Category Archives: A Few Good Men

Thoughts from Friends, Dads, Husbands & Lovers.

A Feminist Literary Canon

“And she laughed secretly, saying: After I am grown old, and my lord is an old man, shall I give myself to pleasure?” ~ Genesis 18: 12

A new day has dawned for 21st-century feminism, and ironically its key lies in the remotest past. With the mapping of the human genome, evolutionary biology is making undreamt of strides.

Let us go back 100,000 years to stare for a moment with wonder – and horror- at anatomically modern humans. Modern they may have appeared, but near them, we would be in mortal peril, for they were socially incapable of living a settled, community- like existence. They were aggressive, territorial in the extreme, and male dominated. With relief, we move forward to later emerging humans who were behaviorally modern, and we ask what has made them gentler: the answer is language.

Just as evolutionary biologists have now mapped ever more certain branches of the human family tree, linguists have gone back and back further still to our proto-languages as they search out the fount of the first spoken words. I believe, for reasons I’ll outline, that language is the gift of Woman. Hers was the staying hand against conflict and the expression of bond with a single mate. Hers were the lessons to be learned in the long and dangerous human adolescence. And hers, I now believe, was the voicing of the first faiths.

As I wrote in an earlier book, the noted literary scholar Harold Bloom read the passage above and realized it could not have been written by a man. Bloom, sensitive as a tuning fork, recognized its wry mockery of the eternal male belief in the powers of masculinity. This belief of Bloom’s, which I share, was expressed before the onslaught of research that our knowledge of the human genome has bestowed. It no longer seems so farfetched that a central document of Western humanity, the Torah or Old Testament should have been led by a woman’s prose, for she is the author of Genesis and such was her genius to describe without hesitancy or fear, Creation itself.

Paleo linguists have rooted out and grouped original languages (see diagram) and uncovered some uncomfortable truths: the Christian missionaries who pestered early modern Africa like flies could not know that the Aramaic of Jesus was an offshoot of a more ancient language of that continent.

Illustration: Linguistic Society of America

Old Norse, the languages of the Hittite and of the Greeks who trifle with Sappho but hold warring Homer as our standard; the Proto-Indian European languages and the roots of Bantu; all must be freshly read for the discernment of the Woman’s voice. In them lie treasures. It is 2017, no more than an arrow’s flight from our prehistory. Modern day feminists, worldwide, will not be held captive to evolution. They will not cede an inch to males who deny them the right to their own bodies, domestic and public safety, the right to couple with their own, without leave, and of no less concern to me, to demolish the perversity of an all-white, male-dominated Western Canon and its replacement with a historic, global feminist literary tradition.

At what fixed point then, do we begin to compile an authentic feminist literary canon?

We must turn back not a few quaint centuries, but millennia, to Sumer in the 23rd century, B.C. There, at Ur, we learn the name of the first author in history: it is a woman, Enheduanna, daughter of King Sargon of Akkad. We have some forty-two original hymns/poems of hers that were still popular in Mesopotamia four centuries after her death.

Rectangular, baked clay relief panel known as the “Burney Relief” or the “Queen of the Night.” ( Public Domain )

Because she is named, hers is the first place in all literary canons we presume to honor and represents the obliteration of all super-imposed patriarchy on the gift of language.

Photo Credit: -Jeffrey- Flickr via Compfight cc

Charles Bane Jr

About Charles Bane Jr

Charles Bane, Jr. is the American author of three collections of poetry including the recent " The Ends Of The Earth: Collected Poems ( Transcendent Zero Press, 2015 ) and "The Ascent Of Feminist Poetry", as well as "I Meet Geronimo And Other Stories" ( Avignon Press, 2015) and " Three Seasons: Writing Donald Hall ( Collection of the Houghton Library, Harvard University). He created and contributes to The Meaning Of Poetry Series for The Gutenberg Project. http://charlesbanejr.co

Dreaming of an Independence Day for Her

Yes
in the course of it
another 4th of July approaches
and I find myself working and
dreaming furiously of an
Independence Day for her

Yes
firecrackers and bottle rockets
exploding and proclaiming
her freedom
from being thought of
as something less than a man

her freedom
from being judged
by the color of her skin
her freedom
from being seen as
nothing more than a sperm receptacle

her freedom
from being measured by her looks
her freedom
from being punished for being the victim
her freedom
from being afraid of walking down a street

her freedom
from being told who to love
her freedom
from raising her children in poverty

