Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Receiving The Men in Our Lives

This week’s drive to and visit at the facility where my father is being well cared for has left me too tired to write. So, I offer a story that comes to mind, one lived and written years ago that lifts me and honours the spirit of the sacred masculine that has been in my life most vividly through my two wonderful sons, (now 29 and 32) and my father, now stumbling in the haze of advanced Alzheimer's. It’s from the book, The Dance, and it’s a story that never fails to make me smile. I offer it here that we may recognize and honour the need and desire of the masculine to be of service by fully receiving the men in our lives.

Brendan and Nathan, now sixteen and nineteen, are clearly excited about their father's wedding. They come over to my place to show me their new suits. Shoulder-shrugging boys are transformed into handsome, responsible young men by dark blue wool, starched white collars and crimson neckties. Nathan asks me to help him practice his duties as usher for the ceremony. I instruct him to step forward, introduce himself with a simple, “Hi. I’m Nathan, Des’ son,” and hold out his arm asking, “May I show you to your seat?”

In his nervousness he cannot get it right. “Hi, I’m Nathanson,” he stumbles, jutting his arm out in front of me as if he is directing traffic or holding back an angry mob at a demonstration. His older brother’s burst of laughter does not help. He eyes widen in panic. “What am I going to do?” he wails. “Help me, Mom.”
“Just relax,” I say, trying to sound calm and supportive while biting my bottom lip to stop from laughing. “You’re the host. All you have to do is focus on the people coming in, on putting them at ease.”
“But what if a woman doesn’t take my arm, doesn’t know what to do or gets mad?”
“Just push her up against the wall and tell her, ‘Hey baby, take this arm or no seat for you!’ ” his brother suggests helpfully. I give Brendan a warning look even as I laugh.

"Nathan, don’t worry. If a woman ignores your arm and marches through, just let her go or walk along side. You don’t have to give her a nose bleed with your elbow.”

“Just grab her and pull her down the aisle, whether she wants to go or not,” Brendan quips. . . . .

. . . . Nathan understands his role is ceremonial, one of greeting and escorting women who are  capable of finding and walking to their seats on their own. He understands the effects of five thousand years of patriarchy, knows about misogynist culture and does not want to impede women’s movement toward liberation. 

But mostly, like all sixteen year old boys- like all of us- he just wants to do a good job, offer something of value, and avoid public humiliation.
So we practice ushering over and over.
Later, when he and Brendan come home, stumbling in at midnight full of stories and intoxicated by having been so close to the center of attention and sharing in the celebratory toasts, Nathan will tell me the ushering went fine. 

“There was,” he will tell me in a tone of shared confidences, “one girl about fourteen who was really nervous. She said to me, ‘I don’t really know what I’m supposed to do.’ But I just told her, ‘That’s OK. I do, I’ll show you’ and I put her hand in my arm and took her to her seat.”
He will be glowing with a quiet pride, his confidence in his ability to do what most men want to do- to offer something of value and meaning to the women around them- having grown this evening."

~Oriah Mountain Dreamer (c) 2001 The Dance published by HarperONE, San Francisco


  1. Thanks for this heartwarming story. It brought tears to my eyes. I read this line over again: "his confidence to do what most men want to do-to offer something of value and meaning to the women around them." It touched me in the place of home, reminded me of how much my partner offers "of value and meaning". I sometimes doubt our union, wonder if I am meant to be with someone else. This post helped me to remember the depth of his commitment to our love and to my growth and happiness. And to consider how I can further honour his growth and happiness.

    1. Now that brought tears to my eyes- just the idea that a blog post might help us appreciate each other at the end of the day- could not ask for more. Thank you :-)

    2. This is exactly what I just thought, dear anonymous... Serendipity :-/?! Thank you, Oriah, for sharing this story and your moving comments...

  2. Sons really are phenomenal beasties aren't they? My boys are 36 and 48, twelve years apart and polar opposites in every way. It's been a joy to raise them up to be fine men of whom I am very proud. I know them so well. These days I'm writing my memoir just for them in order for them to know who I am as well. ~Jan Myhre