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September 02, 2010

If Tomorrow Never Came

What would you most regret? The number one answer given by men was:

I wish I didn't work so hard. This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

The other responses were interesting as well: I wish I possessed the courage to express my feelings. I wish I'd realized some of my dreams. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

As much as I admire traditional masculinity, I am often saddened at the terrible price men pay to become men. The last 8 years of war have only strengthened this feeling on my part. There are times when the demands of being a man seem almost inhuman.

Raising two boys left me convinced that men aren't naturally any less emotional than women are. Men and boys have a great capacity for love. I'm not saying they aren't different from women. But in men, feelings seem to compete with more traditionally masculine qualities - competitiveness, aggression, pride, the desire to take risks and overcome challenges. The man who cannot control (and sometimes completely suppress) his feelings is at a significant disadvantage when competing against other men. Tenderness is a liability rather than an asset. A chink in the armor, or a weapon to be used against him.

For women, it's different. Our feelings are not a sign of weakness, but rather the source of feminine strength and insight. The woman who allows herself to feel pays no social penalty for doing so: we expect women to be gentle, to be loving, to forgive and forget. In a woman's traditional sphere (home, hearth, friendships) she is not viewed as less feminine for showing her emotions. Our vulnerability is, in a sense, a tool. We use it to build bridges, dissolve hostility and indifference, forge connections between people.

A while back I asked Retriever to write about her childhood heroes or heroines. She recently made the time, and I was oddly touched by her recounting for in many ways it well describes my own childhood dreams:

Cassandra and I both love to speculate about the differences between men and women, and how those differences make life interesting. A while ago, she asked me to write about my childhood memories and role models. We wondered what Evil Heartless and Steely Conservative Female Bloggers are made of... Kidding aside, here are some recollections of my daydreams and favorite pastimes as a small child. What I admired and aspired to. I think you will agree that modern children seldom hear much about these characters, and perhaps it is their loss...

I’ve picked a specific time period in my childhood so as not to try your patience too much. The ages of 4 1/2 to 8 1/2. We moved then to a farm in Pennsylvania. A rather dour landscape of rolling hills and thick thickets, and we lived a few miles away from the artist Andy Wyeth. My father, a former Navy officer, took a job with a multinational company and was in their head office. I had two younger siblings, with whom my mother was much taken up, and I was more or less shooed out the door and told to come back at suppertime. It was pure heaven for a kid.

We had Shetland ponies (evil tempered, but I loved them and helped look after them), and a pond with snapping turtles I kept trying to catch until one took a chunk out of the plastic bucket. We had a kennel full of beagles. The beagles would escape by digging out and go chase rabbits in the cornfield of the farmer across the way and he would shoot at them. I would be dispatched to catch the beagles before they got shot. Eventually my parents buried cinderblocks to prevent the escapees tunnelling out from Stalag Luft Beagle.

I played every day with the boy half a mile up the road, Billy. We would play war games endlessly. Build forts, booby traps, snares for rabbits (that never worked), shoot BB guns, dare each other to jump off 12 foot walls in our “Airborne” training, skulk up and pretend that we were snipers sneaking up on our families, sweet little kid behavior. For my seventh (?) birthday, I took my class to Valley Forge so we could do a really grand war game. Yes, I was rather a tomboy. I could run like the wind, and I was afraid of nothing, and I detested other girls. I had no friends except Billy. We didn’t talk much, it was like a guy friendship. If you had asked me what I wanted to be back then what I wanted to be, I would have said a soldier, and that I planned to disguise myself as a man.

The rest of my spare time, I escaped into books from an early age. By the time I was 5, my mother was ill increasingly. In and out of hospital. I was left to my own devices most of the time. I did well in school, tho I had few friends. I was top of my class and at one point was encircled by a crowd of bullies who called me Teacher’s Pet. And started to punch me. Billy came running down the field and the two of us punched and kicked them and they never bothered me again. Nowadays I would have been sent to a shrink or to disciplinary action. I was alone at home. So I read.

Greek and Roman myths, tales of King Arthur, codes of chivalry, stories of the Crusades, romantic legends, Robin Hood, Rudyard Kipling, C. S.Lewis, Jack London, Mark Twain, National Geographic, and my father’s collection from childhood of the G.A. Hentie series (a British boys‘ adventure series where the kid is usually poor and runs away and joins the service or goes to sea and has all kinds of adventures, becomes a hero, etc.).

I loved stories about my Greek goddess namesake, Diana, but I don’t remember many female heroines I especially wanted to emulate. I thought Boadicea and Joan of Arc were cool, but they ended up dead. Ruth in the Bible was gutsy but manipulative. I thought the women in the New Testament were insipid. The ones in the Old Testament were victims, vicious or sleazy.

I liked church because I sang in the choir in splendid robes. But I found modern Christianity tame, and wished I had been a Crusading Knight, my greatest heroes.

I don't remember admiring any sports or entertainment figures (we were not allowed TV). US soldiers and sailors and airmen were my only real life heroes. Oh, and missionary doctors. I found women's lives uninspiring and limited. In real life, I was rather neglected by my own mother and was afraid of her (she was manic and unreliable). The only women I looked up to were my schoolteachers and Sunday School teachers who were kind to me, and calm and reliable, but I didn’t want a boring life like theirs.

Mostly I wanted to have the kind of life that the brave boys I read about did. Boys who escaped their awful families or cruel fates and ran away to sea or joined the Army, went through terrible trials and dangers, learned a lot, rescued people, saved the day, and came home in a blaze of glory.

My point is, as a little girl, I daydreamed of being a hero, and being tested, struggling to do the right thing, being brave, helping others, fighting my own fear and ignorance, rising above my own self interest. No different from any little boy.

It is perhaps hardly surprising that the other little girls back then had little use for me. I didn’t care about Barbies or hair or nails or clothes or who liked who....

In the early 1960s, nothing seemed duller to me than the life of a wife and mother...and I most certainly didn’t want to end up like my mom.

I used to daydream of running away and proving myself in a man’s world.

My father was my main real life hero. He was in the Reserves for years, and I thought that nobody, but nobody, was as handsome as he was in his uniform. I wanted to grow up and be like him. We had a complicated relationship. He was deathly proud of me, and I looked like him, was a good dancer like him, was temperamentally similar to him (thank God), and academically gifted in the same ways as him. I ended up going to the same college as him, living in the same dorm, and being an editor of the newspaper as he had done. He used to sigh sadly “What a waste that you were born a girl! The things you could have done if you were a boy!”

