Alison Garwood Jones

She loves me

June 21, 2015

There’s a reason why guitar strummers always get the girl. Even base players have been taken aback over how easily the hugs and propositions flow after a show.

We’ve been saying it since the 1970s: some guys are just more “sensitive.”

Women notice men who can emote — or who, at least, convince us they can emote. These guys seem more clever than the rest. Less brutal. More courageous. Heroic, even, by female standards.

The majority of guys know this, but only a few scramble to deliver. And when they do, they make sure their hair blows behind them on stage like superhero capes.

Musicians are a special breed of men. More special than corporate lawyers, hedge funders or geeks. We used to believe in geeks until their skill set became worth so much that their fangs and knuckle hair grew. And it’s not that the musicians don’t have fangs. Theirs keep getting worn down by overthinking, free shots, rising rents and the knowing smiles of  that girl in the the front row. It’s addictive.

The musician will rise each day at 2:00 pm and think about that elusive, perfect melody or lyric just to feel a fortune of gold hair run through his fingers again. And it doesn’t have to be gold. Copper is nice too.

When you’re a guy whose income gets delivered in a bucket, the contents of which you have to divide amongst the bandmates, that’s another file to the fang of your masculinity. Poverty keeps you in check — sort of.  If you can’t win her with money, you’ll get her with words. Women subdivide along the same lines. There are those who crave trinkets and will stop at nothing to get them, and those who swoon to verse.

To achieve the swoon, the musician has to deliberately and consistently study a woman’s emotions, jot down her likes and dislikes, and ponder the meaning of it all. He can’t just stop at the visuals, like Roy Orbison did. Well, he can, but he knows he shouldn’t. The results will suffer. So he spends hours in a haze of botanical smoke turning over mots justes, coming up with new melodies, just so she’ll say Yes.

Sure, it’s self-interested. Completely self-interested. After all, the poetry is gone by morning, replaced by a surly silence and a shadow of new growth.

And, yet, the attempt to understand persists. It becomes a part of the man. That counts for a lot. An album’s worth of songs will force a guy to think about and occupy many different emotional realms and points of view: yours, theirs, and all the others.

To the men who can’t let themselves know a woman and who say that objectifying her is a way of avoiding being “annhilated”— I know, what a word! — pick up a guitar and work out your feelings and fears. (I realize my argument collapses with rappers, but I’m going to keep going).

If a guy can admit the following in writing, it’s a start, maybe even a first move to rethinking his survival strategies:

“I objectify women ’cause it’s safer. I receive an immediate gratification — a thrill if you will, albeit superficial. It keeps me safe, at least for a time, from annihilation, from a treacherous road of intimacy and vulnerability and the risk of being really seen and connected with. Or worse, rejected!! Yes, that’s it. It’s an avoidance of rejection. Intimacy takes a lot of work, courage and commitment. Objectifying is an ‘easy’ road out of the potential of rejections — at least for the moment. A slice of breathing room if you will, though illusory and ultimately unfulfilling and painful. It’s still or at least has been a strange sort of unconscious haven for me.”

A guy who identified himself as “R” wrote this admission on the Good Men Project website. Another guy named “RF” agreed with him and wrote:

“{I too objectify women} to avoid the terror of annihilation — being reabsorbed back into the feminine. {I do it to} avoid kicking up unhealed dependencies on my mother.”

Two guys does not a trend make, but …

Not too long ago on CBC Radio One, I heard an interview with a leader in the black community in Toronto who shared his observations about why so many fathers abandoned their families and lost touch with their children. I hope I’m getting this right, but he said something like, a black man who shows affection towards his children fears being labelled “homosexual” by other men in his circle. In other words, there is cultural pressure not to express genuine love and support towards your dependants, but to stuff your emotions and run as fast as you can in the other direction.

In a world that keeps reinventing racism and sexism and homophobia, we gotta rethink the ingredients it takes to build a man. I’ll write about women too, imperfect as we are, but in another post.

That brings me back to the musicians. When hockey is not an option, guys, pick up that guitar leaning against the wall. Pluck it and strum it and try to growl out a tune. Tell your story. Scribble down sentences and scratch them out. Try hard to tell the world about all the mistakes you’ve made, the relationships you’ve lost, the legacy of a father you’re trying to match, avoid, forgive or just move around. You’re still deciding. But just share.

And don’t just sing the results to us, to women. Sing to your brothers, other men who are running with no idea how to stop, connect and just be. Show them that men can and should emote. And teach them a chord or two so they can join you.

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