Yes
red white and blue sparklers
and roman candles
blazing and announcing
her liberty
to speak and be heard

her liberty
to love herself
her liberty
to have a choice when it comes to her body
her liberty
to age

her liberty
to dress herself without being judged
her liberty
to express her sexuality

her liberty
to love whomever she chooses
her liberty
to earn what a man earns

Yes
just like a patriot
I am declaring her equality
and her beautiful birthright of
being loved and respected for who she is
a woman and a human being.

Photo Credit: Peter Chyla via Compfight cc

John Michael Antonio

About John Michael Antonio

John Michael Antonio is a freelance writer, photographer, poet and screenwriter. He claims his Midwestern roots while at the same time admitting his incurable and insatiable love and addiction for all things New York City. He has been the husband to his wife, the love of his life, for almost thirty years and is a father of three wonderful children. He is an unapologetic male feminist as well as a passionate lover of fashion, art, movies and music from all eras and genres. An endless dreamer, John Michael is also an avid historian, ex-punk rocker and a legendary Internet surfer who sleeps, on average, about four hours a day. His work has also been featured on The Good Men Project.

I’m A Testosterone Novice

It’s not a secret anymore. Women make me nervous.

On any given day, it would be easier for me to jump naked into a pit of venomous snakes, freeze my tongue on a streetlight post for an entire winter, or consume a five-course meal of double-edged razor blades than to muscle-up my best sense of composure and socialize with the ladies.

Whether the encounter is platonic or professional, one lady or a gaggle of gals, the anxiety is always the same.

While most men would smugly bow up their chest, parade around their power, and freely frolic with the ladies, my anxiety would be borderline hysterical at best. However, I must admit I’ve become a pro at offering up my best faux-frolics. In fact, my mastery of this illusion rivals an academy award performance.

Under my skin, however, the invasive feelings of angst are difficult to ignore. Simply put, I would feel like a drop of testosterone in a sprawling sea of estrogen.

Because of this phantom phobia, I consider myself a testosterone novice.

My paranoia will be put to the test on June 22-24 during the BlogHer17 convention in Orlando. The conference organizers expect an “exhilarating mix of content creators, social media stars, entrepreneurs, top brands, activists, and fans.” Carefully note the title of this event: BlogHer17 as opposed to BlogHim17. Clearly, this conference is tailor-made for women bloggers.

I am not a woman.

However, I’m certainly an exhilarating content creator and blog fan. After all, I write for FeminineCollective.com – the leading women’s blog for original, raw, unfiltered stories. In that respect, I clearly qualify as a conference attendee.

But what about my gender?

Although my kids claim I’m metrosexual, I plan to dig deep into my raw masculinity to ensure it easily overpowers any amount of estrogen that may escape from my psyche. As I mingle among the ladies, no one will know that I would rather vacuum the house than mow the yard. Besides, as a testosterone novice, I will work tirelessly to fit into the social mix by focusing on my polished faux-frolicking skills.

It took years of practice to become a testosterone novice. After all, I was raised by a single stay-at-home mom who possessed very few masculine traits. In fact, she was the epitome of the 1950’s housewife – she took pleasure in her dress-wearing-cookie-baking-housecleaning identity.

I had few male role models during my formative years. Although my older brother taught me how to fish, play poker and chess, and lift weights at a young age, I was isolated and alone during my awkward teenage years. My impression of the opposite sex was forever shaped by the decades-old made-for-TV movie Sooner or Later. I translated the plot Dave-style from ‘innocent teenage love’ to ‘learn how to play the guitar, and you’ll have automatic confidence and charisma with all the ladies.’

Although I eventually learned how to play the guitar, the film certainly didn’t help me with my clumsy social skills with the opposite sex.

I still love Sooner or Later, although I would explicitly deny that fact at every opportunity. In fact, I recently watched the film on YouTube and found myself just as engaged as I was in 1979. But at the same time, I began to hate the film for giving false hope to my 14-year-old self. Thankfully, I learned to embrace myself as a testosterone novice while perfecting my faux-frolicking talents.