That’s all I will say for now. Except to say that I have been married 23 years, have 3 kids, and the happiest time in my life was when I was an at home nursing mommy. Life at home was more fulfilling than I ever dreamed... Go figure! God surprises us.

Of all the dreams I had when I was a little girl, I dreamed most often that I could fly. Of course every child has those dreams. There is nothing special about them. What astonishes me to this day, though, is how easy it is (even from the distance of four decades) to conjure up the way I felt when I soared over treetops, mountains and buildings.

I hardly ever have that dream now. Most often, I dream that I am trapped. I cannot do what I want to do; cannot get where I want to go and I feel so angry and frustrated.

I worry about men a lot. Perhaps that's because I never had a daughter. My entire little family are male and I have spent my entire life caring for them, loving them, trying to support and understand them. Being online is sometimes very confusing to me. I see so many men who seem to loathe women with a passion that makes me feel hopeless about the state of the modern world.

Despite our differences, my own life has taught me how very alike we are, men and women. Like Retriever, I never dreamed of being a princess who was rescued by a white knight in shining armor. I was always the hero in my own dreams - I dreamed of accomplishing great feats of courage and valor; of defending the weak and protecting those I loved. And like Retriever it seemed to me that mostly the women in those childhood stories were passive bystanders. They rarely did anything interesting or daring. I never daydreamed of being a wife or mother.

And yet, when they laid my firstborn son in my arms I knew that a great un-dreamed for thing had happened to me. And I laid aside - gladly - every hope, every plan, every aspiration I'd ever had to be someone in my own right. Someone to admire. The kind of person I admired.

It's not as though my dreams died that day. Every spring when the world began to spring to life, those dreams ran like wildfire through my blood and I wanted to run far, far away from the cares of motherhood and wifely duty. I wanted to be that person I dreamed of being when I was just a girl.

I seldom if ever hear men say they regret not having more time to spend with those they love. I seldom if ever say how much I regret my lost dreams. And yet at the end of our lives, those wishes seem to come back to us like frisbees thrown into the wind.

Would it change anything if we could experience that moment of perspective that dying brings while there was still time to change course?

I wonder. Perhaps we'd understand each other better, though.

Posted by Cassandra at September 2, 2010 02:48 PM

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Comments

This is part of the torment of life. I've gone and done things, exciting and adventurous; and while I enjoyed those things and they made me very happy, I was tormented every night by the thought of the little boy whose childhood I was missing.

Other years I've spent at home, and I've gotten to be with him and his mother; and then I long, at times, to go and do.

The key thing is to do your best to do as much of both, and hope to be honorably killed at it before you get to the deathbed and have to have the regrets. As long as you're busy doing the one or the other, you're as happy as we get to be; and if you are very lucky, as I have been very lucky indeed, you'll get to do a good bit of both.

Posted by: Grim at September 2, 2010 04:26 PM

At some point in every life there comes a point when you realize that what you're doing and why you're doing it isn't about you. You give a big sigh, and go back to doing whatever it is that your doing for whomever you're doing it. It isn't until that last of life's acts - the one that really is all about you - that you remember the boat you were going to build to go sailing on quiet waters and quiet afternoons. And you sigh your last.

Posted by: spd rdr at September 2, 2010 04:38 PM

I left my remark at Grim's.

It fit better there than here.

Posted by: BillT at September 2, 2010 04:55 PM

Is it really such a terrible price that a man has to pay? We all have our roles to play. I do think that at the end many of us might wish we could have done it "some other way". But while you're out there living life each day you do what you have to do.

Posted by: Mike Myers at September 2, 2010 04:56 PM

I don't seem to have done a terribly good job with this, did I?

My point wasn't so much that the price is too high, or that it's better to put yourself before others. If I thought that, I would hardly have made the choices I made with my own life.

I suppose I just wonder when we lose the ability to imagine what it is like to be someone else? Maybe we never had it at all.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 2, 2010 05:46 PM

Now, nothing. 5 years ago, my wife contracted a very rare disease, and died in a matter of 2 days. I vowed then that I would live my life as if tomorrow it would end. I have been fortunate to get two bites at the apple, I'll be re-marrying in 3 weeks.

Now, you'll have to excuse me, I have to go buy some flowers for my fiancee, and take her son with me so he can buy some for his girlfriend. He wasn't quite sure why, because it's not officially an "occasion. My response: Because, it feels good to put a smile on your woman's face.

Posted by: Allen at September 2, 2010 05:49 PM

You're a good man, Allen. I wish you, and your fiancee, the absolute best.

Posted by: spd rdr at September 2, 2010 06:29 PM

Very good post Cassandra, better than my rambling notes deserved...

Perhaps this is out of left field, but on reading that nurse's recollections yet again I went "Say what??? What kind of patients was she seeing?" (in the longer article about her, there was lots about I shoulda, coulda had more fun, etc.). When I was a young chaplain, the dying patients I visited rarely lamented not having had enough fun. Mostly they lamented family rifts they hadn't tried hard enough to heal, or not having persisted more in a difficult task that they had quit too soon, or not having tried something they were afraid to. More time with children, obviously.

The ones facing death with more peace were those who had faced fear, done their duty, trudged to hated work for the sake of loved ones, put others' welfare ahead of their own, those who loved God.

In church this last Sunday they read this passage that rather flies in the face of the advice one might take home from that nurse to the dying:

2 Timothy 4

1I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;

2Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.

3For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;

4And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

5But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

6For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.

7I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:

8Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

Posted by: retriever at September 2, 2010 06:52 PM

We're men, we can take that crap. Just quit taking our kids and all our stuff when you get a new boyfriend.

Posted by: ck at September 2, 2010 07:13 PM

Just quit taking our kids and all our stuff when you get a new boyfriend.

Yeah. I'll try to keep that in mind.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 2, 2010 07:56 PM

When I was growing up, I had no heroes. There were story book characters that I liked and followed, and when we got a TV, it was the same there--Flash Gordon was fun to watch, I liked Tom Terrific (although I often withheld drawing the escape route on the plastic sheet stuck the the TV screen for the purpose, just to see what would happen). I often would wonder what I would do were I someone else, whether one of those story heroes, or a different real person--but that's not the same as having heroes.

I never had a hero until I matured and met my wife. She's been bombed by the Red Army Faction; survived breast cancer; and given birth, after 10 hours of labor, to a really neat daughter. And she answered all of those with a quiet courage and grace that never wavered. She survived all those events, whether through blind luck and then her calm courage in the aftermath, or facing those challenges a priori with that unwavering, calm strength. Not one complaint--just answer the challenge, knowing she would defeat it or die in the effort. These were real-world events, and this is a real hero.

