Your Version of a Good Man


If you’ve read any of my many movie reviews, you know how much I love movies. Honestly, as much as I love action movies or thought-provoking drama, my favorite kinds of movies are romantic comedies. No shit. Yeah, I’m a rom-com kind of guy. And yes, romantic comedies are formulaic and usually extremely predictable: the most unlikely people will fall in love at the end of the movie. Okay, I love romantic comedies, because for the most part they end well. They have their ‘happily ever after’ on the screen.

One of my all-time favorite romantic comedies is Rob Reiner’s “The Sure Thing” from 1985 starring John Cusack and Daphne Zuniga. I really got Daphne’s Allison: She was me. Allison was strung just a little too tight, anal-retentive, yet very smart. For Allison, everything had to be perfect, sensible. She had to be perfect, and she expected the same of others—not necessary a good thing nor a good idea. Just saying. However, when Allison was a little girl, she dreamed of being a princess, not a “classics professor”.

John’s Gib, on the other hand, was the messy free spirit, who loved beer, greasy pizza, and touch football. When Gib was a little boy, he dreamed of being an astronaut with “all the Tang you could drink”.

As polarized as Allison and Gib occurred, they had good hearts, were good decent people. They were kind when it counted. Allison felt betrayed when she discovered that Gib endured their winter break cross-country ordeal just to hook up with his ‘Sure Thing’, played by stunning blonde Nicollette Sheridan, in Los Angeles.

In the closing scenes back in Allison and Gib’s English class, their instructor Professor Taub, played by whimsically wise Viveca Lindfors, reads to the class Gib’s essay titled “The Sure Thing”:

… From across the room, he saw her. She was perfect. He knew almost nothing about her and she didn’t know much more about him. It was exactly how it was supposed to be. He brought her to his room. The lights were soft, the moment was right. Then she leaned over and whispered in his ear, ‘Do you love me?’ Thoughts raced through his mind. Did she really want him? What had he done to deserve this bounty? Does God exist? Who invented liquid soap and why? ‘Do you love me?’ Staring into her eyes he knew that she really needed to hear it but for the first time in his life, he knew these were no longer just words and if he said it, it would be a lie. ‘Do you love me?’ she whispered. ‘Do you love me?’ It would not be tonight. The answer was no.

Surprised, hopeful Allison asks Gib, “You didn’t sleep with her?”

Gib smiles, “She wasn’t my type.”

Yeah, that’s awfully predictable. Yet, it’s genuinely sweet and kind, at least for me. I am still looking for my soulmate on Match dot com, so “The Sure Thing” inspires and gives me hope that falling in love is still possible. Does that make me lesser of a man? Maybe. Maybe not.

***

For the last 30 years, I’ve dedicated mind, body, and spirit to the martial art of Aikido. I’m a Yondan, 4th-degree black belt. So I’m pretty good. I can hold my own with any man. No, I’m no GOAT (Greatest of All-Time). I’ve been taught by great Senseis: Sensei Dan for 25 years and now Sensei Bobby – we both trained with Sensei Dan. I get my life and my purpose from Aikido. Both Sensei and Bobby taught me discipline, honor, respect, and to grind it out for something meaningful.

In Aikido, I train to match the opponent’s attack with my attack: “Enter the attack and die with honor.” I don’t know what the outcome will ever be when ‘it’s on’. I can only be present. Bruce Lee said, “Learn the way to lose. Learn the art of dying.” And become free of it.

O-Sensei said, “Opponents confront us continually, but actually there is no opponent there.” He also said, “True victory is victory over oneself.” So, I’m my greatest opponent. As Sensei Bobby teaches: Apply the technique on myself.

I’ve trained over half my life to give me a chance against any man in physical conflict: to win or to lose. Does that make me greater of a man? No. Absolutely, not.

Yes, I love romantic comedies. No, I’m not very popular on Match dot com. Yeah, I’m Yondan in Aikido. They’re all just some of what makes me, me. They make me the man I am. I’m okay with that.

Sure, there’s a lot of stuff that I can work on. And there’s definitely stuff that I’m proud of, too. I’m no greater nor no lesser than any man. I’m okay with who I am. At times I’m even proud. That defines my masculinity for me.

No doubt, toxic masculinity is the big deal in the larger cultural conversation. Yet, that may not be an issue that can be solved, rather one that has a distinct solution. Toxic masculinity might be similar to the phenomena of white noise: something that’s always present. Perhaps, toxic masculinity is the balance of the lightness and the darkness, much like our own human nature.

So, as long as I dedicate to reinvent my greater than version of myself, be it in Aikido, in writing, in meditation or in therapy, that’s what there is to do. I choose and determine who I’m going to be.

Being a man might really be about the stereotype. Yet, becoming a Good Man takes a hell of a lot of work, and even more intention. Perhaps, there are infinite versions of that Good Man, when you think about it.

Really, it doesn’t matter what another’s version of a Good Man is. What truly matters is defining your version of your Good Man.

No, that version won’t be perfect. After all, we’re all human. Your version is the one you can breathe in, the one you’re comfortable in. It shall be that version that you’re proud of.

So what’s your version of a Good Man?

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Have you read the original anthology that was the catalyst for The Good Men Project? Buy here: The Good Men Project: Real Stories from the Front Lines of Modern Manhood

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