No, I’m not referring to myself, even though it’s been forever since I’ve posted here.
I’m currently staying in an Airbnb flat in a quasi-European country. For those of you not familiar with how Airbnb works, you rent out all kinds of properties: entire flats, rooms in apartments and houses, etc. Sometimes you have other guests as roommates, sometimes you live with the owner of the property, sometimes you’re alone.
My current host is a man in his late fifties (it seems) named Nick. Nick speaks English as well as a Londoner and is also fluent in German and French. He’s a retired chemistry teacher who seems to have done rather well for himself financially. After all, he’s travelled throughout Europe and has four different properties for rent on Airbnb.
However, he’s unmarried and lives with his mother. He spends time in his other properties (namely the one where I am) seemingly to get away from her. My first night with Nick as host, I was at his primary residence where she and he live. I heard them arguing almost perpetually whenever I was there–not break-the-furniture-smash-the-walls type arguing, but despite my utter inability to understand the language, I felt the tension through the walls. I had tea with them the next day before coming here, and I could see she loved but didn’t respect him. She complained to me about how he hasn’t started a family, with him present.
Thus, Nick spends a great deal of time over here. Interacting with his guests seems to be his primary social life. Yet I found it interesting to see how when I was talking with the Italian couple I shared the flat with last night how he seemed to become almost small when attempting to navigate a conversation among multiple parties. Even though we were discussing topics about which he was more knowledgeable than I, he deferred to me excessively.
Nick is nice, too nice, “you don’t need to ask again if I’ll need a second towel, Nick, one is plenty” nice. He’s baked bread and made (excellent) soup for me and the other guests, obviously hoping for our approval. He has what might be the sweetest dog I’ve ever met to keep him company (poor girl only has three legs), but you can tell he’s lonely. Some men in his situation are perfectly content; Nick isn’t one of them.
And he’s not alone. I’ve met Nicks in small towns and large cities, in the US, Latin America, and Europe, rich, poor, and middle class. Drug addicts, alcoholics, and sober, executives and military veterans, Christian and secular. Some are unhappily married, others bachelors, quite a few have been divorced. Lonely, empty, sad, not quite alive.
The New York Times seems to have noticed that something has gone wrong, but deaths from suicide, poor health, and addiction are only part of the story, and the problem isn’t limited to the poor.
We’ve had such men in prior eras, but something about today’s forgotten men strikes me as more insidious. The lonely man a hundred years ago was raised with a clear idea as to what was expected of him as he became a man, and he probably somehow fell short. Yes, deserving of sympathy, but at least he knew the Game he was playing before he lost it.
Today’s forgotten men were so often raised to believe that there was no such Game, that they’d no need to learn how to fight but just how to please people instead. He’s been told his hunting and fishing trips are selfish unless his wife approves of them, his desire to want things for himself is just exercising unearned “male privilege,” his desire to serve the Lord should be expressed by letting his wife and neighbors exploit him, and if he remains unmarried, shame. He has no right to object to paying child support. If he’s single, it’s entirely his fault. That women are single is his fault, too.
Yes, today’s women are lonely, and that’s also a tragedy. However, how much better would we all be served if the men (and women) of today understood what was actually expected of them instead of the pretty lies? How much more future loneliness are we fostering by raising our boys as defective girls and our girls as “strong” and “empowered”?
As for me, I’m lucky. I think. I’m still young enough that I might be able to live out a couple of my dreams, that I might wake up each day feeling important and that I’m filling a role I’m uniquely designed to fill.
Yet the jury’s still out. I was not only exposed to the lies, I was immersed in them, believing wholeheartedly that being a good person would count for more than being good at being a man. I’ve got Game down to the point that women throw themselves at me (more on that later), but I’ve not the desire to reform a broken woman–the only kind I seem to find. I’m still at war with myself, using more strength than I have to change destructive thought patterns, struggling to understand how I came to be this way enough to understand the problem yet not so introspective as to dwell on it.
I think I’ll pull through. However, I realize how close I came to becoming another Nick, a good yet unfulfilled man, nice but unimportant, doing what seems to be the right thing but isn’t.
But if I succeed, somehow, some way, may I be the sort of man whose strength uplifts others. When I’ve the chance to influence a younger man, may I help him to avoid some of the pain I’ve undergone myself. May I also appreciate the subtle goodness of the men I encounter like Nick. Even though it’s probably too late for him to change, he’s done good things and does deserve some appreciation.
The World chews up and spits out men who fail in the Game. I don’t want to be of the World, I want to be above it.
I will shortly be filling y’all in as to my life’s situation, the future direction of this blog, and my writings that aren’t on this site. For those of you who are just dying to read something I’ve written, you can go here, here, and here to read some stuff I’ve done on politics.