As to losing your dreams, that happens only when you surrender them. Keep after it; you don't lose until you're dead. It might get harder as time passes, but it remains doable. Hard means possible, after all. And at least you have dreams. I'm 60 and working on my 4th career change. I still don't know what I want to do when I grow up. But I don't miss the dreams--I'm still having fun being a kid and learning stuff.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at September 2, 2010 07:57 PM

SPD RDR, "At some point in every life there comes a point when you realize that what you're doing and why you're doing it isn't about you."

You could have stopped right there. I believe that we are only happy when we put others ahead of ourselves. It is called love.

Posted by: Russ at September 2, 2010 08:03 PM

There are plenty of emotions us men can feel without losing our masculinity... Rage, Anger, Fury, Annoyance... humor and happiness on a few occasions (team winning the championship, winning money, luck triumphing over skill, and child being born - in that order). j/k, happiness is not allowed.

Posted by: Smart Grunt at September 2, 2010 09:05 PM

Let's not forget Bill Murray's regrets in Zombieland - Garfield.

Posted by: Smart Grunt at September 2, 2010 09:07 PM

Recommended reading relevant to this: Antoine de St-Exupery, "Citadelle" (unfortunate English title: "Wisdom of the Sands")...a novel representing the musings of a desert prince on what really matters in life. St-Ex never got to finish it, as he disappeared on a mission first, so it is a bit rough around the edges, but deserves to be more widely read. I've made a couple of attempts at writing a review, but it's hard to encapsulate.

Posted by: david foster at September 2, 2010 09:39 PM

...as a little girl, I daydreamed of being a hero, and being tested, struggling to do the right thing, being brave, helping others, fighting my own fear and ignorance, rising above my own self interest. No different from any little boy.

By the way, R: I don't recall any daydreams about "struggling" to do the right thing as a boy; nor about "rising above my own self interest," nor about "fighting my own fear and ignorance." My daydreams as a boy assumed perfection: that my purpose would always be right; that my shots would never miss (I can recall a playful conversation with another boy of seven or so about whether we would miss once in a million shots, or once in two million shots); and that I would (as the Lone Ranger does) always achieve a perfectly just settlement in anything I interfered with.

It may be that your dreams were categorically different from those of little boys. They may be better; or they may just be different; but they weren't the same, if my own dreams were any indication.

Posted by: Grim at September 2, 2010 11:41 PM

watched it all walk away. well, would have if I had not been deployed.

bottomless pit of wants and needs.

Posted by: Curtis at September 3, 2010 03:01 AM

My daydreams as a boy assumed perfection: that my purpose would always be right; that my shots would never miss (I can recall a playful conversation with another boy of seven or so about whether we would miss once in a million shots, or once in two million shots); and that I would (as the Lone Ranger does) always achieve a perfectly just settlement in anything I interfered with.

Aye yay yay, Grim. That explains a lot about a quality I've observed in a lot of guys :p

Life doesn't often work out that way, though.

Most things worth having don't just drop in our laps with no effort or risk, and when they do I've noticed that we don't appreciate them as much as we do when they are hard earned.

I think my dreams were more like Retriever's - they involved the chance to do something difficult or dangerous that I wouldn't be able to do successfully unless I surpassed my every day self. If they had two common themes, they were sacrifice (of something) and overcoming a challenge. Without those two qualities - without some degree of difficulty - there was no point to the adventure.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 3, 2010 07:26 AM

Two things struck me (one funny, one not funny). The not funny one was that there are a few traditional outlets reserved for men to show emotion (specificly grief) without being thought weak or less a man. Those would be the death of his father (or mother, depending on the man), the death of a faithful dog, and the birth of his child. I've experienced neither the former nor the latter, but I cried like a child at the death of my dogs. And all three were in the past few years.

The funny one was when I read this:
I thought Boadicea and Joan of Arc were cool, but they ended up dead.

Well, given that they lived several hundred years ago, they'd still be dead today had they never met their earlier demises. It just gave me a chuckle.

Posted by: MikeD at September 3, 2010 08:56 AM

I thought Boadicea and Joan of Arc were cool, but they ended up dead.

I laughed at that, too! If there's one message I consistently got from my childhood reading, it was that bravery and heroism were laudable in men and tiresome in women :p

There are certain memes that recur in art and literature. One of them in the movies and TV series is the black detective who is incredibly hard working, smart and decent. You just know - because it has happened over and over and over again - that he will catch a bullet 2 days before he retires from the force to spend the rest of his life with the wife and adorable kiddies.

When there is a fight, women mostly stand off to the side while some villain mops the floor with the poor guy who's trying to protect them. I can remember screaming at the TV when I was little - "DON'T JUST STAND THERE, YOU TWIT! PICK UP THAT 2X4 AND *DO* SOMETHING!"

Sadly, the lion's share of female characters at whom I screeched proceeded to ignore my sage advice.

Occasionally one sees a woman who will stand up and fight to defend her land or her children (it's only acceptable for her to defend certain things - she can't go all vigilante unless the stakes are extremely personal. "Real" women find a man to fight their battles for them.). Such women are briefly admired... unless of course they should do something so tiresome as living to fight another day :p

Posted by: Cassandra at September 3, 2010 09:20 AM

Life doesn't often work out that way, though. Most things worth having don't just drop in our laps with no effort or risk, and when they do I've noticed that we don't appreciate them as much as we do when they are hard earned.

I don't disagree with any of that. I'm just saying, when I was seven years old, surrounded by Superman and the Lone Ranger, Buck Rogers and the rest, the dreams of childhood were otherwise. Victory was the natural birthright of the hero, who would always come to it at the right point in the story; tests were pro forma.

I'm not sure if that's a failure of that particular kind of literature or not. It may be part of the nature of boys instead; something that gives them the confidence to go out and do all the things that young boys charge headlong into as part of growing up.

Or, it may be that they're correctly learning what life is like at that stage. In the early part of American life, you go on from one new achievement to another, waxing stronger every day. New avenues of exploration open with each passing year: you can take longer walks, then you can go on walks by yourself with just your dog as a companion, then bike rides, then one day you can drive a car. You maybe play sports, and you can hit a ball farther and throw one faster each year. You move from grade to grade in school, in much the same way that storybook heroes are tested without the outcome being in doubt: you have to really work hard to fail in public school! And so forth.

It's possible to pass all the way through high school without hitting the first real wall, although fortunately I hit mine before getting out of school. Still, the real crashes didn't start until I got out of school, and was rubbing up against the real world. And, of course, some especially favored individuals pass straight from school to college, to grad school, to professional school, and to some sinecure job at which they won't be allowed to fail either.

