Part of my dark history is that I was a Fratter my freshman year. My live-in pledgeship at an all-male college in Indiana was quite the ball of laughs.
Things like Chapel Sing while having jalapeños stuffed in my mouth, an introduction to sleep deprivation during Hell Week, the cold dorm… the seasoning of my youth. One of the stranger parts of our particular pledgeship was that all the pledges at the college had to be on the field for home football games yelling whatever the Sphinx Club told us.
One of their go-to cheers that all 180 of us would yell at the top of our lungs: “Blood Makes the Grass Grow Greener, Greener!”
How lovely is the flower of masculinity.
Men celebrate blood-letting. The NFL is being attacked again as the No Fun League for it’s emphasis on player safety and the tradition of Sunday gladiators is under the gun. If you want to move men in droves to the movies, find a new Gladiator or Braveheart, movies loaded with barbaric combat. “Leaving it all on the field”, “no pain, no gain”, Under Armour commercials with high schools spearing each other in a driving rainstorm practice. This is what hardens men. Right?
Men, as a chromosomal tribe, are a bunch of blood-fearing babies.
We have nothing on women.
For a women, to be born into the world is to bleed. An entire women’s life is associated with the very concept of blood-letting. Women are born to give birth (okay feminists, come and get me), women menstruate, women understand that at the very core of their feminine nature is blood. Blood is not tidy. I watched (for the first-time actually) Castaway last night and was struck how many time Robert Zemeckis focused on Chuck bleeding. Bleeding when he walked across the coral. Gushing blood when he crashes onto the coral. The painful wound in his mouth. Wilson is born via Chuck’s own bloody hand. Not one of these things is life-threatening. But Zemeckis emphasizes the image of blood swirling through the tropical coral reef waters as if it is a dramatic aspect of peril. It sure caught me.
It didn’t catch my wife.
A macro-theory of mine: Men don’t like to bleed. Who does? Fair question. But how about this: Men will go out of their way not to bleed. Men will go so far out of their way not to bleed, that it takes on implications that are not merely physical.
Men avoid pain.
What causes pain?
Blood is messy.
What else is messy?
Predictable sounds pretty good. Unpredictable sounds pretty bad. Men tend to like predictable.
You wanna know what’s unpredictable?
I know some very rich men. Rich in the heart. Rich in spirit. Rich in their love of Jesus. Rich in their care for other people.
Many men espouse that they would lay their lives down for another. But you know why? They see it as a heroic action. Not as a volition.
“I’ll die for you” is a heroic statement.
“I’ll bleed with you”. What the hell is that?
Are people going to line up at the theaters for the story of “I will bleed WITH YOU.” Well… women will.
Part of my journey this year began with the statement my wife made to me that I had made a commitment to isolation. A companion to that was a statement from one of my therapists (’cause hey, I’m so f’ed up, I need more than one, right?):
“I think you want to become a lot more like Amy.”
My wife leads with the heart. I lead with my head. Fundamental difference number one.
But as a posing, uptight, protectionist, passive provider-for-my-family, I’m also freaking terrified of bleeding. In private. In public. By myself. Around my kids. My wife.
I know that this isn’t the most pleasant conversation for men. Yeah, I’ll mention the concept of the Red Tent here. The Red Tent was an ancient Jewish custom where women would have to gather together when menstruating or giving birth. They gathered with one another and bled. Their culture forced them into isolation and they gathered under a red tent so people could identify what was going on. This was the same culture that created such outcasts of lepers. We are far more modern today with our Tampax commericals during primetime, but psychologically, are we so far removed? Think about that for a second. Amidst all the references to junk and cocaine and everything else in the Rolling Stones deviant Let it Bleed is the lyric:
We all need someone we can bleed on
And if you want it, baby, well you can bleed on me
We all need someone we can bleed on
And if you want it, why don’t you bleed on me
That’s about as close as men ever get to the concept of Red Tent, but notice the passive tense: bleed on me. In other words… you do the bleeding. What is the implied declaration? “Not me. I’m not gonna bleed. You can go ahead and cover me in you mess. You will see me as better for taking your mess. But I’m going to remain free of that myself. It is your mess afterall. Not mine.”
There’s a statement here: “I’m not going to be a mess.”
Masculinity takes a passive role to bleeding. Let’s leave it in theory. Let’s leave it to someone else. Similarly, we take a passive role to the actions of our relationships. We say we will do messy, but what we mean is that we’ll tolerate someone else’s mess. We’ll go to our passive position of mastery, a place where we are safe. We will tolerate someone else’s mess. But dammit, don’t ask us to be messy. Don’t ask us to bleed.
What happens when you allow yourself to bleed? What happens to that grass?