Meanwhile, I learned to appreciate, value and love all women. In return, I’ve built many rewarding relationships.

If you plan to attend the BlogHer17 conference in Orlando, be sure to seek me out and introduce yourself – I love to meet new people. I guarantee I’ll proudly display the epitome of confidence. I promise we will build a strong and lasting friendship. I guarantee I’ll be secretly trembling under my skin.

(If you somehow glimpse a healthy supply of Xanax in my left hand and a small flask of liquid courage in my right, pay no attention to those insignificant details. Instead, enjoy my expert faux-frolicking skills as they will be in full-effect.)

I admit, my self-branded identify as a testosterone novice is nearly phobia-like. Perhaps there’s a diagnosis code for my paranoia. If one exists, I’m certain it’s hard-coded in my medical records.

My wife explains my fear of women effortlessly:

“If I didn’t make the first move, we’d still be shaking hands.”

I have no doubt she’s right.

Thankfully, when I attend the BlogHer17 conference, no one will notice that I’m a testosterone novice.

And I’m cool with that.

Photo Effects: Dillon H. Burris ©Dave Pasquel All Rights Reserved

Dave Pasquel

About Dave Pasquel

After living under a rock for nearly 25 years, Dave had his eyes opened wide to the world in 2010 after marrying his crazy cat lady wife. Intrigued by controversy, culture, lifestyle, current events and history, Dave has traveled to 41 states and a handful of foreign countries. Defined as ‘metro’ by his three kids, you will often find him cleaning the house instead of working out in the yard. In his spare time, Dave likes to write sappy love songs but will be the first to admit that he can’t carry a tune.

Little Nose

Little Nose
All my pain and all my woes
Go right up my little nose
Now I am free, so unexposed
But my friend, she stunts my growth
And in the end I am alone

Photo ©Julie Anderson All Rights Reserved

E.J. Cottrell

About E.J. Cottrell

Worldly. Allergic to fuckery. I've seen everything you've seen, but I saw it very differently. Just a guy hoping you can pick up what I put down.

What I Fear The Most

what I fear the most

is not this spinning

inexorable world

perpetually casting

shadows and monsters

or even my own

inevitable fleshy demise

no these days I reserve my trepidation

for the unthinkable travesty

of a life affirming beauty

being right in front of me

and me not experiencing it

yes I still tremble baby

but its at the thought of missing

your magnificent frame

the melodious chords of your voice

your natural perfume

as it wafts through everything around me

feeling the pulsating blood in your veins

and of not being able to savor the

delicious singular

exploding uniqueness

that is your flavor

 

Photo Credit: Francagimenezcastañares Flickr via Compfight cc


John Michael Antonio

About John Michael Antonio

John Michael Antonio is a freelance writer, photographer, poet and screenwriter. He claims his Midwestern roots while at the same time admitting his incurable and insatiable love and addiction for all things New York City. He has been the husband to his wife, the love of his life, for almost thirty years and is a father of three wonderful children. He is an unapologetic male feminist as well as a passionate lover of fashion, art, movies and music from all eras and genres. An endless dreamer, John Michael is also an avid historian, ex-punk rocker and a legendary Internet surfer who sleeps, on average, about four hours a day. His work has also been featured on The Good Men Project.

Dad, I Forgive You

Raise your hand. Who’s had a perfect childhood? Who has perfect parents? Who has the perfect family?

Unfortunately, most of us experienced a less than perfect childhood. Most of use have a less than perfect family. Most of us have less than perfect parents. After decades of being angry, disappointed, and resentful, I finally learned to forgive my dad for my less than perfect childhood. I finally learned to balance the expectations I built for my father, to keep them in perspective, and, above all, to keep them realistic.

At five or six years old, I learned a hard, cold fact about my family when I had the following conversation with my best friend:

“So, does your dad come over to visit on Sundays too?”

“What are you talking about. My dad lives with me at my house.”