It may be that we protect our children too much in that way.

Posted by: Grim at September 3, 2010 09:54 AM

WSJ article the other day on whole batch of movies & tv shows featuring female actual heroines ("the girl with the gun")...cites some market research conducted by a network on women 18-34: "They also thought men had gotten wimpier and associated the opposite sex with the bumbling losers played by Jonah Hill and Seth Rogen in recent romantic comedies.'It was obvious that these women feel like they have to take charge and be the hero,' says (some market-research chick)"

Sounds a lot less wholesome than the kind of standing up & fighting that Cass was talking about.

Posted by: david foster at September 3, 2010 09:57 AM

They also thought men had gotten wimpier and associated the opposite sex with the bumbling losers played by Jonah Hill and Seth Rogen in recent romantic comedies.'It was obvious that these women feel like they have to take charge and be the hero,' says (some market-research chick)".

You know, from reading me for quite some time, that I think both sexes need to be more respectful of each other.

That said, one of the things that bugs me most about the way a lot of men talk is that they are disrespectful of (and to) women a large part of the time. This is true whether we're talking sex, relationships, or work. Men routinely say things that just take my breath away and they don't even seem to realize how they sound.

I think they mostly do it because women put up with it.

Over the years, I've pointed this out to my husband a few times. At first he basically tried to tell me that I didn't know what I was talking about (i.e., I was wrong) :p But over time, he started paying attention to things that happen all around him every day and I was surprised to see him eventually admit that he now notices this when it happens.

Personally, I find it broad brush characterizations of "all men" or "all women" to be equally thoughtless and objectionable. I think we notice them more when women are the perpetrators because we don't expect women to say things like that.

And I think we don't notice it so much when men say things like that because we do expect that from men.

I really don't get the whole zero sum game thing between the sexes. Men complain that women depend on them too much, but when we act independent men feel disrespected and undervalued. Women complain that men are cold and unfeeling, but when they try to be more sensitive suddenly they're wimps?

And both men and women seem to focus only on injuries done to them, ignoring the very real possibility that most relationships involve two perspectives, or that if we consistently have problems with a person (or with the opposite sex) then there's a pretty big chance we're part of the problem.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 3, 2010 10:42 AM

Cassandra...quite true. I'd argue that the media, especially film and tv because of their emotional power, act kind of as a positive feedback amplifier, in this case for perceptions of the sexes...ie, market research shows that many women think of men as wimps, hence movies get made on this them, reinforcing the perception. The opposite (women portrayed as airheads) probably also happened to a certain extent in the 1930s-1950s, though without benefit of sophisticated market research.

Posted by: david foster at September 3, 2010 10:58 AM

I don't notice women being portrayed as airheads quite so much as I notice women being portrayed as accessories or possessions whose personalities/thoughts are irrelevant. And I think this happens because some part of the male market really does think of women this way.

I do realize that the universe of "people who comment on blog posts" is probably not representative of the universe of "all men" or "all women". Still, I can't think of a single day when I haven't seen not just one but lots of comments that illustrate this mind set.

I think David Brooks made this point in that essay I cited a while back - sometimes capitalism panders to our worst instincts rather than encouraging us to rise above them. I think the Internet has the same effect but to an even greater degree.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 3, 2010 11:06 AM

I'd argue that the media, especially film and tv because of their emotional power, act kind of as a positive feedback amplifier, in this case for perceptions of the sexes...ie, market research shows that many women think of men as wimps, hence movies get made on this them, reinforcing the perception.

I also think, David, that we're seeing more of these negative portrayals of men for other reasons:

1. Men are - by several measures - actually behaving in ways that by the yardstick of traditional masculinity are wimpy/immature/irresponsible. And women are becoming more assertive and confident in some aspects. I think art is imitating life.

2. There's also a legitimizing function going on. Hollywood wants us to accept that young girls and women should be promiscuous and immodest. And the unpleasant truth is that there's a huge audience for women who are willing to behave this way and it ain't all female - not by a long shot.

To women who want an excuse to behave badly, such portrayals provide the perfect excuse. "I'm not indiscriminate/a slut/easy - I'm a sexually liberated, new age woman!"

Men who want an excuse to treat women in a way they wouldn't dream of treating their wives, sisters, or daughters can tell themselves, "She likes it" or "She's asking for it".

Likewise, there's a huge audience for negative portrayals of men.

To men who know their own behavior is shameful, such portrayals provide an excuse. "See? I'm not that bad" or "I can't control myself, but that's not surprising because all men are pigs".

To women who need to feel superior to men or treat them disdainfully, such portrayals affirm their desire to look down on men.

Again, I think sometimes we're all too quick to look around for someone to blame when we see things that bother us (i.e., "Those horrible feminists are putting men down because they hate us" rather than "Hmmm... most of those writers are male. I wonder whether there's some segment of the male population that finds low expectations useful?"

Women do the same thing sometimes. We rail on at men for being shallow and obsessed with sex but don't want to blame other women for giving men exactly what they want. And you can turn this one inside out too. In general, liberals view women as victims of sex obsessed men (as though someone were forcing them to put themselves on display) and conservatives wonder why women aren't modest and chaste anymore while rewarding them for being neither.

I've never noticed that either sides actions were even slightly aligned with their professed morality.

No one ever said people were logical.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 3, 2010 11:18 AM

...so much as I notice women being portrayed as accessories.... A somewhat "sophisticated" version of this portrayal was the old, short-lived TV series, "Matt Houston," wherein the female side kick, who clearly was an intelligent, capable woman, never really became a full partner and his "equal," until she became his love interest, as though this alone was both necessary and sufficient to "elevate" her.

The current crop of woman action protagonists (I hesitate to call such roles "heroes," except in the most narrow literary sense) really are nothing more than the earlier, male versions in similar action shows with women cast in the lead. Frankly, the only difference I see between such shows and video games like Doom and Wolfenstein is the level of violence realized in the course of the show. They're still just some person following a gun around, watching the mayhem in front of it.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at September 3, 2010 11:27 AM

I loved Eric's comment about admiring and seeing the heroism in his wife. It seems that that kind of mutual honor is rare these days and it's lack is part of the problem Cassandra describes. A man and a woman can survive a lot if they both admire good qualities in each other despite familiarity.
Grim, the struggle part is for mere mortals! :)
Also, as a scrawny female who grew up to be only 5'3" I tended toward the nerd geek model of bravery as overcoming fear rather than no fear. I am fearless as an adult. Probably stupidly so. Except horror movies.

Posted by: Retriever at September 3, 2010 11:32 AM

I loved Eric's comment about admiring and seeing the heroism in his wife.

