Sometimes as women we’re so busy trying to figure our own stuff out that we forget that it’s really tough for men these days.
There aren’t many role models out there showing guys how to transition from boyhood to manhood.
Years ago there were rites of passage that were designed to help boys understand what it means to be a man. Boys were taken by the men of the tribe to learn from other men what being a man was all about.
These days the nearest thing to a rite of passage we have is a bunch of 18 year olds going out and getting drunk together.
Not really the same thing.
In the same way as we’re struggling with what it means to be women, a lot of men are struggling with what it means to be men.
But in a lot of ways it’s harder for them.
A lot of men are wandering around with the belief that they need to figure it all out by themselves. They must be strong, independent, have all the answers, keep it together. Talking, connecting with others and all that emotional stuff is for women, right? That’s not what ‘real men’ do…
…actually, that’s exactly what real men do.
Most of them just haven’t been shown how.
Enter The Mankind Project. An organisation run by men, for men, to help them understand (with the support of the brotherhood around them) what it means to be a man these days.
I have a personal affinity for this organisation, as I know several men who have shared that the project has changed their lives, my partner included. In his words “it taught me how to be a man”.
So what on earth does this have to do with Wentworth Miller?
To most people Wentworth Miller is just the gorgeous actor who played the brooding Michael Scofield in the hit series Prison Break…but as it turns out, he’s so much more…
Because Wentworth has been on his own journey over the past few years….and it’s been a tough one.
A hollywood male ‘hunk’, struggling with owning who he is in the world – a gay man.
I have spoken to many members of the LGBT community about the challenges and confusion about what it means to be a man, or a woman, when your sexuality is different to the majority of people around you.
Through his own personal journey Wentworth has gone from being full of fear and isolated, to a role model reaching out to others like him who are struggling with their own journey and taking a stand against those who deny the rights of people like him.
…and what does this have to do with the ManKind Project? Well in his words, “MKP (The ManKind Project) has quickly become one of the cornerstones of who I am and how I move through the world today.”
Watch Wentworth’s speech at the Human Rights Campaign here:
Now, on it’s own, all of the above is reason enough to make Wentworth Miller today’s Fabulous Friday Fellow.
But my real reason for choosing him is much simpler.
He’s a man, walking the same path as the rest of us…and sharing his journey so that others can understand they’re not alone.
Recently I was sent this article Wentworth wrote and shared on the ManKind Project’s website that really touched my heart.
It shows a man finding his place and way in the world. A man of compassion and heart, learning what being a man means in day to day life.
A man who has stopped waiting for someone else to come and ‘handle things’…and instead is stepping into the kind of man that most men aspire to be, and most women would want to be with.
by wentworth miller
i was sitting in a diner on colorado boulevard the other day, enjoying a nice breakfast with a friend (late 40s, a working mother of three), when a homeless man materialized next to us.
i say “materialized” because i had no awareness of him entering the restaurant (even though i was seated facing the door) and no awareness of him approaching our table. yet there he was. tall, thin, white, dressed in a t-shirt and jeans and a filthy trucker’s cap. looking about 50 going on 80. and he wanted money.
“do you have any spare ch-” was all i heard before tuning him out and looking away, making eye-contact with my friend across the table. i felt sure we were both thinking the same thing.
“oh boy. here we go.”
before i could launch into my “sorry, buddy” speech our waitress (late 40s, tiny) was standing at our table, telling this guy to take a hike. “you can’t be in here / you shouldn’t be bothering our customers / please leave” etc.
but he didn’t leave.
instead he got into it with our waitress, pointing out the cross on her neck and gearing up for a dressing down on themes of christianity, charity, and the whole shebang. and our waitress was having none of it. “you can’t be in here / you shouldn’t be bothering our customers / please leave” she repeated, this time minus the “please.”
all the while i’m sitting there silently, wondering when it would be over, waiting for whoever was in charge to come over and handle things. i’m not sure who i was envisioning. probably the manager. who would be male. and older. and in charge.
