It becomes increasingly obvious that a segment of the population fears the word NORMAL. Maybe some folks think that it implies less than, adequate, or maybe even average when in fact it has NOTHING to do with performance!
Our country has sent us all down the river. Yes, this is a great country in so many ways but the messages we have sent down the stream to males and females can be devastating. Even I get sent down the river, as they say, by readers who send me angry notes of bewilderment. I sporadically receive some of these back-channel emails from individuals who are new to my blog and they ask what my definition of Normal really is. I am thankful for the reminder for both our sakes.
Re-establishing a marketing campaign for an entire generation can be daunting…but I am up for the challenge! I am showered, dressed, hair quaffed, new stylish glasses resting on the bridge of my nose…and oh yeah did some curls to exercise the ole biceps…mighty beneficial for a blogger these days. And, now that I am prepared for this challenge I want to reintroduce thoughts that I was recently asked to provide given the tenuous position our gender is in these days…
As I sit and ponder my place in the world I am reminded of the men who have gone before me, those around me, and those thrown at me. It has become increasingly hard to define what normal males look, sound and, maybe more importantly, act like.
On television and other media outlets, normal and male aren’t represented accurately or collectively, for that matter. We are inundated with reality TV shows about swapping wives and nannies who know better than parents. And on CBS we have men fighting in cages.
I don’t see normal conversations about the experience of manhood or the shared activities and thoughts between a father and his children. I don’t see family shows depicting stable family life or marriages that one could be relatively proud of. What I see are dumb men who are presented as normal: men who don’t know how to respond to their spouses dreams, take care of the kids, or do anything requiring thought for others.
Can this be normal? I hope not, but I am gravely concerned that this is what our young children believe to be true. The bar for men has been set so low that the only direction to go, I hope, is up.
As our boys continue to struggle in academic settings and our adult men struggle to find their places at work and in the home, we need a change. We need to redefine what it means to be a part of this group called manhood not at the expense of women or children, not at the expense of common sense or traditional grunting during a playoff game, and not at the expense of our communities.
Redefining our gender requires adult men to think about it from a boyish stance. What do we want our boys thinking about when they think of themselves and this group they belong to? Do we want them to have a sense of pride for the good we contribute and the leadership taken through thoughtful discussion? Or do we want them to think of boys behaving badly at school, home, and work?
In the 1980s we saw a redefinition take place for the youth of the African-American community. Prior to the Cosby Show, critics wondered how young African-Americans viewed themselves and what they could or could not accomplish when they grew up. Our media, to that point, had given limited opportunity for a child to see successful African-American children and their families. We are at a similar point in our history as men.
We have an opportunity to reshape the motivations of young men, and it will come at the cost of our own experiences. A certain level of grief can be expected when we begin exploring our lives and the motivations behind our good and bad decisions in the context of those who provided such lessons. It takes courage, community, and commitment from normal males to shepherd the next generation from I.S.S. (in school suspension) to college campuses where men are in danger of extinction to careers and families they can be proud of.
To be Normal ultimately means that one is fallible, successful, strong, weak, proud, humble—we are everything that encompasses a human being. Please do not support the notion that males only value comes through performance, but rather in the discretionary spaces of life where we can demonstrate both wisdom and compassion, emotion and direction, love and disappointment. We are many things…what we are not should NOT shape our direction now or ever as we steamroll into the future. The next generation of young men and boys need us and the next generation of young women and girls need us too. Let’s provide an accurate landscape that does not misrepresent the challenges and celebrations of life.