I did too. All the more so because such comments are so rare. I'll bet she feels the same way about him.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 3, 2010 11:35 AM

"The woman who allows herself to feel pays no social penalty for doing so"

Well....

Gotta disagree with that one. I am a crier. I cry at everything. I cry at poignant TV moments. I cry when I'm angry and frustrated. I cry when I think about my kids growing up and leaving home. It happens. Antidepressants help me get over it faster but the emotional impulse is still there.

Simultaneously, I'm trying to be a professional (lawyer, in my case). There is very little that causes me to lose respect in my colleagues' eyes faster than dissolving into tears. It's widely thought to be a display of weakness. I have internalized that and also see it as weakness, and get tremendously embarrassed by my reactions. I close my office door, take a few minutes to regain my composure, and then try to pretend it never happened.

Maybe its because women in professional life are supposed to be like men, and men aren't supposed to cry? And maybe you think it's socially acceptable for women to cry because you think of them as dwelling in a home rather than office setting? It would be nice if men didn't feel they had to hide their feelings, and in the process, my wearing my emotions on my sleeve could be less of a liability.

Posted by: alwaysfiredup at September 3, 2010 11:39 AM

Grim, the struggle part is for mere mortals! :)

That's part of it! The only thing more immortal than a seven-year-old boy is a teenage boy. The seven-year-old can still cry.

Posted by: Grim at September 3, 2010 11:50 AM

I probably failed to express myself well - I do that sometimes! After all, I know exactly what I was thinking :)

I think it helps to look at that sentence along with the next - I probably should have made the connection more clearly:

The woman who allows herself to feel pays no social penalty for doing so: we expect women to be gentle, to be loving, to forgive and forget. In a woman's traditional sphere (home, hearth, friendships) she is not viewed as less feminine for showing her emotions.

I agree with you on the crying thing because I have exactly the same problem.

I view crying as unacceptable in the workplace and yet when I get very angry, I almost always cry rather than yelling. It literally "hurts" me to get that mad.

I think you're right - I was thinking of crying being OK in a home setting. re this:

It would be nice if men didn't feel they had to hide their feelings, and in the process, my wearing my emotions on my sleeve could be less of a liability.

I think male stoicism is a huge asset in the office but a huge liability at home. More women leave their husbands over their inability or refusal to talk or be intimate than any other reason. So a man's source of strength in the outside world is his nemesis in the world of relationships.

I think it's the opposite for women - our emotions and intuition are enormous assets at home and in relationships but can be a huge liability in the office.

That's kind of what I was getting at the end of this post. Women often assume men have no feelings because they're not on display. Men often hide their feelings.

Men often assume women have no ambition because we don't talk about it. It's not on display, and where women are ambitious we usually hide that from others.

That's what this post was about - our mutual inability to see beyond the tip of the iceberg.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 3, 2010 11:51 AM

Well, one way in which we have trouble seeing beyond the tip is that we mean different things by the same words. For example:

"Men and boys have a great capacity for love.... But in men, feelings seem to compete with more traditionally masculine qualities - competitiveness, aggression, pride, the desire to take risks[.]"

I would say that everything you have just said is in competition with "feelings" is in fact an instance of a feeling. Competitiveness! Aggression! Pride! Desire!

As a result, I would phrase the same statement not as evidence that men 'suppress their feelings,' but that different kinds of feelings tend to win out when there is a conflict.

Posted by: Grim at September 3, 2010 12:24 PM

Now, here is where I would say that men actually have something like a 'competition' between feelings and non-feeling: in what Doc Russia calls 'the machine.'

This is that ability in men to "turn off" feeling and emotion entirely, and to sustain action without them for as long as necessary. This seems to be one of the differences between men and women arising from brainstructure.

What that means is this: Insofar as a man is acting out of 'aggression' or 'desire,' he is still a kind of creature you can understand. He has a feeling that is driving his actions. What may be harder to understand is his actions during those periods when he has turned off emotion entirely.

Sometimes women experience this in life-and-death situations like car wrecks, but the adrenaline alters the experience somewhat. Still, that's the right model for trying to understand what it might be like for a man in such a mode, if you can mentally abstract the adrenal response. It's going to be somewhat alien to you to think about it.

When men do this for a protracted period, there are severe consequences to the soul. It's a useful tool, but one that must be trained or it can destroy you.

Posted by: Grim at September 3, 2010 12:32 PM

I don't think crying at work is necessarily all that harmful for a woman, depending on where and when it happens. For instance, you absolutely don't want your pilot crying while she's fighting an in-flight crisis...but if she cries with relief after the airplane is safely down and parked, so what? Similarly, you don't want your lawyer crying in the middle of a trial or a deposition, but if she cries with disappointment over losing a case, that's not anywhere near as harmful.

I've had women who worked for me cry (no, not *usually* because I was so mean to them) and it didn't hurt my view of them nearly as much as certain other kinds of behavior often engaged in by members of both sexes.

Posted by: david foster at September 3, 2010 12:32 PM

I don't think I've ever cried in front of anyone at work. I can remember shutting my office door and crying once or twice, though. The two times I've had real problems not crying at work both involved becoming very angry with my boss and not feeling able to express that directly.

If you knew me, you'd realize that's kind of funny b/c I am more direct at work than most men I know. I just work hard to be direct but non confrontational and unemotional - I think frankness goes over better when you keep emotions out of it.

The analogy I usually use is yelling. I don't really see much reason for men to yell in an office environment (I'm quite willing to posit that yelling might be appropriate in other work environments, especially outdoors or around loud/dangerous equipment).

I have seen men completely lose their tempers at work before and I've seen it cause problems. I actually haven't ever seen a woman cry at work, but that obviously doesn't mean it doesn't happen!

I believe that self discipline is important at work. That's a big reason I don't write so much about the war - because I work at home it's much harder for me to control my tendency to cry if something upsets me. So, I just don't go there.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 3, 2010 12:43 PM

Now that I agree with entirely. I will not endure men yelling at work.

Posted by: Grim at September 3, 2010 12:47 PM

I would say that everything you have just said is in competition with "feelings" is in fact an instance of a feeling. Competitiveness! Aggression! Pride! Desire! As a result, I would phrase the same statement not as evidence that men 'suppress their feelings,' but that different kinds of feelings tend to win out when there is a conflict.

I agree that those things are emotions, but I don't think most men think of them as emotions. This is what allows men to say that they are more rational - they simply redefine emotional to include only "those girly feelings". :p

When I was raising the boys I was frequently struck by the very strong emotions they and their friends experienced. Small boys have a hard time not getting swept away by their feelings. It's very normal, for instance, for a little boy who has just lost a board game to act out, throw the game and all the pieces across the room, or pitch a huge fit.