he’d know what to do.
things are heating up now, the homeless guy and our waitress bristling, really starting to go at it, about 30 seconds from taking it to the next level. my friend across the table is very quiet. she, like me, is waiting for it to be over. for order to be restored.
and then, as i sit there witnessing two women in discomfort and a man in distress, it occurs to me – nobody’s coming over. nobody’s going to handle things.
i’m the man. i’m the one in charge.
and suddenly i’m rising from the table. i say, “let’s go outside, buddy. i’ll give you something outside.” and my tone of voice isn’t “hey, asshole” or “listen here.” it’s matterof-fact. like, “this is what’s going to happen.”
and then the homeless guy and i are walking to the door together. and then we’re through the door and out on the street. and then i open my wallet and hand him a 20- dollar bill.
and then he’s holding me.
i don’t know or remember exactly how that came to be, but all at once his arms are around me and i’m getting a full-body hug from a homeless person.
and this hug is textbook MKP. no awkward thumps. no tentative pats. no “let’s keep our groins angled out of this, okay?” he’s just holding me. and, after a beat, i’m holding him.
and this goes on for 20 seconds. 30 seconds. he’s talking into my shoulder too. i hear the words “veteran,” “oklahoma,” and “my birthday.” everything else is muffled. but i also hear “thank you, brother.” he says this three, maybe four times.
and as i watch someone walk past us and do a double-take, as i continue to inhale the scent of a man who’s spent years (decades?) on the street, i think to myself, “yes. this is my brother.”
then it was over and i was waving good-bye. i went inside the restaurant and slid back into the booth, now smelling like the homeless guy. and i wanted to weep.
and while the waitress proceeded to call me “hero” and then scold me for putting myself in “danger,” i thought about masculinity and chivalry and the need to be seen and heard and how i’m a 40-year-old man (going on 41) who’s still waiting for the guy in charge to show up.
i thought about how i would have handled the situation before starting my work with MKP six months ago, which probably would have looked like me not handling it. or like me handling it by making it worse. like me handling it by robbing another man of his dignity and the chance to connect.
and i thought about how we are all brothers. all of us.
then i looked up and noticed a man i knew from MKP, a man i’d seen just the night before while sitting in an i-group, seated with his wife across the restaurant, enjoying a nice breakfast.
brothers everywhere. all around.
The most touching part of this story for me is the piece about ‘brothers everywhere’. I’ve recently been sharing about the concept of sisterhood and how important it is to women like us…the same is true for men, with regard to brotherhood.
But the real power comes when we realise that we can all support each other. Brotherhood and sisterhood aren’t mutually exclusive clubs…they are exactly as they sound. They’re family.
When we can all start looking out in the world and rather than seeing strangers, opponents and competitors…we can start seeing brothers and sisters instead, we’ll realise that in reality, we’re all on the same side.
…and when we all realise that we’re on the same side, well, what a day that’ll be.
So today I would like you to join me in acknowledging and celebrating Wentworth Miller for sharing his journey with others, and for showing that everyone, no matter who they are…regardless of how gorgeous, successful or wealthy….whether they’re gay, straight, bi or transgender….we’re all struggling to learn what it means to be a man or a woman today. Knowing that, knowing that we’re not alone, and sharing in each other’s stories makes the journey a little easier x
As you know, I would love to acknowledge, honour and celebrate the women and men who have inspired you as well. So if there is someone that you believe should feature as a Fabulous Friday Female (or Fellow!), then send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) with 3 simple details:
- Who is your Fabulous Friday Female / Fellow? (Her / his name and location in the world)
- Why is she / he a Fabulous Friday Female / Fellow to YOU? (How do you know her / him? What does she / he do? In what way is she / he inspiring?)
- A photo or link to a picture of her / him online (if there is a reason that you would prefer not to include a photo, just let me know)
So help me to share with all of our lovely ladies the real women and men who inspire YOU.
…and remember, as always, to Stay Fabulous too!