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Father's Approval—Seizing The Torch When It's Not Passed
Episode 819th June 2021 • ManHearted • Asher Black
00:00:00 00:59:27

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In this extended Father's Day episode, Asher doesn't laud fathers (since that's what everyone else is doing). Instead, he explores the mission of fatherhood to convey a child from uncertain youth to confident adulthood. And what can anyone do about it, if a father abdicates that responsibility?

Welcome to another episode of man hearted. The show about being a man I'm Asher black, your host powered by spunk. And once again, we'll aim to get to the heart of manhood with father's day imminent at the time of this recording possibly passed. By the time you listened to it, it felt right to go ahead and talk about fathers, uh, for a father's day episode. So, uh, we're going to deal with that. And instead of being the usual thing, which you, uh, you know, it's funny, I think the two days that, um, a lot of men go to church is the, our Christmas and, uh, father's day, uh, there's, you know, usually a father's day sermon, et cetera. And of course they're glowing and they Lord fathers, and we're gonna hear all kinds of pains to fathers all throughout, uh, you know, whether it's on local news or, or wherever everybody's going to bring it up.

And so we're going to distinctly not go that way. Uh, so instead, and talk about a little bit of the trouble, uh, with our fathers, uh, and, uh, see if, if you don't identify with some of this and some of this, I'm going to tell, I'm going to do a little storytelling. I'm going to tell you about my own experience. Um, and the reason I'm willing to do that at the risk of somebody saying, well, this show's too personal. It's about your experience. Is that, uh, almost every man I talked to every other man, let's just say at least half or more, um, have similar experiences and have shared this with me. And so, uh, this is not going to be a cry Fest or we're not going to be hugging and, and beating each other with rubber bats and letting out our primal scream in the wilderness or anything like that.

Don't worry. Uh, but at the same time, I don't have time for it either. I hope you don't. Um, but at the same time, uh, I do think we gotta, we gotta deal with what's up, right. And make it okay. To sort of bring this out for a second and deal with it because father's day is it's like Christmas, right? It's a holiday where you fight with your relatives. Well, that's Thanksgiving. Okay. So thanks for leaving, but no, but father's day is, is a dual edged sword, right. Because you know, you have to deal with your dad, so, or you don't, or you've decided not to, in which case you're, you're at one end of the sword. So maybe you don't have the option. There's obviously many men that don't. Um, but the fact is you still carry your dad with you in, in memory one way or another, regardless of what they were like, uh, if you knew him at all.

So I want to talk a little bit about, um, the trouble with fathers and it, it differs for everybody, right? Some people have the problem of paternal absence. Uh, he's not around, never was some people have the problem of paternal rejection. Your father doesn't respect. You doesn't treat you as though you're an equal or have reached the stage of manhood. Um, or there's the problem of fatherly advocation, where the father doesn't hold up his end of the bargain. And there is one, you know, and says the stuff like, well, I clothed you. I fed you. I put a roof over your head. Yeah. Okay. That's good. That's a baseline. But the state would have done that if you didn't. So, you know, the sisters of charity, the little sisters down the street would have done that, but there was a little bit more required. Right.

So the thing is, we don't talk about this stuff as men very often. And I think it's because there's shame involved in having a frustrated relationship with your father. We don't tend to bring it up at least not without knowing somebody really well. And even then he might know a guy for years and, and not really go there. Right. Um, and I remember that when I first tried to articulate, uh, the confusion and, um, the feelings I was having about it, it kinda just came out as complaints and bitterness and despondency. And those are pretty unattractive features in most people, um, whether it's in business or personal life or, you know, at a cocktail party or whatever, God, I don't go to cocktail parties. Do you? I think I went to a couple of my youth and went, this is not for me. I don't even drink cocktails.