I have sometimes wondered whether a lot of the reason men put so much pressure on each other not to show their feelings is precisely because that kind of self control is so necessary for men?

Posted by: Cassandra at September 3, 2010 12:51 PM

Yes, that is one of the reasons. It only becomes more necessary as you grow older, and stronger.

But there's another part of it too. I was just lecturing my son on this last night, when he used 'how he felt' as an excuse not to do his duty. Nobody is going to love a man who won't do his duty, however he feels.

As you love him, you must teach him to do his duty without regard to his feelings: otherwise, as an adult, he will be alone. At best, he will be despised. At worst, he will be feared and hated.

Posted by: Grim at September 3, 2010 12:56 PM

There are some seriously cool Old and New Testament ladies. Deborah, a prophetess and judge, and Jael. Eve, who had no social services to help her deal with Cain's issues...

Mary, the mother of our Lord. She was pregnant and single at a time when being both was cause for being stoned to death. Then watched her son be tortured and killed...to raise up three days later.

Yes, they are a bunch of simps. NOT.

Posted by: Cricket at September 3, 2010 03:18 PM

My Dad was an interesting gent. When I got my first speeding ticket, Mom was freaking out. Dad just yawned, and said, 'Take her to the judge, plead guilty and go to driving school. No record.'

It was not my last speeding ticket, but his reaction filled me with relief. I was not grounded, or punished in any way. I asked him later why he did that.

He told me that how I felt about it would be the best punishment he could give, and that I would think before I acted.

A decade and a half went by before I got my next speeding ticket. The Engineer said 'Pay the fine.'


Posted by: Cricket at September 3, 2010 03:33 PM

Men suppress their feelings? Sometimes. Sometimes perception of suppression is a misread of the situation. Sometimes, it's appropriate to get emotional at work, male or female.

I had an aircraft under my control, low over the Gulf of Mexico, when an aircraft problem terminating his fuel flow demanded his immediate recovery. The pilot and I handled it so calmly and efficiently even his wing man had to ask whether there was a problem, the vicissitudes of radio waves and water having caused him to miss the initial (and only) announcement of the problem. After his successful recovery (an interesting tale in itself, for another time), I had the shakes so badly I couldn't even hold a cup of coffee for a few minutes. During the moment of crisis there wasn't time to have a hissy fit; we both had things we needed to do, and do exactly correctly and exactly on time in order to save a life and an irreplaceable aircraft. My technician saw my nerves after the fact, as did the waitress and my table mates in the O Club where I was having trouble with my coffee.

I also have been know to get up close in the face of a subordinate (in private; the only things appropriate for public viewings are atta-boys) and let him/her know, in no uncertain terms, the depth and breadth of my dismay with their behavior. If they cried, so what? Who cares? If they corrected their behavior, that mattered. It's entirely appropriate for the folks around you to know what angrifies you--necessary, even, as that contributes to their ability to predict your behavior. I also had, in one staff meeting, an officer get up on the conference table and stamp her feet in the zeal and heat of the "discussion" going on. Nobody cared. My staff meetings routinely were borderline insubordinate and rebellious, as I needed everyone's honest, considered input. Control freaks dictate answers; officers and civilian leaders seek them. That seeking gets emotional sometimes.

Posted by: E Hines at September 3, 2010 03:36 PM

Well, I agree with you there :p

I didn't mean to suggest that people have to be emotionless automatons all the time. Another place where I think there's value in showing anger is with kids.

I'm always mystified when parents think their child will dry up and blow away when they get angry. I don't think parents should respond to EVERY infraction with anger, but if your child does something completely unacceptable sometimes the best reaction is to let them see just how mad they have made you. If you don't get angry often, that will often impress upon them that they have crossed an important line and they will remember it.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 3, 2010 04:04 PM

I have sometimes wondered whether a lot of the reason men put so much pressure on each other not to show their feelings is precisely because that kind of self control is so necessary for men?

Self-control is very important on a hunter. Ever tried to get a young hothead to not get everybody killed in a charge, battle, or hunt?

Something like that.

Also, it's much easier to get people to obey the rules when whatever they are feeling can be safely exported to, say, an enemy, an animal, or something that the man-boy can physically fight and tackle with. Let em go at it. If he gets himself killed, then he wasn't hot stuff to begin with.

Trying to restrain boys without giving them an outlet for that level of emotion which their brains were not designed to verbalize out, is futile. It teaches boys to be afraid of feeling things strongly, which is the opposite of raising risk takers.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at September 3, 2010 04:53 PM

I didn't mean to suggest that people have to be emotionless automatons all the time.

Whew! Is my virtual girlfriend ever relieved!

Posted by: spd rdr at September 3, 2010 04:54 PM

One of the things that a blogger asked his comment section about after Katrina was "when is it okay for a man to cry".

My answer was that it is always okay for a man to cry, when he is alone and nothing is required of him in terms of survival actions.

So he can't cry when he is with his family watching his house blow up or get swept away. He can't cry while driving his kids somewhere. He can't cry when he gets shot. He can't cry when his wife is dead, his enemies in front of him, and his children held hostage. He is allowed to cry only when he terminates all immediate threats and ensures the safety of the non-combatants.

Emotions can be finely graded and suppressed or heightened based upon their priority to the person that is the prime actor.

Thus women cry because evolution wise, they are often not at the front lines and thus need not suppress their grief due to enemy actions. They cry when they get the news because it is of prime import that they get it out of the system and start focusing on the survival of the non-combatants. Which usually takes a long, long time. Too long to rely upon the mind's mental defenses to hold up AND function at a relatively efficient pace at the same time.

Men, however, are by instinct trained to discard the less important emotions and focus all their energies upon the Immediate Moment. To survive. Which usually is resolved in a short amount of time. Short enough that mental defenses can adequately repress or forget a lot of things, in order to facilitate the efficient actions now and in the immediate future which will have a disproportionate effect upon the long term survival of the man and his relations.

Based upon the societal training, the 2nd Nature, of man, he could do things differently. For example, if he is a lawyer and trained to argue or verbalize, then when he faces a crisis moment, he may simply use his emotions to fuel his verbal skills and respond that way to the threat. A man trained to kill with his bare hands, however, will tend to act differently.

Whether which way is better, is a discussion too large to be related at this time.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at September 3, 2010 05:03 PM

[rummaging around]

Now where did I put that ruler???? :)

Posted by: Sister Mary Bag o' Metaphors at September 3, 2010 05:08 PM

Whether which way is better, is a discussion too large to be related at this time.

