An Essay about Men
Considering the Inner Worlds of Those Who Are Taught to Deny Them
For Literary Hub, April 7, 2022
I recently re-watched some of the Mad Men series. On one early episode, Betty says to dinner companions, “Don doesn’t like to talk about himself. I know better than to ask.” She doesn’t really know better, though, because she is a silly woman who wants to know her husband intimately, and that night she asks Don a question about his childhood. “Jesus, Betty,” he responds, his face contorting to show his utter confoundment at this kind of prying. “What difference does it make?” Instead of talking to her, then, he kisses her, and they have sex. It’s classic. The scene cuts to Don sleeping soundly while Betty sits up in bed smoking a cigarette, distressed. She stubs her cigarette, lies down next to him, places her hand gently on his back, and whispers to that eternal enigma of a man who stands for so many men, “Who’s in there?” The scene goes dark.
So often when trying to see into the inner worlds of men, the scene goes dark.
I had been grieving this darkness, moving through it as a hunger, subterranean and underlying an emptiness in my life that only seems to grow. And so it is for billions of women. Where are the men who know that talking or not talking about their lives, their memories and wounds, childhoods and what has shaped them, makes all the difference?