My life at home comes into clearer focus the longer I observer and immerse myself in Europe. Who I am, what I am made of, what I enjoy, what I hate, basically the view of my life crystallizes upon examination and comparison. I have witnessed a lifestyle and kindness that I envy in small towns in Northern Ireland where the people stopped in the middle of dinner to drive me to my location because I was lost. They are a people who invite strangers into their home and instantly welcome them and become friends. Crime doesn’t seem to be an issue because everyone knows everyone in their small village and care for each other. I have also seen the opposite in Belfast (still Northern Ireland) where there are divisions and hated about religion, politics, and life in general that stems from a pride that seems to be the very backbone that drives people’s inner emotions. In southern Ireland, while sitting in a beautiful restaurant, a local couple moved their table closer to mine and chatted with me for hours about everything under the sun, and yet, only a short drive away, I experienced mind numbing terror as the man I was staying with came onto me and then stood outside my bedroom door for hours waiting for my light to go off (it didn’t). I have had 60 year old men ask me if they were too old date and a married man attempted to get me to strip in public and put on a bathing suit in front of him. But on the flip side I have had a 70 year old man grip my hand, look me in the eyes, and tell me that I was beautiful and that men were crazy for not sweeping me off my feet (he would have if he were younger ;).
Perhaps though, my greatest wakeup call occurred not when the man tried to attack me, (though that took on a number of inner therapy sessions where I mentally slapped myself for not remembering who I am and what I am made of) but it occurred on the simplest of occasions. This next section is dedicated to the men in life. It is in essence a tribute to all the men who showed me what it is to be a man and who I am as a woman. I have experienced a bunches of stories where real men have set great examples. Where they have walked on the outside of the sidewalk for my protection, where I have been asked my opinion on subjects and they have truly considered it, where they have been a shoulder to cry on, or a helping hand (even just assisting me from my seat). But let me tell you different story, a story that made me think of all the other stories that have made up my opinion of men:
Once upon a time there a was girl. She thought herself brave, confident, and independent. She thought she understood quite a bit about the world and the people that inhabit it. On a cloudy cold evening, as evenings tend to be in England in winter, she found herself standing outside a pub talking to three local men having a smoke. She did not smoke, or drink, or normally do anything that would require a pub, but wanting to experience “a English pub” when the men invited her in for a beer she accepted their company and a glass of water. She did not drink the water as she promised herself she would never drink anything handed to unless she cracked the lid herself in this type of situation. She thought herself quite smart for her caution and indeed she was. As conversation started to flow she found herself growing uneasy. She was not shocked that the men made lewd jokes and comments at her expense. They were after all well on their way to becoming pissed (wasted). When the whole of the conversation turned to sex she decided to re-direct it. After all she was trying to experience what pubs were like in England not be affronted. When conversations then turned to prisons stays, drug abuse and the number of sexual conquests each man had she decided maybe she had experienced enough. When one man offered her a smoke of weed she decided it was certainly time to go and when he pulled out a small white pill from a hidden compartment she made to leave. One of the men, not quite a drunk as the others, ushered her to the door. He seemed at the time like the kindest of the three men, the one with more of a head on his shoulders. He pulled her into a side hug where he whispered to her that if she took him back to her apartment he would rock her whole world. He promised he could take her to the stars and she would never regret of moment of it. Sure he knew that she was good girl who was religious and wouldn’t even drink a beer. She was not shy about her beliefs and perhaps that was the appeal. When she laughed and told him that he would have to be completely different type of man to take her to heaven she was not in the least kidding around. She was dead serious but laughed once again and walked out the door.
That, my dear men, is my story. You see after this occurrence I thought about it on the long walk home. I continued to think on it in the long night that followed and…I thought of you. I probably literally thought of YOU. I thought about all the dates that I have been on and who those men have been both good and bad. You see this was not my first rodeo with drunk, lewd men, but it was one that shook me up to the think about all the other men, mainly the good ones. If you have taken me on a date and have not made lewd comments, I thank you. If you have held the door for me, I thank you. If you have you respected my mind, my thoughts, my personality, I thank you. I even thank you if you have appreciated my body, and either let me know politely, or appreciated it in silence. It is wonderful to be thought of as attractive. Every woman wants that. Every woman desires men to want her but no true woman wants a man who only wants that. Men who belittle and degrade what makes her a true woman (her heart and mind) are not true men at all. If you have had the guts to ask me on date, I thank you. If you have had the courtesy to still be my friend when we stopped dating I doubly thank you. I thank all of you for showing the world that true men are not a fantasy and only in novels, but live and breathe and walk among us. Thank you for being characters brought to life. None of you reading this are perfect and I respect that as well- I don’t want you to be, no one should have that kind of pressure. I see the temptations that you are faced with and ease of treating women objects. I respect you immensely for not joining in growing throng of men taking that route. I thank you for showing me that I can hope to find a real man in my life that will treat me as I should be treated because a lot of you have treated me this way. If you are a man in my life and you have not asked me out, but have a been friend, a home teacher, a family member, or even an acquaintance, I thank you just as much. I thank you for being the men who would never subject me to a situation like that and I realized most of the men in my life would go out of their way to ‘rescue’ me from that type of situation. Thank you for your hidden or shown example, for treating me well without any benefit for you, but just because that is who you are.
If however you see yourself in that story I encourage you right now to change your thinking. No woman, not even the women in that pub that night, who may have gone home with one of those men, want to be treated that way. They have allowed themselves to be degraded by society but you can help lift them up by setting the example and treating them right. It is possible to do it, and I have a plethora of men who have shown me that.
And finally to Dad: I might thank you most of all, for I wasn’t even tempted to be ‘taken to the stars’ because you taught me from the beginning that I am worth more than that. You enforced and showed me by how I was raised what I should except from men and who I am as a woman. I thank you dad for giving me confidence that I do not need a man in life to be complete and that no man is always better than a bad man. I thank you for pushing me to learn how to take care myself so that I do not get hurt in these situations. Mainly I thank you for loving my mother and I thank you for loving me. I thank you for loving me when I am not perfect and when for loving her when she is not perfect. I thank you for embracing you marriage vows and for giving me an example to look to. Thank you for bringing the gospel into my life and for all that means for me as woman and a daughter of God. Thank you Daddy, you are a great man in my life.
To women reading this:
Do not accept a man who is still a boy. Do not allow yourself to be treated in any way without respect. Remember who you are and the power that you possess by being a strong confident woman. And do not settle, ever! No man really is better than a bad man. You can see world and experience its glory all on your own. I am proof of that. There are knights in shining armor still out there. They may not wear armor or ride a horse, but their goodness still shines out in a world that looks bleak. As a woman I am staying with said – she doesn’t need a white horse she’d settle for a donkey. But don’t- because knights on white horses still exist. I know. I have met them. They have been in my life. The true knights are not buff warriors (though I suppose they could be) but the ones who fight the battle to not fight for you at all. Please remember that.
I love you men. Thank you again for showing me that.
PS ( Once again please forgive improper grammar, spelling, and sentence mistakes. I do not have the time to fully edit)