I'm proud of you, Ymar. :)

Posted by: Grim at September 3, 2010 05:13 PM

This is that ability in men to "turn off" feeling and emotion entirely, and to sustain action without them for as long as necessary. This seems to be one of the differences between men and women arising from brainstructure.

I have heard it popularly known as either the Machine, the Lizard brain, or in other phenomenon the Fugue State, Dissociation Disorder, etc.

For a gripping account from those that have lived in the front lines, read this.

The disconnect causing the “freeze” in adrenalin reaction is a conflict between the fight/flight neurocenters in the brain. Without a traditional “enemy” the brain will often get stuck in a response loop. Cars are not lions, tigers, nor bears. Working inside the hyper-state (some call it a fugue state, where time is apparently altered) is a skill, not an instinct. The lizard brain can only bite, claw, or run – unless it is trained. Terms for this type of skill are “muscle memory” and “trained reflex activity” – also known in many martial arts as kata. Your mind can out-react your body; time becomes hazy and some people gain a state known in some circles as “ego displacement”; meaning they disassociate from their actions and live so fully in the moment that the sensory input doesn’t even reach short-term memory storage. The best point and entry men I know can achieve this, but the debriefing and after-action reviews are a royal pain. They do it right, every time, but cannot tell you what they did, why they did it, or even if they did it from the blast of the initial breach until the final “clear” call.

When entering a fugue state, your body lags behind perception – it is easy to overbalance, press to hard, or misjudge strength. People become jerky, awkward, or clumsy as their muscles do exactly what they are told – by a brain working at double speed and adjusting before the final state is reached.

I’ve achieved the fugue more than once, and once upon a time was capable of voluntarily entering a state of ego displacement. I haven’t been at that level for over a dozen years – though I nearly shot a man in Baghdad before I caught my hand. He was working on a roof about 400 meters away and carrying a water pipe. Silhouetted, he looked like an RPG gunner. I stopped when I had to adjust my head because of dust on my glasses – I didn’t recall taking the safety off or getting the rifle to my shoulder. The last time before that I needed that state of awareness. I’m still here, the young man that triggered the fugue is not.

Throughout history, man has sought to harness this super-human capability. Heroes are lauded for achieving this state, where strength is multiplied, wounds are irrelevant, and the enemy is so much grain to be cut down. And yet, when the threat is passed, men of conscience are horrified at their capacity for destruction – and yet others cannot live without achieving that state - so close to deification – again and again, despite the risks to life and sanity that are needed to provoke it.

A note – the monkey is never, ever in charge. There are skills the lizard can learn to use. It isn’t a dumb beast, just a very, very slow learner that requires intimate contact with the skills it will use. Race car drivers have it – and the best example of a man who could achieve it effortlessly I can give you is to call up the old NFL films of Barry Sanders. He made the world look slow – and did it time and again with an ease and joy that belie what it must have cost him.

I do not mention his name or alias because he is active duty and who knows what is sniffing around on the nets these days.

Your kind of man, Grim.

As an addendum, the full effect of a fugue state plus adrenal is that both mental and physical states alter. Just one would be bad enough, but two at once makes things almost impossible to "synch" up in the moment of danger. It's like trying to figure out how to make a technique work, when the enemy is bashing in your head. Kind of tough. People should not want to get into that situation. Because they may not come out of it.

The counter is training and practice. Preparation for the problems that may ensue, will ensure speedy solutions and life saving actions/reactions.

Women have been known to have become so adrenalized that they could lift a car to save their child. What may not be popularly known is that they destroyed the muscles in their backs and arms doing it.

The human body has natural limiters placed on its strength and ligaments. You are not ALLowed to exceed those limits, because it is purely self-destructive unless your very life is about to end unless you exceed the genkai. And to many women, their children are more important than their own lives.

When a person enters an extremely high state of concentrated adrenaline and other cocktails in the blood, they are essentially turbocharged on nitro. There's an explosion going on in the heart of the engine and whether the engine blows up or the body falls apart or the tires get grinded up, who knows. But it's inevitable if such a state is maintained in intensity and duration. What else happens in adrenalized states is that your body becomes stronger. Your strength multiplies. We're not talking about "20%" increase from weight lifting. But 2X, 3X, 4X, 5X multipliers.

A woman that couldn't lift 100-200 pounds with her arms, can lift 500? 1000? That's a multiplier.

A man that can bench press 400 pounds, can strike with the force of a ton, if his bones and knuckles wouldn't first break. It's not as high as you think, since the acceleration is not limitless and it can't be sustained given the body's center of gravity issues. But what this means is that your brain knows how fast you can move your arms and legs normally. But when adrenalized, you are stronger and faster. You are faster precisely because you are stronger. Your muscles exert more impulse, thus accelerating your limbs faster which results in them crossing more distance at a higher velocity.

Your regular brain would be mighty surprised at this change. And you would need some minutes to get used to your body. Much as toddlers had to learn to walk cause their balance is off. But what if your brain isn't in "regular" mode? What if your brain is working at hyperspeed and your body is also hyped up. Then we got an interesting dilemma. Because without experience or training as Grim mentioned, you are in for a mighty shock. nature has provided humans with great tools to ensure the survival of the human species. But nature doesn't determine our decisions for us. That's the catch and the benefit of free will.

What the Lizard brain is is a sort of "Don't talk to me unless you got something important enough to use my time on". It doesn't care about the past or the future, only the present. People can disassociate themselves from memory or even their own personalities because emotion, social worries, are of Absolutely No Worth to the Lizard brain.

There is one thing and one thing alone that the Lizard cares about. Survival in the Now. If something doesn't contribute to that, it's blocked off and ignored. That includes sound, memory, sight, emotions, touch, or anything else. And it varies as the situation varies. Because this is not an "unconscious" sleep walker state. This is very active. Somebody is at the wheels. But it is not you, if by "you" you also include your feelings of compassion, friendship, social humanitarianism, and all the other stuff that has nothing to do with Survival.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at September 3, 2010 05:23 PM

He made the world look slow – and did it time and again with an ease and joy that belie what it must have cost him.

For clarification, that was the last sentence of the quote. Everything after that, is my own testament on the works.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at September 3, 2010 05:27 PM

When the lizard brain becomes the primary decision maker, it is usually because there is a very good reason. If your frontal lobes detect a danger to your life, and it is backed up by "fear" plus other emotions, the lizard brain will try to take over as it is far more efficient than your "normal" conscious mind at figuring out solutions to immediate threats.

