During my childhood and teenage years, my dad represented was a “real man” was for me. He is assertive, has a firm opinion, and he knows what he wants. He took care of the family income, plans and “masculine household chores”.
Yet, his character was my blessing in disguise, as his firmness and rationality was the main reason for our clashes and arguments throughout the years.
I remember him once, sitting so sour-faced in a poetry evening that had to be a sacred family evening out, that I had to confront him – “why did you choose to come in the first place if it’s such a torture for you?”
“I am a civil engineer, my dear. And I have a cement builder’s heart” – he claimed.
As a bubbly child, governed by my feelings and emotions rather than a rational mind, I could not understand my father. Until I started noticing something odd:
Being the impeccable example of a masculine, he had so much femininity in him. Yet, at first glance, it was invisible to the eye.
So while International Woman’s day is approaching, by telling the story of my father, I want to celebrate all the men who play a role of reflective mirrors, helping our female light shine brighter.
An actor and a writer O. Welles once said:
“Every man who is any kind of artist has a great deal of female in him. I act and give of myself as a man, but I register and receive with the soul of a woman. The only really good artists are feminine. I can’t admit the existence of an artist whose dominant personality is masculine.”
Over the years I have noticed how much focused on dichotomies human nature is – black or white, sweet or sour, light or dark. One of such examples is a natural man and woman dichotomy. We tend to attach so many labels to these words portraying a “true man” and a “true woman” that we fail to remember that each of us has a duality of feminine and masculine within us.
My dad was one of the most important people in my life and opened my eyes to this fact by giving such an “a-ha” moment.
For as long as I can remember, my dad was a busy bee, organising my birthday parties and making sure April Fools would be the most memorable day of the year for me. I would wake up with a thrill waiting to be deceived. On this special day, once a year my dad was a wizard of creating moments and memories. All day I would be asked questions and lied to. That would guarantee a genuine laugh for both of us, purely because of my naivety and his creativity.
The day would end with a birthday party where my guests would take part in a magical children fairytale – creating plays based on the popular movies (i.e. directing and acting our version of “One Hundred and One Dalmatians”), competing in a treasure hunt and reciting poems, just to name a few. My father managed to make my birthdays the most awaited day in a year not only for me but for my friends. My cousin’s tears of sorrow after being denied participation in this feast once due to a high fever proves this point well.
This used to be the day, where my father demonstrated curiosity, creativity and compassionate care for others at its best.
As the only child, I was glad to be given this exclusive attention. However, the story does not end here.
When I was approaching eighteen, my mother announced the news of an unexpected pregnancy. I was about to become a sister, and my dad was about to “acquire” the third lady in a family.
And then his collaborative feminine nature stroke again. He decided to do what was best for the family. He took a paternity leave, giving my mom a chance to be the female hero – continue her career and be the ultimate breadwinner. Believe me, in the success-driven society, where a man is still seen as a primary career oriented family provider, this was a huge punch to my dad’s ego.
With this uneasy choice for my dad, who always valued career, leading and winning societal respect, he became a family player, willing to leave the spotlight and let my mother shine. He chose to nurture the family needs and do the right thing instead.
While my mother would spend half the working day, serving 14 companies as an accountant and rushing back home to see her baby born at lunchtime, my dad and grandfather took turns to drive our crying lady in the stroller around the neighbourhood.
I must mention that my dad had always been dreaming to have a son. He had been vividly dreaming of football matches played with him and countless sport shows watched with a can of beer in their hands.
Instead, he watches the basketball games alone and the rest of the evenings he does his best to hold space for my sister’s curiosity. At least once in a while, he flexes his patience muscle and holds space for my sister’s learning. Often times I find him teaching her and discussing things he’s passionate about – logic, technology, geography and languages.
Although he is not the best person to discuss poetry or changing the world, during our modern times where a woman is still seen as the primary carer, nurturer and teacher, he plays that part too.
So I want to leave you with these thoughts: In our society, the values tied to masculinity have been generally seen as superior to those associated with femininity. Yet, as far as I am concerned, it’s not only women that we need to celebrate on the International Women’s day, but rather the feminine energy. It’s high time we stepped out of the frame of dichotomy “woman vs. man” and enjoy all the traits feminine energy has to offer. Celebrate yourself, beautiful women, and celebrate the men around you, that show up as vulnerable, caring and creative.
I would like to encourage you today to stop and reflect: “What are the situations in which the men around you show up in their feminine best?” “What moments of femininity could you celebrate today?” Once you know it, say “thank you” and encourage each other to keep on showing up for more.