Transman and his neighbor were driving and as they cruised up the street, Neighbor said, “So, I read some of ‘The Adventures of Transman.’”
“Yeah?” Transman said, playing it cool, keeping his eyes on the road ahead.
“Yeah,” Neighbor said. “It’s easy to navigate. I like how you’ve got all the categories and having some visual element really helps grab the reader.”
Transman glanced over at Neighbor whose lips were tight. Transman guessed that Neighbor was trying to find the right words for a delicate subject. Transman stiffened a little, steadying himself for criticism.
Then, Neighbor said, “I read the part about me making dick jokes. I hope you don’t think I’m a tool.”
Neighbor got quiet. James Brown was on the stereo, singing the words, “I got somethin’ that makes me wanna shout.”
Transman signaled and turned onto Monroe Street.
“Dude, no. When you made that joke, I took it like you were welcoming me into the fold,” Transman said.
Neighbor nodded and said, “Cool.”
The awkwardness gone, they drove on, listening to Bootsy Collins’ bass line on “Superbad” and James Brown shouting out, “Jump back, kiss myself!”
Transman is lucky to have his biological brothers, but he’s extra lucky to have four other men in his life who are brothers and mentors in manliness. Transman’s other brothers include:
Neighbor has shown Transman how to be a supportive, nurturing father. Neighbor has also shown Transman how to extend good will outside the home. He does a lot to make our international neighborhood have a real sense of shared community. Neighbor and his sons volunteer at most community events and host a weekly basketball game that draws players of all ages. What is extra cool about the basketball games is the games have provided a space for people from all over the world to bond and have cultural exchange.
Neighbor has an unending amount of curiosity about the world, something he shares with the other men featured in this post. Guys like …
Transman met Writer in one of Bob Butler‘s workshops. They had kids the same age and had some similar life experiences, but got closer over the years as they worked on developing their writing careers. Each pushed the other to send out stories and both celebrated when one or the other got published. Writer showed Transman a very different kind of masculinity than his father had displayed. Writer showed him that a man can be strong without having to be a Tough Guy with a capital T. He showed Transman that a man can play and have a boy’s enthusiasm for the world without being a child. Writer is a man in balance with the world and he’s a badass on a BMX bike.
Then there’s …
Musician, Writer, and Transman were all neighbors with Neighbor back in the day. Musician’s kids were about the same age as Transman’s and that was what drew them together. Transman and Musician fall into easy conversation no matter how much time has passed since they’ve seen each other in person. He shows his sons that it is okay for men to be intelligent and creative. Too many boys think it’s not cool to be smart and screw themselves out of a decent future; Transman is glad Musician is around to engage Son 1 in conversations about technology.
Troubadour was a columnist and cartoonist at one of the papers where Transman worked. They sweated out deadlines by swapping jokes and music trivia and Troubadour showed Transman where to find the best sweet tea and peanut butter pie in town. Troubadour is all the good things about Southern gentlemen personified. He makes everyone he meets feel like they are the most important person in the room. He collects the stories, wisdom, and history of the people around him and preserves it for the following generation. Troubadour plays a mean guitar and turns up playing in parks, festivals, and coffeeshops. No matter where he’s playing, he’s happy to have other people join in and jam and harmonize. Troubadour isn’t driven to be in the spotlight, but he deserves all the applause he can get.
Transman didn’t grow up with lots of positive visions of masculinity. Lots of the men in his young life were rough-and-tumble guys who were a lot of fun to be around, but who weren’t really much more grown up than little Transman. They worked hard, but they also played hard——stepping out on their wives and leaving their families, either on purpose or when the law caught up with them.
At their best, these men were charming, funny, full of great stories, and ready for adventure. Unfortunately, many of these men also bought the worst of the stereotypes about what makes men manly. They pretended to be dumb; they were crude; they settled things with violence or ran away from conflict altogether; they didn’t show emotion or tell people they loved them. The ones that made it to old age wound up lonely and cut off from the people they had hurt and disappointed over the years.
Everyone needs good role models and mentors, and Transman is thankful to have men like Neighbor, Writer, Musician, and Troubadour in his life. He’s glad his sons also have these four people showing them how to be good men and helping them navigate some of the difficult parts of growing up and finding one’s self.