A man creates in his mind the man he wants people to see and like. His experiences around the men in his life shapes this mindset early on in his life.
Over the last few years, I have tried to create this image of a perfect man. On a few occasions, I’ve dated females and they often are shocked by meeting a man like me. It took a good friend to have me think back to why I put up a persona. The man who I see every day in the mirror is not the same man people come in contact with.
Musiq Soulchild “Teachme” Lyrics:
I was told the true definition of a man was to never cry
Work till you tired (yeah) got to provide (yeah)
Always be the rock for my fam, protect them by all means
(and give you the things that you need, baby)
This is what many men my age and younger were told and saw in men or the lack thereof. These lyrics most without doubt explained how I saw manhood. The father figures I saw were older like my grandfather, my cousins, and the neighborhood dudes. It wasn’t a very good blueprint to follow so I created my own. Not to say this a cop-out that my father wasn’t there to give a blueprint. He was there but not really there. I learned early on that his advice often had good intentions but the delivery was wrong. I enjoyed movies so I took what I saw in movies at a young age and made notes on what to do as I got older. In the early 1990′ you had movies like Boomerang, Love Jones, Poetic Justice, Jason’s Lyric, Love and Basketball, Nutty Professor and The Best Man. I couldn’t get into the movies like Pretty Woman, You’ve got mail, Sleepless in Seattle, The Bodyguard, Sabrina or The Bridges of Madison County. Not to say those weren’t great movies but at that time in my life, I was looking for something that resembled my culture. I took a little bit from every character in those movies and said you know what I can do this dude. in the early 1990’s I was a plain middle school kid with glasses and stuttering problem. I used to get picked on by a few kids so girls would often feel sorry for me. The percentage of trying to get a girls phone number back then 0%. The movie that inspired me was the Nutty Professor played by Eddie Murphy as Sherman Klump. I saw myself as Sherman and would crave the same things as he did. His alter ego Buddy Love was the life of the party, dancing machine, got girls, and had a ball of fun instead of being the quiet shy guy. I thought that once you make a girl laugh everything was good. Guess there wasn’t a funny bone in my 89-pound scrawny self. The closer I got to puberty the less I wanted to spend outside. I would often watch those movies over and over learning more and more about what to do as a man.
Number 1: Open her door. Number 2: Bring Flowers and Candy. Number 3: Pay for the Food. Number 4: Keep your eyes on her. Number 5: Don’t take her to your mom house.
These were my top five and my starting point into dating. These wouldn’t be put in place until I got to high school and then I only could do number one through three. When I transitioned to high school, so did my image. The start of my freshmen year, I transitioned into wearing contacts instead of wearing glasses. This was big for me since I had started wearing glasses in the first grade. My confidence grew a bit because I felt I was shedding the Sherman Klump for the Buddy Love. The confidence grew more after getting cut from the high school basketball team and joining the wrestling team. I started getting attention from the young ladies but I didn’t know how to handle it. I would fumble over my words, get nervous and sweat profusely. Writing a letter was the way guys and girls communicated to each other besides on the phone. I remember my 9th-grade English teacher caught me passing a letter to a young lady I was interested in. Let’s just say the teacher made me read the letter in front of the entire class. I was so embarrassed after reading it in front of the class and I was told to stay after class. My teacher asked me where I got the idea for the letter and I told her that I had made the letter up to give to the young lady I liked. My teacher told me that if she caught me passing notes again that I would be sent to ISS. She unexpectedly told me that my poetry in the letter was really good and I should keep writing just not in her class. After that conversation, I started keeping a notebook with poetry and stuff that would come to my head. Sound like a movie to you? Love Jones. When Valentine’s Day came around I took my $30.00 lunch money for the week and bought carnations and gave them to a few of the girls I liked. You probably thinking how I got $30.00 for lunch money but that’s for another post. Every Valentine’s day of high school until my senior year I randomly gave out carnation flowers. I wasn’t confident enough to put my name on the carnation notes so I just used an anonymous name.
As the years went by I became more and more confident but I never went on a date with any girls. A lot of my time between my sophomore and junior year was spent dealing with the possibility of being a father. As Shaggy said, “It Wasn’t Me”. After that incident, I started to change and look at myself differently. I started to become a bad boy and get into things that could have caused me to end up in jail or even prison. I started to listen to people’s opinion of me including family. I became a mixture of characters from the movies of Boomerang (Marcus) Jason’s Lyric (Jason) and on How to Be a Player (Dray). I became something that I saw in movies and it took years to understand that what happens in movies and in real life has major consequences. The realization of what I was doing was really hurtful, which caused me to take a step back and the fact that I had a thin line between love and hate type of situation. The situation made me become numb and I started to spiral out of control until I hit rock bottom. After being that low, I promised myself to become a better person and I changed my environment. After my environment changed I started making strides to be the man who I wanted to be. When in fact all I needed was to be comfortable with the man who I was. Chasing after that image has caused me to work overtime to build an image of the man I want my family and everyone to see. The image that I pursued was like putting on a mask over the real me and not taking off the two previous masks that I had before. Continuing to put on mask causes no one to really get to see who you really are. It’s like giving someone an empty box with nothing inside the box, the person is often disappointed. Once you let someone into your personal space, eventually the masks start to fall off. The issue most people have is that they don’t recognize themselves because they have gotten accustomed to wearing the masks.
This past year has shown me that relationships, people, family, and others can’t define what I am. My perspective changed from looking at myself as the runt in the litter to the one that different from everyone else but is something special. This post is for anyone who is battling the image you have created and the person you are. In the end, the mask falls off and you have to face the man or woman in the mirror. The choice is yours on what to do after the mask falls off. The outward image always faded over time but the inside person will always be the same. Love yourself before anyone else.
“Encourage yourself, believe in yourself, and love yourself. Never doubt who you are.”