Uh, well, I don't know margarita now. And then, uh, give me a scotch, give me Irish whiskey. So I, I learned to kind of keep this stuff and myself, and stay relatively silent about it. And part of that was reinforced, you know, a lot of manners sort of relieved by that. Um, because the, the meme that we're living up to is that we can take it. Right. So, um, that, you know, we're trying to basically underscore the idea that toughness and unwavering focus are, um, the quintessential, uh, male virtues. And the problem with that is, uh, you can give yourself a heart attack or a stroke or, or something like that, following that meme. So if you, if you really take a close look at the treadmill, some of us are either on, or have spent a number of years on, um, which looks very laudable in its, in his qualities, uh, an endless ambition to reach ever greater thresholds of achievement.

Oftentimes that is coupled with ironically disappointment when we actually accomplish those things and what those things end up meaning to us personally. Uh, and, uh, in the wake of that, I can't help, but yeah, think that some of that, uh, involves thwarted attempts to gain the approval of our fathers. And, and so the treadmill is not one we created. We're still trying to essentially prove something to the old man. Uh, yeah. And these, these frustrated efforts, um, I'm often are to try to confirm this feeling of adulthood or manhood. And for many of us, those terms are synonymous. It's not a gender thing. It's about whatever it represents to have crossed a certain threshold and now sort of be an independent, uh, liberated adult and be free and be able to take care of yourself, whether you think of that as manhood or adulthood or synonymously as I do, um, those, those efforts to kind of get confirmation of that feeling or to confirm it, uh, are ironic because that's what paternal approval is supposed to confer on us in the first place.

In other words, that is the main role of a father is one, get you there. And number two, recognize when you got there and acknowledge it, and you've, you've come into your own son. You've reached the place you are now, essentially the same as me. You are what I am. You're a man you've you've, you can take your place, uh, at the council of among men. And the, the funny thing is, is that lacking that if that wasn't done or that was withheld or on the contrary, um, in its place was sort of criticism contempt and, you know, uh, general doubt and lack of regard. Um, then sometimes at the root of our anguish over the things we achieve, um, it's actually, uh, that treadmill, which is an attempt to get to a place that we can't get to any other way. And the way we're doing is not working now.

Uh, some of you might find this to be a bit touchy, feely, and a little, you know, warm and fuzzy. I don't think it's that warm, but I don't think it's that fuzzy. Uh, some, some are fuzzier than others, but, uh, I'm gonna leave it there for a second and just, uh, talk a little bit about my own experience and say, look, you know, I'm a lot like my dad, uh, I even looked like my dad. And, uh, sometimes when to get photos, you know, just a certain cut of the jib, I can kind of see what he looked like when he was younger and I'd see him work working or something like that. I'm like, oh yeah, that's what he looks like. This is what I look like. Um, and in a way that, you know, it's kind of gratifying and you would think it would be inspiring, you know, Hey, because that's w wasn't that our goal isn't that the goal of every boy to grow up in sort of be if your dad's halfway okay, to sort of be a cutoff of the old block.

Right. And so seeing, uh, some version of himself and you should be inspiring. Uh, and so growing up, you know, straight up like most young men, my father was the definition of what a man is to me. He was a good looking man by my estimation. Uh, so I'm proud of that resemblance. Uh, but in the next moment, when I look in the mirror, I know it's not him. Or I look at that photograph. I know it's not him. And I remember, you know, I don't know if many of you remember that there's a song out there, cats in the cradle. It's basically about, you know, I don't have time for you, dad, just like, he didn't have time for me. And in the end he just wants the car keys. Right? Well, in a, in a more lighthearted way, many of us grew up and all we really wanted half the time was the car keys.

We wanted two things, girls and car keys, that's it. You know, we knew what we wanted. It wasn't the, you, I don't know what you want. Well, I can tell you, I want the keys to some vehicle. And I would like access to where the girls are. If you have any advice on, on how to get them on top of finding them that's. But if not, we'll just use the car, drive down the main street and whistle and shout and play our music loud and hope they like it. And if any, what we hope is they will get in the car and we can then drive around what we do after that. We don't know. Uh, but you know, there's, we'll figure it out as we, no, but what I'm saying is, uh, in a similar way, um, you know, I grew up wanting to get the keys to sort of my own adulthood.