Shocked and confused, I immediately ran home to question my mom why my father did not live with us. I remember she answered me quite gently. My mother told me that my father lived with his new family, and it was his job to care for them. But that answer didn’t stop my new-found feelings of abandonment. While my brother and sister enjoyed watching reruns of Leave it to Beaver, The Brady Bunch and Little House on the Prairie, I was angry, disappointed, and resentful. I wanted my dad to be just like Ward Cleaver, Mike Brady, or Charles Ingalls so desperately

Unfortunately, my relationship with my dad was rocky from the day I was born. According to my mother, my father denied me as me being his son. Years later, I learned from a cousin that some of my family referred to me as ‘the crisis child’ and recommended abortion. When I was nine years old, my mother remarried, but The Brady Bunch it was not. My step-father was even less attentive than my real father. However, I did have one remedy for an absent father figure: I grew up in an apartment above my grandfather’s automobile dealership and the car salesmen downstairs went out of their way to fill the void the best they could.

Until I was 14, I lived in the same New Jersey town as my dad. I saw him every Sunday for a time, but then the visits became less frequent and eventually stopped altogether. I became angry and downright pissed – I didn’t even know my father. After I moved to Florida, our distant relationship broadened. I would write to him on occasion, and surprisingly, he would usually answer my letters. However, every letter began the usual way:

“I think about you all the time”.

At first, I believed it. After years of hearing it, I began to believe it was a cowardly cop-out.

Years later, after having children of my own, I became much more aware of the responsibilities of being an adult and the stresses of family life. I often thought of my father. “Why did he abandon me?” After questioning my mother about her side of the story, I thought it was fair to write to my dad and point-blank ask him why he chose to be absent from my life. After many weeks of waiting, I finally received his reply: “That was a long time ago and I’d rather not discuss it”. After some pondering, I determined that this was my father’s way of admitting his failures:

Was my father there for me during my formative years? Nope.
Was he there when I was a troubled teenager? Nope.
Was he there when I had children of my own and in desperate need of fatherly advice? Nope.
Was he there when I hit middle age, anxious and afraid of the future? Nope.
Did I expect him to be there for all these events? Hell yes.

Today, nothing upsets me more than when young adults brandish their entitled attitudes towards their parents – especially their dads. They want money, a new car or expect their parents to pave their way to Easy Street. I’m quick to point out that, unlike me, their dad was there for them. He read bedtime stories, taught them how to ride a bike and tie their shoes, helped them with their homework, held them while they cried on his shoulder and dropped anything to help them whenever they needed him – a list of luxuries I’ve never experienced.

Thankfully, I’ve finally come to terms with my father and our absent relationship. I can’t change him; I can’t force him to be the dad that I expect, I can’t fill in all the absent moments. I no longer compare him to Ward Cleaver, Mike Brady, or Charles Ingalls. All I can do is balance the expectations I built for my father, to keep them in perspective, and, above all, to keep them realistic. Perhaps there are deeper reasons yet unknown to explain why he chose to be absent from my life. And oddly enough, I believe him when he tells me “I think about you all the time.”

So, for what it’s worth to each of us, “Dad, I forgive you.”

Photo: ©Dave Pasquel All Rights Reserved

Dave Pasquel

About Dave Pasquel

After living under a rock for nearly 25 years, Dave had his eyes opened wide to the world in 2010 after marrying his crazy cat lady wife. Intrigued by controversy, culture, lifestyle, current events and history, Dave has traveled to 41 states and a handful of foreign countries. Defined as ‘metro’ by his three kids, you will often find him cleaning the house instead of working out in the yard. In his spare time, Dave likes to write sappy love songs but will be the first to admit that he can’t carry a tune.

Being A Father

I’m fortunate enough to call myself Father to two kids.

I’m sure at times, they’ve had other words to call me, and probably well deserved. I did hope for fatherhood perfection, but I don’t think I came close to the mark. I wanted to be the ideal father. I knew the Cleaver family wasn’t going to happen, but maybe something leaning a bit more in that direction.

For me, having kids was the most amazing and maybe the only remarkable thing I’ve done in my life. I’m totally proud of my kids.  It’s not for everyone.

If you are self-absorbed, spoiled, entitled, hedonistic, childish and basically lazy, don’t have a kid. It won’t turn out well.

Reasoning:
OK. First, NOBODY ever had a perfect childhood. Anyone who tells you they did is totally full of shit. They’re hiding something worse than my bumbling ineptitude. The only way you learn parenting skills is by raising kids, and by the time you think you think have it all figured out, the little peckerheads have flown the nest. Just as that screen door is about to slam, you yell out, “Oh, wow, now I understand!”

