us. Men don't have to identify with all the wrong things. They need not be joking at the expense of women, at the expense of anyone, and when someone else does, it can be labeled for what it is, not cool.
Not my job

I had to think, what does NMJ mean? (from the funnel), because I didn't pay enough attention at the workshop.  Not My Job, right?

But it is.


Making It Our Job


Donna H. said...

My mom had Alzheimer's the last 5 years or so of her life. Every night we would "watch" The Wheel, as she called it, over the phone. When it finally got to scary for her to live alone, I moved her in with me and The Wheel held her attention until probably the last 8 months of her life.

therapydoc said...

It's an incredible thing. We'll be in trouble when the wheel stops spinning.

Jonathan said...

Great post. The QSI part is actually pretty great.