For my entire adult life, I have worked in a woman-dominated profession. That has generally worked out well for me because at the end of the day, I’m pretty girly for a guy. At Veazie Vet I worked with a receptionist named Amanda, and she dubbed me the gayest straight guy she knew. Reflecting over the years on that statement, I could be gay if it wasn’t for that sex with guys part.
Independent of sexual orientation though, there is a struggle for today’s man between having the sensitivity to recognize the feelings of another and not being paralyzed by that empathy. We have to balance confidence without dialing it up into the a$%hole range. I’ve watched many men through the years to see if I could find a good role model. One of the men that stood out in our community as a role model was Dr. Mike Solomon. Dr Solomon was an OB/GYN, and by coincidence delivered my second child. I met him in a prenatal check and was taken by his charm, confidence and warmth. When Daniel was born, I told Dr Solomon that I thought that 2 was enough kids for me. He asked me how old I was. I told him I was 30. He laughed and said it was too early for making that decision permanently. He told me his daughters were the most amazing thing that ever happened to him, and that I should wait to see what life brought me.
After that, I ran into him every once in awhile in the community. I met his wife, one of his kids, I saw a couple of the nurses that worked with him and another doctor in his practice. No one had anything bad to say about him. When I met Mary, it turned out that she knew him very well and had a similar respect for him.
Dr Solomon passed away tragically on a ski mountain in Maine. We went to the service at his synagogue, and there were so many people there. Some had been delivered by him, some had been his patients, friends, family. I left the service thinking…that is what a man should be. Confident, warm, empathetic…leaving the world a better place than he inherited…at least in the lives he touched.
So back to being in a woman dominated profession. I’ve been in on my share of “Men are from Mars, Women from Venus” type discussions between many women on many teams. Guys…in case you don’t know, they bust our chops in our absence. Actually guys, I think you know because they bust our chops in our presence.
Being a man can be tricky.
The Old-Boys Network Man of yesterday is fading, and that is good. If we are to make a difference in our community and the world, we are going to need everyone on our team to contribute 110%…regardless of gender.
I see a new generation of men, and I am encouraged. Sensitivity is much more prominent in young guys today. They do a better job than we did at showing emotion and accepting it in others. I meet many people in my day to day, and I have a bunch of male clients that walk the line between confidence, softness, ability to listen, lack of ego, intellect and passion.
to you men–Kudos
To the rest of you–stop being an a$%hole.
Its time to up our game, gentlemen.
I’m still in the generation of men who would not sit around and have a conversation of what we could do to be a better man. I hope to be a dinosaur in my lifetime on that count.
Why all this now?
Last Tuesday I put Crystal to sleep. As it became obvious to me that she was turning the corner in a bad way, I encouraged Mary to let me bring her to the clinic to put her to sleep. She encouraged me to have Dr Miller put her to sleep, or at least for her to go with me so that I did not have to do it alone.
I declined both. To have Dr Miller do it would mean I would have to go in and drag my tear stained face into the clinic in front of all those I work with daily. To have Mary come would be to have her see me ball like a baby.
So I did it myself, when no one was there except for me and Crystal.
I recognized today those decisions on my part is proof that I am not yet and enlightened being. Of course, my use of swear words was making me think that anyway.
This week I worked with a young man who has a dog that is in a bad place with disc disease causing chronic pain. His wife is out of town and he is working from home planning a brewery to be opened in Portland. The dog is needing injectable pain medication and is on a roller coaster ride. The nursing care is intense and he is balancing the needs of the dog very well, trying to keep it all together so that his wife can get home and they can move forward and make the decision to put the dog to sleep or piece her back together after a week of chronic pain….there is a lot of unknown.
But this guy is doing a great job and he inspired me. There are lots of instances of women supporting each other emotionally, and we are not quite there yet as men.
I thought I might start a men’s emotional support group, then I thought I would make fun of my support group in my head.
…so I wrote this email instead.
Just when I think I find the sweet spot between butthead and wussy, I recognize that I will probably spend the rest of my life trying. But I look around and see men around me that are working hard to strike the balance too.
..and I raise my glass to them.
Since its Saturday morning, its a glass of orange juice.
…and I put one of those little umbrellas in it.