The Roles we Play:
I walked the streets of Charleston falling in love with the cracks in the pavement, watching a man in khaki shorts fiddle with his smartphone.
I felt my cheeks blush as I began to pass him by.
He stopped me and asked if he could use my phone—his was not working, unfortunately.
I happily obliged and stammered my way into a conversation filled with depth and heaviness.
Next thing I know we were sitting side by side on a bench by the Battery,
speaking of racism, sexism, and all that implies.
The conversation made me lose track of his stare, and the words he said stung me instead.
“Men aren’t allowed to be weak,” he claimed.
I crumbled at the thought,
thinking of every man I’ve ever loved, starting with my father.
“It hurts, doesn’t it?” I reply, aware he may immediately shut the comment down like he’s learned to do all of his life.
There I sat, as a woman, allowed and encouraged to be free-falling and in love with the ocean breeze.
And there he sat, as a man, told to be strong and not let anyone see him cry.
How can the two meet as one when we are in constant war?
“I’m too much woman—or so I’ve been told,” I laugh.
“I’m too much man, as far as they know,” he chuckles back.
I look down at the callouses on his hands.
I wonder how they got there and if they make him feel tough.
We want our men to be open and kind but we subconsciously tell them to be hard and cold.
Two different messages burning in their brains, not knowing how to convince themselves they are enough.
We struggle with our own bodies while they struggle with theirs.
We don’t dare have the hard conversations.
We don’t dare evaluate how we respond to their pain.
I look across the street to see a boy selling palmetto roses.
His smile is big and his eyes are kind,
I say a quick prayer to whoever may be listening.
“Don’t let the world kill his spark.”
The words “men aren’t allowed to be weak” stringing along as an ongoing lullaby in my mind,
wondering the damage that is done in each little boy’s life when they hear the words “real men don’t cry.”
The man in the khaki shorts assures me that there is no such thing as “too much woman,”
but maybe there is a truth to the saying, “not enough man.”
I grab his calloused palms and say a quick prayer to whomever may be listening,
and reassure him maybe we both need to stop listening to the messages we are told.
These messages are fear draped in different clothing.
Fear draped in the idea of gender roles.
But we are stronger than the masses.
And I remind him how beautiful it is to cry.
Author: Emily Gordon
Editors: Emily Bartran; Waylon Lewis