The first month that we moved into what was my great-grandpa’s house, our sewage line was extremely clogged. It kept backing up, and I kept plunging it, thinking it just needed a little bit of a push. I finally got sick of not being able to flush the toilet because it was backing up into the tub. You’d flush the toilet, and it would come up in the tub. You’d plunge the tub and it would come back up into the toilet. It was gross, and I just couldn’t take it anymore. Plus, my wife and two kids deserved better than that.
But we couldn’t afford a plumber. So what’s a man supposed to do?
Well, I went down to the basement to inspect and see what I could do. I started taking a pipe apart, and I wasn’t prepared for what came next: The house hadn’t been lived in for about fifteen years, and fifteen years of crap ended up on me—toilet paper, paper towels, and lots of you know what.
I went to my parents’ house to take a shower, and in the meantime my wife made me a garbage bag suit. Now I was covered head to toe in garbage bags. And I got to work: I took a broom stick and got as much of the crap out as I could. The stuff I couldn’t get out with the broom stick, I got with my hands. (Yes, at this point I was wearing gloves.)
You hear people say it a lot: “Be a man.” Well, that story pretty much tells you what I think it means to be a man. Some people think being a man is scratching, burping, and getting girls all the time. What it means to me is something completely different.
Being a man means staying strong through life’s little messes; when life hits you hard you have to find the strength to hit it back harder. My dad always used to say to me, “Strength is in the heart as well as the mind.” It’s always helped me through things. So whether you lost your job or you’re in debt or your plumbing isn’t working, you have to think and stay strong.
There have been times that I’ve lost my job or not known how we’re going to pay next month’s rent. And I’ve caught myself saying, “What’s the point in even trying anymore?” But when I look into my kids’ eyes it gives me a drive to keep going, to do anything to give them what they need and want. Even if it kills me. Even if it means cleaning up fifteen-year-old sewage with my hands.
I think that’s another part of being a man: being a responsible father. There are so many men that get someone pregnant, and then run like cowards. They say, “I’m not ready to be a dad.” Well, I think no one really is; it’s a learning process. Being a father is the greatest thing in my life, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Being a man means that in a relationship, you treat the other person with the same respect that you want, and you treat them how you really feel for them. In relationships, a lot of men want to be treated like a king, but treat the other person like a peasant. That’s not being a man; that’s being less than a man.
I also feel that a lot of men get in a relationship as a hobby. What I mean by that is they get into it with no intention of taking it any further than dating. I understand you can’t always marry the first person you date; you have to find the perfect person for you. But nowadays, a lot of men date with the intention of just having sex. I believe you should date with the intention of marriage—trying to find that one person that you can spend the rest of your life with. Being a man is dating with a purpose, not to just get laid.
Finally, being a man means being honest. My dad always said, “A man is only as good as his word.” Never say anything you really don’t mean or make promises you can’t keep. And always be honest with your spouse. Lying, even little white lies, can lead to the destruction of your relationship. They say the truth hurts, but I think it hurts less than a lie. And you can at least respect that person for caring for you enough to tell you the truth.
So the next time you hear somebody say or imply that “being a man” means scratching, burping, and getting girls all the time, don’t believe it. Being a man is way bigger and better than that.