There’s a lot of negativity about toxic masculinity, and what men have done to women and other men with stories and movements about just how sexually and physically violent men can be. I can attest to some of that having been on the receiving end of plenty of bad behaviour by men in my life. Most women can, unfortunately.
I am a feminist and proud to be one. Not because I am against men, but because I am for women. My brand of feminism is in celebration of women. It’s about equality and equity for everyone irrespective of gender or sexual preference. I just happen to prefer to advocate for women and therefore I usually don’t write about men. I think men have enough people writing about them and they can also, like me on behalf of my gender, speak for themselves.
In France the MeToo campaign is called #BalanceTonPorc which translates as Out your Pig. I turned that phrase around and wondered how I might feel it that was directed at my gender. It felt a little violent actually. It started me thinking about the men I have known and what I like about them, about what I have liked and loved from my experiences of loving and having been loved by the men in my life. Today, here and now, I want to focus exclusively on the beauty the men I have known and what their presence has meant in my life. I wonder what my life would have been like without having known these men. Very different that’s for sure, emptier? Lonelier? Maybe.
I started to feel grateful for what my life has been because of the men I have known. (Not all of them, a few were truly awful and didn’t make the cut here). Here’s what I came up with:
To all the men I’ve loved before, or liked a lot, or dated for a bit, or whom I had a crush on, thank you for:
That awkward unyielding one-arm hug and a beer on my front steps when I needed company after my Dad died. We broke up two weeks before. You were so mad at me. You came anyway.
Holding my hands while I crushed yours during powerful contractions during childbirth.
Keeping me upright when I buried our first child.
Laughing so hard at I can’t remember at what, which made me laugh too and then pee a little in the dairy aisle when I was eight months pregnant.
Laughing even harder with me when I said you had to stop because I couldn’t get up off the floor. That was not a beautiful moment. I loved you then.
Christmas in Bali a few times. Not necessarily the time where the Dr had to come and put a drip in my arm because I was so sick. I am thankful for how you set your timer and made me sip water every 15 minutes throughout the night so that I could avoid a hospital stay.
Begging me to let you love me when I was so broken I couldn’t see beyond that afternoon.
When you told me to expect more for myself, even from what you had to offer. I did by the way. It changed me. Thank you.
Our anniversary celebration in a bowling alley.
Cups of tea just the way I like it because I told you that the lover before you never made me tea even though I made him coffee just the way he wanted it. I never did that again because you told me not to.
Saying sorry for being a crap husband and for listening when I replied the same about me when I was your wife. Sorry, it took me so many more years to do that than you.
Being the primary caregiver for our kids.
Caring for my kids even though they weren’t yours.
Travelling around the world with me where for us it felt like the whole world was a gigantic playground.
15-minute meditations where we stared directly into each other’s eyes. It was weird at first, and I couldn’t stop giggling. After a while though that experience showed me a whole new perspective of the world inside you and me.
Drunken sex. Sometimes it was hilarious. Before I gave up drinking it was at times pretty sad.
Sober sex. That’s extraordinary.
The meals you have cooked for me.
The massages. The orgasms. The handholds. The bear hugs.
Your tenderness. That was breathtaking.
For all the times I felt safe with you. There were many and in loads of places outside my home and inside it too.
When you’ve shown me your fragile vulnerability followed by you silent delight when I said I’m still here.
Letting me love you the best way I could and for being gracious when I was too broken to get it right.
Getting rid of snakes and spiders.
Willingly checking the house to see what that night-time noise was. You were a bit scared too, but you did anyway.
Walking just in front while squeezing my hand when things didn’t look safe for us and putting your safety at risk above mine.
Dealing elegantly with my rejection of you.
Being kind when your rejection of me confounded me.
Mercy dashes for wine and cigs (in the addiction days) to pads and panadol in the fertile ones.
Thinking 14 DD was fantastic when I cried after a maternity bra fitting.
Coming to see me anyway when I still couldn’t understand why you stopped choosing me each day. I know you missed me too. I know it hurt you to see me. You came anyway. Thank you. It helped.
The groping and pawing and grabbing me or enjoying me grab and paw at you: under the table at dinner with friends who didn’t know what we were doing although I’m sure the waiters knew; on couches; at the movies; on kitchen benches; just inside the door; in the taxi, in our new bed. I loved how much you desired me. I loved how I wanted you.
Kissing me in sweet places.
Singing Karaoke in remote parts of Finland.
The times you stood your ground when I was wrong.
For 3:00 am chats and whispered murmurings when you cried about things that broke your heart. Thank you for letting me in. You held me at that moment. I didn’t understand why. When I went to put my arms around you instead, you wouldn’t let me.
Thank you for all the times you’ve opened doors, picked me up, paid the bill, worked your ass off to keep things going, for only rarely complaining.
Knowing my history and just being kind during those times when I needed gentleness. I have been very difficult at times, but you showed up for me.
For these beautiful memories that touch me and tell me there are tiny fragments of my heart that still whisper your name. I don’t hear it often, but when I do, I smile.
I would not have been me without the men I have known, so thank you, thank you, thank you. Men are beautiful too.
Melissa writes women’s fiction, web and broadcast content and is currently working on a memoir. She is also a voiceover artist, podcast producer and full time UQ psychology student. Melissa started in radio at a time when women were usually relegated to support roles in brekkie shows. Melissa insisted on having her own programs and continued to do just that for commercial and ABC stations across Queensland and New South Wales. You can also hear her on thousands of voice-overs for television, radio, messages-on-hold, elearning projects, documentaries, in-car bluetooth, apps, web audio and more.