After hearing the song “Love” by the band Daughter, I was particularly struck by these lyrics:
Take your hands off him
‘Cause he’s the only one that I’ve ever loved
Please don’t find her skin
When we turn the lights out…
I found myself wanting to write a persona poem from a point of view similar to that of the character in the song. I was particularly interested in writing about a relationship wrecked by infidelity which occurred when said relationship was going through a rough patch. Imagine the agony of not being sure whether the relationship could have been salvaged had it not been for the entrance of a third party.
Aside from one suspicious incident in 2006 which I could never confirm, I have not experienced the full brunt of someone having cheated on me. With no real personal experience to draw from, I decide to do a little research. I googled “Open Letter to the Other Woman” and read a handful of them.
Out of curiosity, I googled “Open Letter to the Other Man”, and I found nothing. Oh, there were “Open Letters” written by men about many things, but as for a letter to their wife or girlfriends paramour, I found nothing. No righteously angry but dignified parting shots, hell, not even an unhinged rant worthy of a restraining order. Nothing. What does this say about how we, as men, deal with our emotions when we won’t even write an open letter to the son of a bitch who walked into our lives and slithered away with our woman? Now don’t get me wrong: it takes two to tango and I am not letting the person who did the actual cheating off the hook. I just think it’s sad that even when faced with a deep, personal betrayal, many men can’t, or simply won’t express how it makes them feel.
I can’t remember whether I read this in an article or a message board thread, but someone once said that “Men are better at being loyal to one another but women are better at being emotionally supportive of one another“. I have my doubts about the first half of that statement but I definitely agree with the latter half. Most people are familiar with the stereotypes about the rituals a woman goes through after a break up: her friends show up, everyone has long tearful conversations about what happened, followed by the movie marathon with copious pints of ice cream. What do us men get? More precisely, what do us men offer each other for emotional support? Not much.
During my last semester at college I foolishly rushed into a relationship with a very lovely girl with long tresses of curly black hair, large brown eyes, and a deep olive complexion. The whole thing fell apart in a manner of days and I felt like a complete and utter fool. I really needed someone to talk to about how much of an awkward, clingy, insecure slob I had been to her. A few days later I ran into a friend on my way home. After I told him what had happened I immediately regretted it because all I got from him was a “Well why don’t ya just cheer up!“. This confirmed my opinion that this particular friend had the emotional range of a tree stump.
Men are all too often pressured by gender norms to hold all their emotions inside. On one hand I don’t mind society expecting me, as a man, to be emotionally strong in the face of adversity. On the other hand I have always resented and resisted the notion that I should be a stoic block of wood on two legs. Not only do we need to resist and reject this toxic brand of masculinity, we also need to step up to our fellow men and let them know that they need not be ashamed when the tears come. During that last semester in college, I really wish that I had had a friend who would have at the very least put a knowing hand on my shoulder when I told him about the girl I let slip through my fingers. I’m not saying we have to show up at each others houses with stacks of romantic comedy DVD’s and a big bag of Ben & Jerry’s (although some action flick DVD’s and a dozen chicken wings sounds amazing right about now*). All I am saying is that we need to step up the amount of emotional support we have for one another. Even just being willing to listen can help.
* Yes I know this is just a stereotype and that there are women out there who would be more into action movies and chicken wings instead of romantic comedies and ice cream. If you know any, help a guy out and send them my way will ya?