However, humans are weird in some fashions. They can block the lizard brain from becoming the primary decision maker. Why? Fear. Fear of Fear, so to speak. It's complicated. People become paralyzed with fear, by the fear of the fear. So they do nothing. Since they fear doing anything will be worse than doing nothing. Or they just don't know the solution so they go into an OO bounce and their mind never makes the decision to leave it all up to the Lizard because they're still debating whether this is a social monkey problem with angry friends or whether this is a Rational, Reasonable, Problem that can be Resolved with Negotiation and Debate.

Heh.

Confidence is required. Confidence that your lizard brain knows what it is doing. Some people don't need it. Their bodies or mind does it for them, for whatever reasons. Then they come to regret or fear the unknown, something they didn't intentionally trigger knowing the risks.

Or perhaps they become closely melded with the lizard brain, so that it is constantly turning on when they face a... sound or memory. Memory can trigger adrenaline, so it is perhaps not so farfetched to believe that a memory can trigger an adrenaline charge so high that the brain thinks life is being threatened and then automatically shifts into lizard mode. But since there's no threat, you get the crash with none of the benefits.

And perhaps the reason why some survive and others do not, is because some were quicker to switch to the lizard, without even thinking about it. Yet what would normally be an asset in zones of chaos, becomes a liability amongst social circles that are comfortable and take peace for granted.

I can remember screaming at the TV when I was little - "DON'T JUST STAND THERE, YOU TWIT! PICK UP THAT 2X4 AND *DO* SOMETHING!"

Hah. You must have loved High Noon then.

My childhood was filled with watching shows like Hercules the Legendary Adventures where they would leave enemies beaten, but alive.

I was also screaming. But I was screaming for them to permanently end the threat. Even before I learned physics and social science, I knew what the solution was all along.

There are plenty of people, who when faced with life threatening threats, reacted with emotion, social responses, or "logic". Famously, when threatened by muggers, she responded "what are you going to do, shoot me?" Logic is not your best friend in such disparities in power situations.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at September 3, 2010 05:43 PM

And I think this happens because some part of the male market really does think of women this way.

It's the international market and Hollywood in general. When a movie is produced, the companies market it based upon international orders and pre-sales. They don't care about what American men think.

One guess how men in the rest of the world think of women and treat them.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at September 3, 2010 05:58 PM

I think they mostly do it because women put up with it.

Humans tend to follow the path of least resistance. Like electrons.

What that means is this: Insofar as a man is acting out of 'aggression' or 'desire,' he is still a kind of creature you can understand. He has a feeling that is driving his actions. What may be harder to understand is his actions during those periods when he has turned off emotion entirely.

I would relate Grim's description here as the difference between a serial killer and somebody who rescues puppies. You may not like the puppy rescuer, but you know he has some kind of social compact going on. But you may very well "like" the serial killer, but he's a serial killer precisely because he has no use for what we would consider "emotions" or the social compact.

The conflict happens when a sheepdog goes wolf to kill the wolf, then reverts. Because, objectively, it's the same. If you remove consideration of the results, it's the same. Not same evil, just same behavior. Looked at objectively, the killer who kills with no emotion because it is necessary, is operating in the same asocial realm as the serial killer who kills because something didn't go right with his processing. A serial killer cannot revert. He likes killing people now. But the sheepdog can revert. And feels always that there may come a point where the evil is so great that they will become a killer for too long and not be able to revert.

It's going to be somewhat alien to you to think about it.

Exchange two men who are adrenalized in body/mind, and their experiences will be alien to each other on top of their own experiences ; )

Now imagine if we exchange a man and woman in body/mind...

There is very little that causes me to lose respect in my colleagues' eyes faster than dissolving into tears.

I'm sorry to hear that. But I hope you will know, that many of those lawyers have never experienced real physical or emotional pain beyond a certain threshold. They can't judge you, but they do. Not because they have a right, but only because they have the power. They will only have the right to judge whether it be your weakness when they themselves have held themselves together in trying circumstances. And they simply have not.

I have internalized that and also see it as weakness, and get tremendously embarrassed by my reactions. I close my office door, take a few minutes to regain my composure, and then try to pretend it never happened.

I knew a girl once. She was in a position of leadership, though over other girls. One time she got her finger jammed on a mechanical binder and I how she handled it. Many other girls would have been bawling and asking for help. She stayed silent and said nothing, though her eyes teared up from the pain. She just held her hand to herself and got through it. If she told you, Alwaysfiredup, that your crying is a weakness, then you should believe it. But she didn't tell you. Those weaker than you thought they had the right to shame you for certain behavior. But why let them set your standards? If the strong say your behavior is shameful, you can improve and become stronger by raising yourself up to the standards of the strong. Trying to get to the level of the weak, however, will only harm your best interests in the long term.

You should feel better after it happens. If you can limit it to yourself, that is enough. Nobody can ask for more, not even of other men.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at September 3, 2010 06:30 PM

{quote}
I'll bet she feels the same way about him.
{/quote}
Pretty much. I don't recall having heroes as a kid, either - though I admired the portrayals of those who behaved heroically. My heroes are what I call the quiet professionals - and I mean it in the same way that SOF do about their very best members. They are the ones who do what needs to be done, without making a production of it, as often as it needs. They ask no particular reward, save the respect of those they respect in turn.

And, yes - Eric is a quiet professional at what he's chosen to be.

Posted by: Annlee at September 3, 2010 09:10 PM

My childhood heros, there's a long list. Roy Rogers was probably first, Skylar King one of the last (both on radio and TV.) Any number of Heinlein juvenile characters -- Kip Russel, Max Jones, Sam Anderson ... Rod Walker (anyone else stilll watching out for the stobor? Wish I had, a few times.) Older Heinlein characters, too. Oscar Gordon, Lazarus Long, Jubal ... maybe I read too much RAH?

Modern heros, first that comes to mind is Gandhi.

I learned early on that I couldn't save everyone; still, I try to save some of those in trouble. Don't always succeed, which can be depressing, but I've always managed to struggle back up to try again. Just the memory of a success can float me back above the black water of depression. (These are figurative savings, mostly!) I hope that He counts the efforts as well as the successes.

Regrets? Mostly things undone, unfinished, unfulfilled, people I've disappointed. What bothers me most is the enormous amount of wasted time in my life, doing "the trivial" when I could be doing "the important". Sometimes the trivial has led me to being able to do the important, though, so maybe my scale isn't well calibrated.

Posted by: htom at September 4, 2010 01:51 AM

Gandhi had serious issues. Akin to Alexander the Great's. Not in what kind, but in the severity of issue.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at September 4, 2010 08:14 AM

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