My Dad was not a great man!
He was an alcoholic and an underachiever. But he was a man, and I benefited from that in many ways. He was a shyster and a bullshiter who only worked when he needed to, and so, wasn’t a very consistent provider for his five kids.
I didn’t adhere to any of the negative things about him, and those things taught me what kind of man I didn’t want to be. So, I learned from him in two ways. Both his positive and negative aspects. Here are nine things that I can say I learned directly from him being my father.
1. A man works – My father never had a real job where he worked for someone. He always did his own thing and was his own boss. Most of the time when he worked, he made pretty good money. But if he didn’t need to, he wouldn’t work, and there were times when the house rent would be overdue, or the electric would get turned off.
Our family bills didn’t get paid on a regular basis, and as a kid, I could see that it sucked for adults. It only sucked for me when I was really young and had to keep real quiet and pretend no one was home when bill collectors come knocking. When my dad worked, he made money, and things got paid, so I associated working with being responsible.
Conversely, my dad didn’t seem very manly when he wasn’t providing for us, so I associated being a man by working. As far as gender roles go, a woman cannot work (bring in money) and it can be perfectly acceptable. A guy has to work to be a man and a father. It’s just the way it is.
2. A man doesn’t cry – This may seem like an old school and outdated concept, but it isn’t really. I am a man and have cried many times in my life, so I’m not necessarily talking about making sure and not doing the physical act of having tears in your eyes from emotion. This is a broader stroked concept of non crying and whining about things in life.
I never saw my father cry. That was old school. A girl friend of mine told me she only saw her dad’s eyes well up once and that was on her wedding day. When he realized he was about to get tears, he quickly walked away so no one could see him. That was old school.
Today’s man is more sensitive, and that’s ok. We have learned that we can release emotions physically and that makes us healthier and live longer. But, there should be a difference in the emotions of a man and a woman. A man should be stronger, and should be able to absorb more of the harshness of the human condition without showing its effects on him. He should have a strong shoulder for those around him to lean on but physically and emotionally. Whining and moaning about little things is not manly.
Men should be able to put up with more and cry less about it. It’s unfair, but tough shit.
3. A man thinks for himself – My father was a somewhat devout Catholic but other than that, he was a free-thinking man. When I was a kid, he used to read the paper in the morning and comment on the stories. We kids were encouraged to comment as well, and I often did. Commenting wasn’t always easy though, because when any of us said something about a story, we were challenged by other family members, and we were a smart bunch. This sucked at times as a kid, but I learned to hold my own when it came to my opinion, so it was well worth it.
With all the media we have in our lives every day and all day, it’s easy to absorb someone else’s opinion on things. We are so bombarded by opinions that often times, people are repeating facts and opinions that they really didn’t give much of their own thought to. Every time I hear one specific phrase more than once from different guys, I realize that it was just “parroted” and probably, wasn’t their own real thought. This is not manly. A guy who thinks for himself, has his own opinion about things, and can, therefore, stand behind them, shows confidence and strength in character. And that is manly.
4. A man does what he says – Dreamers can’t really do everything they say they are going to do because they are constantly talking about their dreams. And most dreams are unattainable or at least, not pursued very much. My dad was a dreamer, so he never realized most of the things he talked about doing. He did do most of the things he said that weren’t a part of one of his dreams though.
As a kid, I could tell what a dream for my dad was and what his reality was. I figured this out based on his ability to carry out what he said he was going to do depending on its status. He put a greater emphasis on doing non-dream related things and therefore, made sure and did them.
I have nothing against dreamers, but it was irritating to exist with my father as one. To believe that your father is going to carry out what he says and then he doesn’t is a real let down. I eventually deciphered what a dream was and what wasn’t, and learned to accept the fact that he wouldn’t be actually doing all that cool stuff he talked about.
I also learned that I didn’t want to be that kind of a man. I decided to try my best to carry out the commitments I made and keep my dreams to myself. My future may not be as exciting or entertaining to talk about, but I think I’m a better man that way.
5. Being honest is manly – I mentioned earlier in this article that my dad was a shyster and a bullshiter and those things are not honesty. At twelve years old, I started working with him and noticed that being honest wasn’t really worth it. Sure, he could scam people out of their money or provide less service than what his customers paid for, and he would have to work less because of it. But he could never build any business in the long term.
I learned that any long-term success with business or people requires honesty. I watched my old man screw over a lot of people, and most of them would eventually figure it out and never want to do business with him again. My dad also worked with some other scammers when I was a kid, and although some of them enjoyed a high level of financial success for periods of time, they all wound up broke. I must admit that success is manly, but losing it isn’t. It didn’t make sense to me to use a mentality that only makes you wealthy for just a short period of time. Being dishonest is a formula for eventual failure. And failure is not manly.
