It’s tough to be a man these days. Villified in the press for being too privileged, for being “preferred” and paid more at work, and of course, recently, the character of men and boys has been discussed intensely in light of the Steubenville rape case, which I’ve talked about before on this blog.
But some men are heroes, and I’ve been lucky to know many. This is a little long, so stop here if you aren’t interested in reading stories of amateur heroes. Each incident meant a lot to me, and there are many more stories like these I could tell.
I’m a pretty good judge of character, I think, though I made more mistakes when I was young, as we all did. Of the men I know and am friends with right now, I could tell you right now who I know would act like the guy in the video circulating the internet where a young man shows how to properly deal with a girl who has passed out drunk, and who would not. Some people “act” trustworthy but are not, and others just have that quality where you know you could trust them in such a situation. It’s hard sometimes for women to discern the sheep from the wolves, and I haven’t always been right. You can’t tell just by looking.
I was a meeting planner several years ago, and was in Atlanta for a big meeting I had organized. This particular part of the evening involved moving a large group of people from a reception in an office building to dinner in a hotel, going outside and down the block a piece. I was going back to the hotel early to make sure everything was set up, and a guy I worked with offered to go with me.
This guy was someone people often joked about for being egotistic. He was a former Marine and very full of himself, often telling exaggerated tales of his greatness. I groaned thinking about having to walk with him and hear his stories, since he seemed nothing but a blowhard. But he was friendly and not as over the top once he was away from the group, and we walked along chatting amiably. I was on the outside of the sidewalk, closest to the street, and the sidewalk was mostly deserted. But up the way, we could see what appeared to be a homeless man or someone whacked out on drugs, as this guy was acting like a lunatic, muttering and swearing and swiping angrily at the empty sky. He was in the treelawn, in between the road and the sidewalk, so on my side as we approached. As we got closer, the crazy guy saw us and started purposefully striding our way. I am used to ignoring such people and so we kept talking like we didn’t see him ahead. Just before the guy got close, the fellow I was with, without stopping his conversation at all, very quickly and smoothly stepped in front of me and got between me and the dude, and I instinctively stepped to the inside of the sidewalk behind him. At that second, the homeless guy made some kind of a move and my amiable blowhard companion stopped in front of him and said to him in a deadly voice, “Don’t even think about it.” We moved past him before I even digested what happened. It wasn’t even a blip on this guy’s radar, and he kept the conversation going like nothing had happened, and the nutcase was off to other lands behind us. I was so surprised, and felt bad for the negative things I’d thought about him.
In high school, as I’ve mentioned before, I dated a guy who was physically abusive, let’s call him the Dickhead. Nearly a year after that relationship had ended (he moved to another state), I was out with some girlfriends for a “teen night” at a local nightclub. One of my ex-boyfriends was bartending and we were chatting. He was a really silly guy, with an immature, clownish personality and as flighty as a hummingbird, weighing about that much, too. Much to my surprise, the Dickhead had come back to town, had come to the club, saw me and made a beeline for the bar. He came up behind me and “hugged” (grabbed) me pretty hard, leaned down and started talking shit in my ear. I froze. All the blood drained out of my face. My bartender friend saw what was happening and came over and asked if I was ok. I couldn’t speak. Dickhead whispered in my ear, “You’re mine, don’t forget it,” and walked off. Tears started running down my face. Bartender put two and two together and said, “Is that Dickhead?” and I just nodded. He turned into Superman all of a sudden, leaping up onto the bar, sliding over the top and going over to the next bar over, where two of his buddies were working. I could see them talking and gesturing and my ex pointing to Dickhead, who had moved into the crowd. The other two dropped what they were doing and all three guys moved swiftly towards Dickhead, who they then propelled out the back of the venue. Let’s say they gave him a stern talking to. I never saw Dickhead again.
When I was working security at a concert venue, I got involved with a co-worker new to the job. We went on a couple dates and one night, things went horribly wrong. I was talking about how excited I was that a male friend of mine was coming into town and about all the fun stuff we were going to do, like go to karaoke at a gay bar we both liked. I joked about meeting my friend at the airport gate (you could still do this) in a burlesque outfit to be funny, giving him lots of kisses. The guy started going off on me. He couldn’t believe I would kiss “a fag” on the lips, he said, and went into a crazy, insane, shouting rant that lasted all night long, about how “faggots should all be put on an island,” and how he and his friends used to dress up and go to gay bars and let “some fruit” try to pick one of them up and then they’d drag the guy out in the alley and beat the shit out of him. And the Bible and AIDS and the Gay Agenda and it went on and on. I had started out arguing vehemently with him, but he threatened me physically and I could see he was unhinged so I backed off, but his rant continued. All. Night. Long. He finally left after 4am. I was a shaking, blubbering, nervous wreck, and I was due at work in just a few hours as it was an all-day show. I called my boss, crying, and said I didn’t think I could make it in. He was really concerned and asked what happened, and I stammered out as much as I could. “DID HE HIT YOU?” he demanded. I said no, just terrorized me all night, and started to tell him what happened. “YOU GET DOWN HERE RIGHT NOW,” he said, “I am not going to have you missing out on a whole day’s wages because of this asshole. We will put you in the office or you can usher or something if you’re not up to working security.”
When I got there, he had me come in his office to tell him exactly what happened. I could see him getting increasingly pissed as my story went on. A couple of my co-workers showed up and came into the office to check in, saw I was crying and were like, WTF. My boss told them, “It’s that asshole. He terrorized her all night.” “DID HE HIT YOU?” my one friend said, and I said no and then just cried some more as I couldn’t talk anymore about it. They were rubbing their hands together waiting for this jerk to arrive for work. While they were waiting, they cheered me up by dramatically slow dancing with each other and making people laugh as they skipped along hand in hand down the hill. These were big, burly, musclehead type guys, but they were very comfortable with their own masculinity and men being with other men didn’t threaten them. When the asshole showed up to work, they steered him to the woods, where they, uh, gave him a talking to as well, and then sent him on his way, never to show his face there again.
There are so many other smaller and larger instances where men I have known have stepped in, done the right thing, protected me or a friend or ensured my safety, that I feel lucky to have known so many wonderful men, and I meet more good ones all the time. They are out there, ladies, plenty of them. Maybe some of you are married to one. Maybe you haven’t found one yet, and need to fine-tune your radar. But they are there, doing the right thing by women, over and over. I’ve always loved the good guys much more than “bad guys,” and hopefully this blog illustrates just a few examples of why.
Here’s to the heroes. Keep up the good work, fellas.