Allow me to introduce myself. I am a recent graduate from a fairly well known state school in the Southwest. As a young professional, I am currently holding down a 9-5 office gig and living in the suburbs with my girlfriend and two dogs. I enjoy happy hour, brunch and Game of Thrones. If you are reading this column, I am going to assume that our lifestyles may have a few shared attributes.
And if you are reading this article, statistics lead me to believe that we may come from similar backgrounds. My parents got a divorce when I was four years old. I grew up living with my mother and visited my father every other weekend. Eventually, my mother remarried my step-dad, who was 16 years her senior. Both my father and step dad were blue-collar, working class men. These two individuals busted their backs through physical labor and harsh working environments to provide for their families. I think I learned a great deal about work ethic and honest work by watching them return from job sites covered in grease and dust. With both of these rugged and machismo male figures in my life, I cannot shake the sense of feeling somewhat “soft” in comparison.
As a boy, I was the kid playing with action figures at recess instead of playing sports with my peers. I was also the one that changed in the bathroom stall during PE class because I was the only boy that hadn’t yet made the transition from briefs to boxers. During my childhood, my mother was essentially the one constant parental figure I had. I saw my dad four days out of the month and my step-dad came into my life in later years. Not surprisingly then, I missed out on a lot of male bonding activities and things that your dad is supposed to teach you. I remember that in grade school, I was so terrible at catching a football that the other boys in my grade would refer to me as “butterfingers.” Upon hearing this, my mother bought me a football and spent hours every day after school playing toss with me. After a few months, she signed me up for an intramural football team at school where I learned to love the sport. Things like this helped, but my mom could never truly fill the shoes of a father figure.
Now that I am grown and in a committed adult relationship, I’m learning more and more about traditional family dynamics. My girlfriend’s parents are still happily married with two children- my girlfriend and her younger brother. As I spend more time with these people, I have gotten a glimpse into the relationship between my girlfriend’s father and brother; and frankly, I’m a little jealous. Over the years, these two have learned so much from each other. I hear countless stories of boys’ trips to Yellowstone, fishing expeditions, and nights spent restoring classic cars. I can’t help but feel like I missed out on some quintessential boyhood development type stuff because of my parents’ divorce. Growing up, my father took me camping a few times and fishing at a trout farm, but I probably couldn’t change the oil in my car or start a fire in the wilderness without matches.
As I approach marriage and eventual fatherhood, my astounding lack of knowledge surrounding masculine skills and abilities has come to the forefront. I’ve become increasingly aware that there are many things that I would like to learn in order to teach my own sons someday. Probably one of my biggest desires is to go hunting. Over the past two years, I have purchased a hunting rifle and more Cabela’s camo than I would ever need in the state where I currently reside. The issue is…I don’t even know where to begin. All of the men in my life who hunt learned from their grandfathers, fathers or uncles; no one in my family hunts. While I am willing to learn, I can’t imagine that wandering out into the wilderness alone, with a gun in hand and no idea how to skin a buck is the best idea. Who do you ask to teach you something like that? Are there hunting classes? Even if there are, I assume that learning such a valuable skill from a family member or close friend would feel more genuine and meaningful.
Hunting is really just the tip of the iceberg for me. There are so many valuable skills that I feel like I should master before assuming the role of patriarch. I missed out on Boy Scouts when I was younger, and although I gained some valuable “talents” from my time in a collegiate fraternity, I’m not done learning. I’m nowhere close. One of my favorite books/movies, Fight Club, makes the following statement: “We’re a generation of men raised by women. I’m wondering if another woman is really the answer we need.” I feel like I should get some of this stuff figured out before I tie the knot. In a massive sea of millennial men with divorced parents, where do we find the answers that we need? Maybe we should start a Boy Scouts organization for young men to learn the things that our absentee fathers couldn’t teach us. Absolutely no neckerchiefs, though. Those are the worst..
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