am at a point in my life where I welcomemy tears. It wasn’t always that way.Despite the work I’ve done on myself—and the work I do—sometimes it still feelsunsafe to let tears come. Other times I don’thave any choice.Such was the case on a snowy Decembernight when I was in the audience listeningto David Mallett, a remarkable singer-song-writer who I first heard when I was around30. This year, I turn 60. Throughout my thir-ties, forties and fifties, listening to David’ssalty, seasoned Maine baritone would alwaystear a piece of my heart. His voice does forme as a middle-aged man what Janis Joplin’splaintive siren’s call evoked when I was inmy twenties. In his voice, all the more richwith age, his songs burrow in, massagingmy heart.More men than you’d think are likeDavid Mallett, sharing stories from ourhearts. His tales of lost love, hurting, healing,and redemption are our stories, too. Listeningto him that wintry night it felt as if he wasmaking me an offering: “Here. Take thesesongs as a gift, man to man.”Some of the music turned over—likeclumps of rocky earth—broken pieces of my heart. Missing my father, gone since’88. Wounds from the end of a marriagetwo decades ago (healed over as much asthose kinds of wounds can). Out of theshards of loss I’ve made myself whole, andI felt a brightness, too, in jaunty tunes of celebration of nature—both human and inthe environment. They evoked in me a quietcontentment—my heart opened wider thanever, appreciating the great joy of a lovingwife and the blessing of four amazing adultchildren.In my travels to conferences and frommy perch editing this magazine, I sense moremen are starting in earlier to take inventoryof our lives, to more readily share what wefind. Few of us have a stage to stand on likeDavid Mallett, yet we’re more alike thandifferent—guys who have been around theblock, lines in our faces and, like the bard,weathered like the Maine coast. We canhear in his voice—a harmony of strengthand gentleness—our own lyrics, wisdomblending with melodies that turn song intopoetry. We may not have his gifts as a poet,yet we can tap into the same well of tender-ness.On that Sunday night at the dark of theyear, he was our balladeer playing morethan two dozen originals, songs that mappedthe human heart. One, called “Beautiful,”professed love for his daughter. He sang,“You are one of a kind/a wild flower onthe vine/and the whole world’s waitin’ foryou/cause you are the most beautiful girl/ you are the wonder in my life/you don’tknow but its true/I’m forever lovin’ you/ I’m forever lovin’ you…” His love for, andappreciation of, his father was expressed in“My Old Man.” In it Mallett sang, “My oldman/Talkin’ about my old man/He was thereat the start with a willin’ heart/He was therewhen the world began/My old man was adaddy/ Till I got too cool to call him thatany more/He took my momma to the grangehall dance/And he waltzed her across thefloor…/My old man, talkin’ about my oldman/ talkin’ about my old man…”Like the gentle side of most men, DavidMallett’s tenderness might have beenobscured if I’d only skimmed the surface—seeing in him only a road-weary troubadour,hard and stoic. How sad it would have beento have missed the truths he was sharing, just as it’s sad that too many of our vulner-abilities and longings as men are overlooked.Skimming the surface is what the cultureoften does with men, missing an opportunityto plumb our depths. For the mainstreammedia and popular culture, men are usuallyseen as uncomplicated beings living in thenow, without histories, moving on with fewregrets. We’re just after the big deal, thequick fix, or the quickie. It’s not so. The nexttime you find yourself—or hear someoneelse—describing men simplistically—think about the men you know, men like DavidMallett, whose lives are made up of tender-ness and tears, joys and sorrows, strengthsand vulnerabilities. We may not all be song-writers and poets but each of our lives
thestuff of songs and poems. Listen between thelines every day to tap into that truth.
Male readers will no doubt beinterested in two examples of men sharingour truths more publicly. The Men’s StoryProject (our cover story, beginning on page18) is a powerful dramatic expression of menspeaking honestly from their inner lives. AndV-Men, a kind of men’s auxiliary of V-Day,the international effort to prevent violenceagainst women and girls, is beginning tohold workshops as part of an effort to createa new dramatic presentation entitled
TenWays to Be a Man
. (See back cover.) Thepossibilities for this next decade being onewhere more men share the truth of our liveswill only grow stronger if more of us arewilling to leave the man caves of solitude forthe gardens of our hearts.
L H O
B R O
Rob Okun can be reached at email@example.com.
FROM THE EDITOR
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