What it is to be a good man.
By Tim Moody
When I was a boy, I was loved by the sweetest women in the world. My Mom, of course, beautiful in every way was one. Smart, devoted, lovingly and fiercely protective of her family. But then also, on my Dad’s side, there was my grandmother, Maude, whom I called Nana. Quiet and reserved, small and lovely, she was a tender presence. By my Aunt Laura, who was fun and beautiful with a contagious laugh, generous and open hearted. By my Aunt Mary, tiny and petite, poised and gracious. By Aunt Florida, snow white hair and the most winsome smile, a deeply self-confident woman.
On my mother’s side, there was my grandmother, Ruby, whom I called Momo. Quite simply, a saint. I adored her. My great-grandmother, Joanna, whom I called Gammy. A gifted pianist, the first female American Indian graduate in the school of music at Bacone College. Her embrace was arms of love. And there were my Aunt Emerald and my Aunt Jackie, wonderful women of grace and affection.
These women taught me never to be afraid of my emotions, of tears, of joy, of passion. They showed me the rich nurture of affection, how that hugs and kisses from them were expressions, from their hearts, that I was cherished, that I counted, and that they cared deeply for me. They called me Timmy, and sweetie, and honey, and sugar, and baby and all kinds of terms of endearment. And I began to think of myself as prized and beloved when I was with them.
They taught me the value of faith and were the daughters of God to me. I learned from them to respect women, to appreciate a woman’s grace and charm; to honor femininity and the dignity of women. They also taught me to value a woman’s creativity, her mind, her inner strength, her ability to endure sorrow, loss, and disappointment; her determination to be heard, to be equal, to be independent and one’s own self.
I have written about the men in my life and they were great forces of strength and character for me. But these women, they taught me lessons that only the wise and the keenly aware and the sensitive can teach. To this day, they remain enduring examples for me of what it is to be human and caring, gentle, intelligent and perceptive.
Our relationship with one another as women and men is a mysterious and humbling experience. There are obvious differences between us. And yet, there are also similarities that by some innate compulsion bring us together. This is true for gay couples as well. There is a profound need within all of us to connect with others. To love and be loved. To find healthy ways to express our affections, to care, to learn from one another, to be inspired and challenged by another in order to grow into newer and more authentic definitions of ourselves.
The women in my life taught me this.
There are women who bravely stand up to misogyny, to sexual harassment and abuse, to the myth of their inferiority, and become political activists, social workers, therapists, teachers and other professions, and they help keep alive the force that women have to change things for the better, for themselves and for others.
Mary Robinson, the first female president of Ireland who went on to become the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said, “I was elected by the women of Ireland, who instead of rocking the cradle, rocked the system.”
We need women with that kind of vision and courage.
The women in my life were not activists, or feminists, though all of them were women of enormous gifts, inner strength, and character. Author and mystic, Joseph Campbell, described the women in my life in a comment about compassion: “Compassion is just what the word says; it is ‘suffering with.’ It is an immediate participation in the suffering of another to such a degree that you forget yourself and your own safety and spontaneously do what is necessary.”
That was my mother and grandmothers, my great-grandmother and my aunts. We need women with this dynamic capacity. They can promote significant change as well.
What I learned growing up was that women are a powerful and wonderful part of our lives. The women I grew up with tutored me, with their words and actions, in the delicate yet tenacious meaning of womanhood, and in the process, helped me discover what it is to be a good man.