6. Being trustworthy is manly – For some reason, my dad appeared trustworthy. It constantly amazed me how quickly people would trust him. He could almost immediately become admired by other men and attractive to women when they trusted him. And that was truly manly. Of course, he would soon fuck them over in some way, and they would all change how they felt about him, but as a teenage boy, I saw the power of trust.
We live in a society where it’s hard to trust. Most people just aren’t trustworthy. Even when they think they are, they will sell anyone down the river the first time it becomes advantageous to them in any way. Every marketing strategy involves deception, and most people do anything at all without some form of hidden agenda. It’s just the way it is. A huge part of being a man is that you are a pillar of strength. People should be able to lean on a man, and he be able to take the load without falling over. Being trustworthy is one of those things that make a man a strong pole of support to his social environment.
7. A man handles his business – There are things in our lives that we have to do that are unpleasant. Some people avoid those things like the fucking plague.
One time, my dad sold a new roof job to some homeowners and then hired a roofer to do the job for him. The roofers came out and tore off the old roof on one day and planned to come back the next day to install the new shingles. This was common, and the roofers would “dry in” the roof before they left on the first day with felt paper to protect it in case it rained that night. On this roof though, they only had enough paper to dry in about half of the roof, and since there was no forecast for rain, they decided to risk not drying in the whole roof.
That night, it poured down rain. I mean, it was one of those typical Florida tropical downpours that dump about three inches of rain straight down with no wind. The rain fell on this unprotected roof and soaked the inside of the house causing tens of thousands of dollars of damage. It was a homeowner’s nightmare, and my dad sold the job having no liability insurance.
That night, when it started raining, my dad got a call from the homeowner saying the water was coming in. He answered the phone not knowing the roofers didn’t fully dry in the roof, and when talking to the homeowners, he thought they were just being over dramatic and told them not to worry, and he will take care of any damage. He then called the roofer and found out the bad news of them leaving the job not protected. My dad knew he was screwed as the roofer was doing the job without insurance also, and that there wasn’t even a permit pulled for the job.
All through that night and the next day, our house phone (there were no cell phones back then) blew up with the homeowner calls. My dad, of course, didn’t answer. He never again talked to those homeowners. The house wasn’t too far from where we lived, and for months, my dad had to constantly worry about running into them wherever he went. The homeowners eventually got their insurance company to pay for the damage and things worked out somewhat ok for them, but my dad avoided the entire mishap forever.
In this instance, my father was in a fairly extreme uncomfortable position, and he chose to avoid it and not “handle his business”. This wasn’t the only time he avoided unpleasant things, and I learned what that does to a guy. It takes you manliness away. Confronting issues in your life brings them to a resolution, so you are affected for a shorter period of time. Avoiding issues prolongs them and affect you for a much longer period. A man takes care of his business right away so he can get it behind him and move forward.
8. A man doesn’t take any shit – My pops did a lot of questionable things that weren’t manly or resulted in him not acting manly. But for the most part, he didn’t take any shit. He was anti-establishment, so he didn’t react well to things like stupid rules or unsubstantiated control or power.
At nine, I was arrested for shoplifting a matchbox car from a departmental store. It was my mom’s birthday, and she and my dad were out at a restaurant that night. There were no cell phones then so I, fortunately, know what restaurant they were at, and the police officer called them to pick me up downtown at the police station. When my parents came to get me, I was in the bathroom peeing, and the officer was at the bathroom door just outside. When my dad found out this cop was guarding the bathroom door while I was in there, he flipped out.
“You had to guard the bathroom while a nine-year-old is taking a piss? What’d you think, he was going to escape?” My dad said to the officer. He was mad, and he and the cops had a heated exchange. Lucky for me too, because my dad was so pissed at the cops that he didn’t even care much that I had gotten arrested and they had to leave the restaurant to come get me.
When my dad wasn’t taking a shit, he was manly. I learned at a young age not to take a shit, and have been better off this entire time.
HOW WE LEARN FROM OUR MENTORS
If your dad was a piece of shit, it’s really no excuse for you being one. We learn from our parental units in different ways. What you negatively feel about them can be just as positively influential as anything they did well. I am very happy with the way my father influenced me even though he was kind of a piece of shit. He taught me a lot about being a man. He didn’t teach me everything, but it was enough for me to at least, get the jest of manliness. In that, he was a success.
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