When it’s time to take wing, they’re coming out of something, possibly psychologically, comparable to a chemically induced coma. They’re kind of staring at the sun, waiting for their eyes to adjust and just thinking—what the hell do I do now?

I think we all have wanted to have do-overs. One that comes to mind is messing with my daughter’s first boyfriend. She was 15 and he was a 17-year-old total horn dog. He was waiting for her to come downstairs, so I took advantage of the situation. I thought I was being funny. I ran out and put on boxer shorts and grabbed the biggest chef knife I had and a hone and I parked myself on a couch. I invited him to sit next to me. He didn’t really want to sit down, but I kind of insisted. He sat down, and I very slowly and deliberately sharpened that knife. “So, where are you two going?”

You have to understand that he had been looking at her like a delicious snack for quite some time and it was pissing me off. Your babies are your babies, and he’s thinking I’m not catching it. Predictably, she did notice my sitting there when she came downstairs and was horrified. She was very upset with me. The poor guy ran like a scalded dog.

He started hanging out at the house shortly thereafter—as a “friend.” As I got to know him, I realized I may have acted prematurely and rashly. He ended up being a hoot. He had a really twisted sense of humor. He drove a jacked-up truck, and when he would come upon possums, coons, and armadillos smashed on the road, he would take the shovel out of his truck and throw them in back. He would then sun-dry them, and the next time a friend’s birthday came up, they would get one wrapped with a ribbon. I re-named him Road Kill.

153r

The result:
He bolted for a while. He was a good kid and a known quantity. And, things probably occurred in her life that would have worried me more than Road kill. … She’s now 21.

Another defining “Father of the Year” incident occurred while she was visiting me in Costa Rica. She was 19 at the time, and while not being sheltered in her upbringing, she was still relatively conservative. We had this wonderful family staying with us at the Lodge from Portland. The daughter, Mindy is a brilliant pastry chef.

She made an incredible Chocolate Torte for dessert the night before. Lauren is a freak for chocolate, as am I. I was at the beach waiting for a fishing boat to offload for that night’s dinner when Lauren called me and asked if there was any of the dessert left. I told her I thought we had finished it but to look in the fridge.

I ran the rest of my errands and stopped at Tortilla Flats for a cold beer before going back up the mountain. Mid-beer I get a call from one of the guests. He said I need to get up there and that something is wrong with Lauren. He put her on the phone, and she tells me she can’t feel her arms or face.

I went into a panic and hauled ass up the mountain. I got there and she was a mess. I was literally 2 minutes from calling a helicopter to the Lodge to get her to San José to a hospital—normally a 3 ½ hour drive.

I said, “Lauren, take a deep breath. I want to know everything you’ve done today. Have you handled any frogs or toads? Could you have been bitten by a bug or a spider, or a snake? What did you eat and drink?”

She worked through all of the possibilities and when we got to food, she said all she had had so far were the brownies. Now I’m kind of scratching my head.

OK, back up the banana boat. Two months earlier, I had a couple of lovely sisters as guests at the Lodge who owned a big charter yacht further north. As a parting gift, they left me a bag of brownies (wink-wink). I ate a quarter of one and went to Disney World without leaving the mountain. I put them in the small fridge in the kitchen bodega and promptly forgot they were there. I thought Lauren was going through the big commercial fridge outside.

Uh-oh. I asked how many she ate and she said the whole bag—maybe 8 of them. I told her that the good news was she wasn’t going to die. I called a doctor friend of mine and a “stoner” friend of mine, famous for her edibles. They both told me she would be fine in 24 hours. She slept almost all of the time except to wake up and giggle every now and then. When the effects wore off she was not pleased. We can laugh about it now, but at the time I felt like digging a hole and crawling in.

IMG_7354rWith Charlie, we have that father-son dynamic going for sure. I sometimes think he doesn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground, and he sometimes thinks I’m a moron. Boys and dads tend to do a one-upmanship thing. The son can’t admit that he has learned anything he didn’t already know, and the father can’t let that go. We agree on everything as long as we don’t talk.

