Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Bonding and Separation - Particularly As Men

I grew up feeling very alone within my family. I loved sports while my brother and parents had zero interest in them. Within my family we had a rule that there was no reading at the dinner table on Friday evenings for the Sabbath dinner (where one can readily see the lack of intimacy). Within my family we discussed and debated ideas (in a "liberal household"), but feelings were not something I learned to communicate about. The 1960's when I came of age were different from today - the Modern Feminist Movement was just beginning as my father died in 1964, when I was 13.

Perhaps not surprisingly I've never faced Very Deep intimacy - connectedness issues until I met my current partner starting in 2002. Within my first marriage and parenting my son I really didn't understand deep connections and I struggle with my Love now not infrequently.

My partner's life experiences have been very, very different! Last weekend her (father's) family had somewhere around their 46th annual reunion with probably close to 100 attendees - this year in South Carolina. Within her family there is much discussion of everyone who is a faintly close relative and attempts to work through many issues with each other.

Obviously differences in our experiences may relate to simple individual differences as well as gender and race (my partner is Black and I am White). I have nothing to back up my feelings, but want to share some of them.

Within the "White" culture I grew up in, individualism and individual achievements were emphasized. My sense is that I am not alone growing up as a White Male in having particular focus upon achievements, rather than relationships.

I can feel that particularly when I see B, my partner, acknowledge other Black people - with a simple nod or smile upon seeing them. That feeling deepens when I think of how things that were enjoyed by my parents included listening to classical music and seeing art in museums. Our "achievements" were in intellectual areas, not in sports, as many young men grow up pushing for. Either area could help keep us all apart emotionally - at a deep level at least.

I do not know if others found a deeper focus within their communities through religious affiliation or in other areas such as country club memberships, lodges or other areas that bring people together outside of school and work. We belonged to the Jewish Community where we lived, but for me at least, this didn't feel inclusive in a way that dealt with a lot of feelings.

My sense is that the loners which I include myself in also include other what I would call "sad" men whose lives have kept them apart. One high school classmate who was a little slow "toad" - committed suicide later on - which a number of us have guilty feelings related to. Within the religious Jewish community that my brother lives in in Brooklyn, NY there are single, older men who obviously (in a world where Marriage is considered one's Duty) are emotionally isolated from much of their community.

Other "sad" loners to me include the men who kill their ex-partners and then often commit suicide. Others are not as "dangerous", but are still the men I see in restaurants alone, or alone in various other situations. Being male - seems to allow for a lot of us to I guess use our Privilege as Men - to exist as "the bachelor man" - who is perhaps the counter-part to "the old maid".

Obviously women live lives alone as well. I'm not sure how different "loner women" are. I sense that some are survivors of childhood abuse. I'm not sure what the counterpart is to "the mama's boy" - which some of us are (I don't see myself as this!).

As men - we may be both valued overly for being male and be under various pressures as male children within our households. Observing young girls and boys as they move towards school age I've seen clear gender differences. Separating what is genetic from the environmental differences is difficult. There is a huge difference between doll play - dealing with "reality" and the "gun play" and similar - whether with toy guns or sticks - whose reality is certainly competitive rather than cooperative.

Clearly how we bond with our families of origin and others in our first few years has a huge effect on our "adult" personalities.

I find a lot of these areas confusing! My writing goes in many directions as I think and write.

I'm curious about others' life experiences and feelings!

Thanks!
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