boys to men

this post is the first of two-parts. this post will focus on the tragedy of boys who cannot or choose not to be men.

the second post will focus on my firm belief that there are no accidents, using this post as a point of reference.

* * *

i told my sweet wife the following story, and she supports the use of it to provide context for the argument i would like to make.

she mentioned wondering if my pending status as a father-to-be might have inspired the actions i took and my intent to write this piece. i think she’s right.
* * *
at my gym on friday, i witnessed and interrupted some fairly disgusting behavior.

there is a gentleman who frequents my gym who . . . we’ll call . . . uh . . . laptop guy. laptop guy brings a laptop to the gym every time he’s there. more often than not, he uses said laptop to pull up videos or images of scantily clad women (or watch ‘rocky iv’, which is almost just as offensive).

lemme be clear – this is in the gym. not his living room. not a dorm room. not an ‘away from joel’ room. he’s gotta be near 45 years old and very single. he has a few cronies at the gym, guys that shriek with laughter when he makes derogatory jokes or something of the like.

now, i (to be perfectly understated) am a sucker for making the dirty joke. my filter got lost in the digital changeover around 2002, but there’s a difference, i think, between a dirty joke and a joke intended to harm. to dehumanize. this guy’s humor isn’t silly jokes, it’s jokes that make my skin crawl. the creepiest part is always the reaction he gets from his cronies – they don’t awkwardly turn away or ignore him like i do – they laugh and gather around his electronic campfire while he tells tales of . . . things i dare not write.


laptop guy and one of his cronies were on one side of the gym, and an attractive 16 year old girl entered the weight room.

she approached the cardio side of the gym and spoke with an older man (near 55) who was on an elliptical – he is the father of one of her friends.

as this 16 year old girl stood talking to the man on the elliptical,

laptop guy and crony began making . . . speaking filth. gesturing filth. directing it towards the girl.

i was on a bike between the two parties, she to my left, the ‘men’ to my right. from what i could tell, she did not notice their behavior.

eventually, laptop guy and his crony started taking turns walking by her (behind her), clearly eyeing her figure, while the other would stand at the far end of the gym and cackle.

preface: i was in a bitchy mood at this point. i was tired of these guys acting like morons (which they did well before the girl showed up), severe weather always makes me jittery, and i didn’t sleep well the night before. ’twas the perfect storm for the coming show.

after each ‘man’ made one pass, i got off the bike and blocked the path that would allow them to easily walk back-and-forth behind the girl, pretending to stretch and tie my shoes. it was the crony’s turn, and as he approached me, i stood up to my full height.

i’m about a foot taller than this guy.

i glared down at him and said, ‘y’all are done.’

he stopped cold, looking up at me, either dreadfully embarrassed that someone called attention to his behavior or offended that i interrupted him. i looked over to laptop guy, made direct eye contact, and shook my head. i looked back down at the crony and repeated myself, saying, ‘y’all are done. she’s sixteen. stop it.’

he turned. i continued ‘tying my shoes’ and stretching in that spot, a one-man-blockade, until the girl left.

* * *
have y’all heard about the stuebenville rape case? i hadn’t, until my sweet wife mentioned it to me this evening. in very short summation, some high school boys raped a girl, videoed it, distributed the videos, and their football coach downplayed the whole ‘rape’ and ‘distribution of child pornography’ thing.

man, it’s too bad those guys can’t keep playing football. if only they hadn’t raped a girl. ya know?

and, of course, we couldn’t help but hear about the pursuit of the suspects in the boston marathon bombing, brothers 25 and 19 years of age. our national landscape was momentarily reconstructed because of


* * *
so, here’s the thing.

i’m tired of it. i’m tired of boys acting like boys. i’m really tired of men – here’s looking at you, laptop guy – acting like boys.

‘now, joel, wait a sec. you act the fool all the time.’

i can’t argue, but i can whip up a quick batch of cognitive dissonance – i know when to throw the switch. i do my best to act like a child when my behavior doesn’t hurt anyone, is mostly charming, and is, at worst, mildly annoying. i’m dazzled by how light plays through the trees, not by treating women like lowercase nouns. not by blowing things up because i felt like i didn’t fit in.

* * *


man up.

and, ‘man up’ doesn’t mean ‘behave like the beer commercials tell you.’ let’s create a list of what the author considers truly ‘manly’ traits to help us out, shall we?


1) serve. the greatest men had servant hearts. the greatest men have those hearts. serve your friends. serve your family. serve yo’ mommas. serve your girlfriend, fiancé, or wife. a weak man demands things done for him. a boy expects to be waited on.

a man serves.

‘how can i help you?’

is one of the most powerful ways to say ‘i love you’ in any language. try it.

2) learn to drive a stick shift.

3) if you see another boy or ‘man’ objectifying, mistreating, or violating a female, do something.

nobody worth knowing


will dislike you or call you a coward for stepping in.

4) don’t watch porn. don’t laugh or think it’s funny when other people talk about it.

seriously. don’t watch it.

5) talk about your feelings.

share. be vulnerable once in a while. use ‘i feel statements.’

‘dad, i feel like i don’t fit in here.’

might have made a big difference in boston. i know it’s a pretty big leap, but . . . everyone has a point of return, and the thing about relationships and pursuing the human heart is . . . gosh, is how easy it actually can be to avoid disaster.

6) if/when you have sons,

a) stay.

b) talk with your sons. not at them.

show them how to be men. model behavior you want your son to have.

7) know when to wrap up a blog post.


5 thoughts on “boys to men

  1. Pingback: there are no accidents | a bird on a wire

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