My moment of clarity with Charlie was when he was maybe 2 ½ years old. Now he’s always been a bullheaded little cuss ( of course from his mother’s genes). We were living in the village on the north end of Longboat Key. I was alone with him while his mother was at work in the evening. It was bath time. He didn’t want a bath. I wanted him to bathe. It turned into World War III as I stuffed his little ass into the tub. He was having a really really serious tantrum. For me, it was a matter of principle and discipline and dominance.

Looking back, today, I would have said “Hey buddy, let’s take a bath later. No big deal.” At that time I was working 2 jobs to keep the wolf away, and I was just plain tired. One evening, while he was in the bath, the phone rang in the next room. I answered it and had a 30-second conversation. Then,  I carried the phone into the bathroom, and, NO CHARLIE!! I ran out of the bathroom and found the front door ajar. I burst through the door. Some tourists were walking on the sidewalk. I was shouting “Naked kid!! Naked kid!! WHERE???” They pointed in a westerly direction, and I took off. I see his little white ass shining like a beacon. He’d ran across 2 cross lanes. Not a busy place, but that could have been disastrous. He was screaming like a banshee, completely and totally pissed off. He had totally worked himself into a tizzy.

I caught up to him and scooped him up. I was scared to death. At that moment I smacked his little ass and told him to never, ever do that to me again. I’ll never forget the look on his face … I’ve been carrying that one around for almost 22 years.

As we were walking back to the house, the tourists stood there gawking. I asked them if possibly they might have considered that this was not a normal situation, and if detaining the naked child running down the street might have been prudent. OK, maybe I wasn’t that nice, but they had that deer in the headlights look.

So, what I’m trying to learn:

  • When to keep my fuckin’ mouth shut. I don’t know everything. I just think I do.
  • I need to realize that my kids already have the equipment they will use as a base operating system. Done deal. Acquired earlier in life.
  • Unless I see something that is immediately threatening to my kids, like a falling meteor or a gun or something, step back, and let them deal. They have the skills.
  • Kids take things very seriously when they come from your mouth, Mom and Dad. It doesn’t matter if you are kidding or if you are serious and maybe a tad emotionally overboard—they are not going to forget that shit. Their lives are hinged on our every word–in some ways way later than we think. That’s one thing I didn’t realize—they don’t understand humor, nuance, sarcasm, irony, etc. Who knew? They take our words literally.

Mine are 21 and 24. I just moved back to the States about 6 months ago, after being out of the country for 3 years. I’m not here forever, but I’m treasuring the time I have with them. We’re really still kind of defining our relationships. I try to share experiences with these guys in order to shorten their learning curve of life. They look at me like I’m plankton when I try to explain things.

Then, I remember how I reacted to my own Dad trying to help me with his experiences and I get it.

I love them more than life itself.

Photo Credit: sethstoll via Compfight cc

Bert Woodson

About Bert Woodson

Bert Woodson currently lives on Florida’s Gulf Coast in Cortez, with his Rhodesian Ridgeback, Colt, and Colt’s kitty Woof. (Yes, he named him.)

Press Start

I don’t remember fighting over first player. I remember needing
more controllers,
quicker reflexes,
a softer excitement
/thicker walls (whichever lets mom sleep).

You remember
most of the combos,
cheat codes,
and having to hide in the bathroom (the only door with a lock).

I try to be a good man. It’s arguable if I’m much of either. I’m known to breathe vitriol — sparks through yellowed filters, but maybe it’s the dying reflex of withered parts. It’s a measure of remorse. It’s passed.

I remember how tall you looked as I sat, overburdened, cowering spine, a shallow body nursing tethered charges. Never one to twist limbs, you stood present, speechless and paused. You drew plain pictures in the tall grass until my legs worked, and we walked. Back to disconnects. And openness.  I’m fortunate, in recent years, to have cut back on the habit of locked doors and hiding places.

I don’t know that you remember.

It’s just
I’m always trying to stay on track,
and some days what keeps me there
is a little bit of multiplayer
and some backbone.

Photo ©Julie Anderson All Rights Reserved

James Wolf

About James Wolf

James Wolf is an aspiring teacher from Maryland’s eastern shore. He works as an assistant in a Pre-K classroom, using the quiet of naptime as an excuse to write things in the dark. His work has been featured in GFT Presents: One in Four, Sixfold, and Gyroscope Review, and is forthcoming in Vine Leaves Literary Journal.