And I don't find that to be an unusual situation. That's peculiar to me. Um, so I can name and I won't, uh, don't worry, but several what I would call manly men, tough guys, guys that fought in wars, got tattoos up their arms. You know, guys, you know, I wouldn't want to play a violent game of spoons with, if you haven't played violent games of spoons, you really should try it. It's fun. Um, but versus the version where I just take your spoons, you gotta play spoons standing up. Anyway, the point is, um, I've talked to these guys and, and very consistently I hear similar stories. You know, I asked a guy one time, he's a vet, right? He's standing outside of a, of a, uh, liquor store and he's asking for money. And what I like about it is the honesty. He says, Hey brother, can you give me a dollar?

So I can get me a little taste, a little something to drink. And, uh, I said, I don't have it. Which is what if you live in New York, you're asked every year, five minutes. And so you've got to have a line. And so that's my line. And I got about five feet and I thought, wait a minute, did that guy just asked me for a drink in front of a liquor store? Yes. We've got to reward that. This is what I'm talking about. The guys that just like, excuse me, sir, could I talk to you for a minute? We don't have time. You know, play me a song, juggle, do something interesting. Put on a show, tell me a funny story or a joke like while I'm walking and I'll stop and pay and pay for the busking, or just be honest, I need a buck for a drink.

I'm dying for a Sam Jones and for a pack of cigarettes, can you help me out? Give me a quarter or anything will work. No problem, man. Here you go. So I went back and I said, tell you what, I don't give anything for free free, but if you talk to me for a second answer, answer some questions. I'm curious about something. Uh, then I'll give you a couple bucks, no problem. And he said, yeah, what do you want to know? And I, I basically said, how did you get from there to here? So, you know, in other words, what, what brought you in front of this liquor store? And so he started telling me, and he was in the military and he was stationed in Germany during the Reagan era and all this, we were talking about the Berlin wall. It was a great conversation.

And, um, you know, he mentioned, he said, look, you know, I got in the military, I did a lot of drugs. And I ended up with fights with my officers, as long as I was doing my job. It was great. But as soon as, as soon as I had downtime, as soon as I had free time to kind of not be focused on doing the actual work, I got into conflict with the authority figures around me. Right. And I said, oh, you know, well, you know, where did you do? You sounded like you had some built up bands. And he says, yeah, it kind of started with my father who used to tie us to chairs and beat my brothers and sisters with things. And then he would never be there and like that. And I'm like, and I know there's somebody out there going, oh, hall hall, Boohoo, south story.

And you and that guy. Who's saying that. Um, cause that's the kind of thing my father would say to, you know, is like, oh, what are you crying now? Um, that's the, that's the line from every that wants to escape the man heartedness of doing your job. Being father is a job deal with it. It's like being a soldier or police officer or a medic being a father is a job. And you there, sir, the requirements like with any job to get it done. And if you don't do it, don't sit there and say that the guy that expects you to do it, the customer, the end user, the recipient, because you didn't put his car together correctly, Mr. Mechanic, or even so him up after you did the operation Boohoo, what are you going to cry now? Yeah. you tow.

I do my job. Okay. So here's the thing. This guy said, you know this stuff with his father, um, you know, hung over his head for years and he's never, still quite reconciled with it. And he, he told me, of course, he took you, you, you know where I'm going to go. He's had kids and he hasn't had it great relationship with his kids and they see them as either absent or un-involved, he's had a hard time giving them what they need. And it's no wonder cause he didn't get what he needs. How would he know what the it looks like? Right. So that was an interesting story that just reconfirmed what these other guys that aren't standing outside, they're running businesses and stuff like that, that aren't standing outside a liquor store asking for a taste are also dealing with, uh, when they sort of let them cat out of the bag and say, yeah, I'm my own man never gave me the, uh, the time of day or never gave me any confirmation that anything I did was right.

