Dear John (for the brothers)

Dear You,

I told myself that it was because of my father that I fell in love with you.

I loved him in the unconditional way children typically love—without acknowledgement or understanding of flaws.  My father’s flaws became part of my definition of all men.

Once I stopped loving you all by default, I started loving you out of obligation.

According to history you were wounded and incapable of functioning at full capacity due to those wounds.  I wanted to love you to wholeness.  So I would not participate in any behavior that might further infect those wounds.  No “brothers ain’t shit” poems would come from my pen; I turned up my nose at that venom.

I could not bring myself to say anything to or about you that I thought might reduce or call into question your masculinity.  I figured that was being done to you already from all that history had said of you; had made you.  Besides, I believed, it would do nothing to help you take on and/or resume your role as a leader in our home and to a larger extent, our community.

I loved you because it was what I was supposed to do.  After all, who else would or could understand you and by extension love you except someone who intrinsically understood?  Because I was flawed and vulnerable, I could see and understand that you were too.  Game recognize game.

So many times, I felt like I was fighting a rising tide when I declared my love for you.  Not from you—you were hardly resistant.  Not yielding nor reciprocal, but not resistant either.  Mostly I felt the resistance from many of my female friends.

One of girlfriends flat out called me crazy.  On the other hand, I thought she was.  I always thought her wise, and she was quite the student of our shared history so I expected her to be able to see. The world emasculated you on the regular; in my arms, you could be safe.

So even when you postured as otherwise, you knew you could—and you would—call me.  We would talk—mostly I would listen—for hours.  When we finished you seemed relieved; many times you told me you were.  In the meantime, other girls who didn’t listen became your girlfriends, wifeys, life partners.  They accepted you as you were when I couldn’t.  I knew you could be better and wouldn’t settle for letting you believe okay was good enough.  Maybe that was the wrong approach.

My friend had asked me to name one of You who had ever shown up on my behalf or pushed me to my best.  Silence was my answer.

But I remained hopeful as a mother does for a consistently misbehaving child. You were getting, would get, better if I kept at it.  Loving you that is.  I showed up for you.  On the stage, in the arguments, whenever and wherever.   But you still failed to show up for me.  I always had to call you twice; sometimes, three times.  There was never a guarantee that you’d show up even then.

I learned to show up for myself.  My father had taught me that.  I don’t want my girls to ever have to rely on a man for anything he said and would’ve broken his neck to see to it that we were each educated and thus capable of independence.  You see, that’s what he considered education—a way to care for oneself.

I don’t know if I took his admonition to heart or if I was just a nerd—probably a little of both.  But my focus on my education and career (such that it is) kept you all on the periphery of my adult life (but never far from my mind).

Our physical connections became few; we were growing apart but I didn’t see it that way.  I just suspected, as an elder had told me, that we were growing up independently so that we could grow together eventually.  She was more optimistic than me.  My image of you, I had begun to recognize, was gilded.

A sympathetic villain and flawed hero.  I had written poems for you that said as much; pretty much celebrated your dichotomies.  Your poems for me did the same.  I was your bitch, sometimes a whore or scheming Jezebel.  You celebrated the physical attributes that made me so seductive despite such flaws.

I read Pedagogy of the Oppressed to make it all okay.  The oppressed imitating his oppressor.  Yeah that.

But it wasn’t okay.

If you were a wounded animal lashing out in pain and fear, I was a wounded animal seeking comfort and wellness from a place from which it couldn’t come.

There is no way we can help each other any more.

I am focusing on my wellness; expecting that you will start focusing on yours too.  Instead, you tell me I’m taking on your role and am unloveable for it.

Listen, I have loved you at least as hard as I have loved anything, I think, in life.  But I will never love you—or anything for that matter—harder than I love myself.  And I am tired of putting you on equal footing when you refuse to put me there and even worse, take a backseat with your excuse that you are wounded.

Perhaps you should consider nursing the wound instead of staring at it, picking it, or waiting for someone else to come and save you from it.  I can tell you from experience that it is a slow heal, and once the scab is gone, the scar will remain.  Scar tissue may even impede some of your functions.  But you have to get yourself into rehabbing instead of limping around, crying, or waiting for some mami/mommy to handle things.

I guess all this is to say is that the way it’s looking is…well, it seems that I’m of no use to you (despite however misguided and/or well meaning my attempts to be) and that you’re of none to me.  So, yeah babes, it’s been real.  Catch up with me when you can and take care. (Really, take care).


5 thoughts on “Dear John (for the brothers)

  1. This is one of the most heartfelt things that I’ve ever read and there have been many – even from you, and it’s a wonderful piece but a sad commentary on manhood because it shows what they’ve missed out on and what you could & can offer – IF they have the good sense (& kahunas???) to step up and be REAL Will a REAL guy that reads this understand & speak up? Interesting thought. Stay the course – keep the faith and know where the flaw lies – certainly not in YOU. #itscalledstandards


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