Et cetera. Um, in other words, another way of saying is my father didn't do his job. Your father didn't do his job. Let's acknowledge that. All right. So I want to talk about something that you see in all of these sites, manhood, uh, sort of groups and things like that. I'm not suggesting you go join a drumming circle, go into the wilderness, grow a beard, find your, your wooly man, quit showering and howl at the moon. I'm not, you don't have to go off and join a cult or a tribe. Um, but there is a point to some of the things some of those guys are talking about and one of them is called the Rite of passage. Many of you will have heard of this in every culture, in both genders, by the way women have it too. It's just different. Uh, for, in most cultures, there's a point at which regardless of the manner or method that culture use uses the older person, the elder says, um, uh, for instance, in some native American traditions come and sit at the council of chieftains and be one of us.

You're one of us, uh, you've joined us now. You're not the chief. You're one of the chieftains. You're one of your words. One of the men whose counsel will be respected, whose voice will be heard among the other men, for some people it's their, the mitzvah or bat mitzvah, um, for the Cherokee, um, it was surviving a night alone in the wilderness blindfolded. You're right. You take it out in the wilderness. You left there with all the sounds. I don't, if any of you have ever been in the woods without a flashlight for a few hours and I don't mean, and you you've got your trusty knife and your, you know, your hunting rifle. I mean, you're out there alone with just no flashlight and nothing. Um, I've done it. It's an interesting thing. And you have to make some decisions about how you're going to deal with it.

For me, uh, up in the mountains of South Carolina, with the rattlesnakes and the freaking Carolina Pumas, uh, I made the decision to be the scariest thing in the night. So it's the only way. It's the only way you can get from there to the nearest highway. If you're going to, you know, routinely, which is what I was doing. So the Cherokee, they put the kid out there, imagine a boy, you know, he's 11 or nine and they put him out there and he has to survive alone in the wilderness blindfolded. He doesn't just have to be okay out there. He also has to not get eaten. And there are things out there that will blindfold he's blindfolded and the daylight. He doesn't even get to take off his own blindfold. His father comes and removes the blindfold. And when that happens, you're an adult. And then you begin to partake in all the things that adults get.

But more importantly, what's really transpired is not, you get some voting privileges or you get to now you get the tasty cuts of meat or some crap like that. You get to, you know, get married. The really cool thing, uh, is that you now get all the self-confidence and self regard that that brings and instills in you a sense of, yes I am. I'm one of these. I have achieved the thing I've reached the goal. It is complete. I am now this thing, it's a fundamental way in which something you do changes what and who you are. It's probably the only time in life that will occur. Some people go on and on about, well, when you have children, it change it, man. There is nothing to compare to the change from being a child to adulthood. Traditionally, it isn't having a kid it's stopping, being a kid that does it.

So more correctly, you end up knowing exactly what you are and who you are. And then you start feeling the acceptance of people like your father, his peers, as your own peers, and your sense of self begins to evolve and change. It begins it's true. Maturation maturing like a wine or a good cigar or a twelve-year-old scotch. Uh, if you're like me, I don't drink the wine, but I draped this guy. Actually I had a 10 year old bottle of wine a few months ago. And that was awesome. So wine actually gets good after a while. It's true what they say? I think, nah, you know, I don't need the wine, but if you'll put it away for a few years, I'll come back. Maybe I'll drink it then. So for most of the people that I know, most of my colleagues, people in business and people I've worked with and know personally, the Rite of passage, wasn't something so fierce as well.

You know, I tied it to a tree side and the tigers didn't eat yet. Instead it was a pat on the back and some moment in which their dad said something like, look, I respect what you've done. You've become like me in the essential ways, but you're still your own man. You make me proud. That's it. Boom, that's it. The words are going to differ forever, everybody. But the meaning they get transferred by that formula, um, is universal in every culture. And the meaning is the same. And by contrast those men who describe an absence and a loss in place of that passage, typically when you listen to them, they tend to characterize their relationship with their father. As essentially unchanged, since childhood, there was a point in which it just freeze framed like the end of a Western where, you know, he rides off into the wilderness and he's always going to be that guy come back,

Shane Shane.

And you know, for those of you who don't know what's going on in that movie are too young. Go watch the movie and then study the ending. Cause that freeze frame has a point to it. But anyway, the, that, that...