I’m feeling really pensive today. I feel like I’ve been having the same conversation over the last 7 days and I am feeling a bit angry about it. I’m going to have to ramble for a second and hopefully this will come out as articulate on the other side.
I spoke with my mother about the boys this weekend. We’d gone to the farm and Ursa Major had absolutely no problem walking up to the snotty middle-schoolers who were there on a field trip, ask them questions and try to do what they were doing. The middle-school boys (they must have been 5th or 6th graders.. so maybe late Elementary school) weren’t terribly kind to my son. They weren’t mean, but they weren’t nice. And whenever we saw them around the farm, they’d be like, “Oh, hi [Ursa Major]” like they were friends, but you know they weren’t. It’s a tone thing… straight out of an 80’s movie. I kept giving them the nastiest looks I possibly could, and eventually made eye-contact with one of their teachers. It ended up being handled.
Anyway, I’m describing this to mom. Telling her about how outgoing Ursa Major is. and Mom breaks this out:
“You know, we were all so worried that your boys were going to be devastatingly shy, like their father. I’m just so glad that they aren’t like that. It would have been so disappointing.”
Who is “we all”? You? Were you worried about that?
I’ve documented well how my mother feels about my husband. While the objection was originally to skin color, the objection has now moved to something more internal. My husband is a quiet man. She’s got a problem with that.
My husband is shy. It is true. He is a quiet man, with a lot more internal dialogue than external. And it takes a while for him to warm up–it isn’t that he is disengaged with conversation that is happening around him, it’s just that he carefully chooses when to contribute. I love a man who thinks before he speaks. I don’t see what the big deal is. And that isn’t to say that I’m not annoyed by it sometimes–The school is having a potluck on Friday and I’m like, “do I hire a babysitter, bring my husband, and have him stand next to me and say six words all night (practically being by myself) or do I just go by myself (not terribly fun)?” I don’t know what I’m going to do. Who doesn’t want a husband who they can throw a cute outfit on and go show off to the world? But he’s just not that dude. He’s a man who prefers smaller settings, more in-depth conversation, and the opportunity to connect, think, and speak.
But I’m learning that many of the women who I interact with, especially the women of color in my life, see this as a sign of weakness.
A good friend who I correspond with: “You know, as your sons get older, I just wonder if your husband is going to be able to honor what your sons are going to be going through. I mean, is he going to be strong enough to understand the plight of your colored sons? Is he going to get it? Is he going to be able to be strong for them?”
The receptionists at my son’s pediatrician’s office: “Where is that sweet husband of yours, bless his heart? He’s such a sweetheart. I hope he’s got a mean streak in that sweetness, or you’re going to have such a problem with the boys!”
My pediatrician: “You know, the boys love their daddy now, and that’s all good. But after 10 or so, he’s really going to have to be on them. He’s going to have to surprise them, he’s going to have ask questions and be tough. He’s going to have to be a great mentor and guide, you know?”
This is just the newest iteration in a really old conversation that I’ve been having with people:
My old boss: “You’re husband is so quiet… and you are so… you know, loud and outgoing. How does your relationship function? I don’t really understand.”
A former friend, “I mean, are you just steamrolling him? You must get what you want all the time. Is that what you wanted all along?”
Or the very rude former co-worker: “You’re such a strong, connected, sophisticated, grounded sista… how did you end up with the shy, uninteresting white guy?”
I don’t need you to get my marriage. And I don’t need you to question my husband’s parenting or potential parenting. Especially because we’ve never given you any reason to wonder–my boys are bright, happy, and healthy. I’m an exhausted mother, but that has nothing to do with my husband. Indeed, if it wasn’t for him, the bags under my eyes would be larger and darker!
Since when does silence equate to weakness? Was I sick on the day when we all woke up and collectively decided that every single asinine thing that we’re thinking must be broadcast to the world? In a world when most young men are running a race to see who can say the most racist/shocking/stupid thing first in a conversation (and call it witty banter), I much prefer that the man who is charged to mentor my children is the one who speaks the least and with the most power. When my husband speaks, people listen, because he doesn’t speak often and when he does, he has something real and significant to contribute and he’s right. (That doesn’t generally happen at home. Rarely is he right at home. Even when he is actually right, I tell him that he’s wrong. That’s how this has to work.)
I suppose that there is this underlying thing happening that I don’t appreciate. That all of these women are judging my husband and thus judging me: “You picked a weak man. Your sons may be at a disadvantage because of that.” Don’t you trust that I wouldn’t choose a weak man to be my husband? If you think so little of my husband, what, then, do you think of me? How can you compliment me and then disparage my husband in the same breath? What do you really think is happening in my home on a daily basis? Is his quiet disposition so underwhelming that you would assume that a 10 year-old could run circles around him? Wouldn’t a teenager, looking for sound advice and clear guidance, be more apt to seek the man who speaks from wisdom and thought rather than the first thing that comes to mind? Give me the thinking man over the speaking man any day of the week.
Personally, I think that the quiet thinker is the sexiest kind of man. There is nothing worse than looking at a beautiful man and then being severely disappointed the second he opens his mouth. And how often are our young men doing that these days? Just men, talking, speaking, saying, with no sort of anchor in thought, let alone wisdom. To be young, beautiful, and brilliantly dull is decidedly unsexy.
I’m miffed because this is a special kind of rude. It’s one thing when people see us, the interracial family, and they have issues just because of the race stuff. Racism is easy to laugh off. People are stupid. Racism is stupid. But to see my husband and decide that he just isn’t strong enough to raise my two boys simply because of his quiet stature, his sweet disposition, is so utterly insulting. I know I chose a good man. If he wasn’t a strong man, he wouldn’t be able to deal with me and I wouldn’t be able to tolerate him. I keep him on his toes all day every day, and he keeps me on mine. That’s why we work. I don’t need anyone else to get that. And furthermore, I have to remind the people of color in my life that my sons aren’t “only” Black just as they aren’t “only” White. My sons are both. Their potential identity issues will be significantly different from what either my husband or I have faced in our lives. Their paths, by default, are just plain different. I have absolutely no doubt that he’ll be strong enough to deal with these two when they are teenagers looking to destroy the world. He already manages to keep them in line as they seek to destroy our house!
And as for my mother, I don’t know what I’m going to do with her. We have a problem. She doesn’t necessarily need to love my husband… I don’t know if she even needs to respect him, but she needs to respect my decision to spend my life with him. He may not be what she imagined, but he was a great choice for me. I think that this is also a reminder that I need to champion my choice, my husband, this marriage. When the outside world decides to scrutinize and criticize, sometimes you need to reflect, and sometimes you need to double down. Where my husband is often quiet, I think i’m going to have to choose to be more of an advocate. What this is, who we are, how we choose to raise our sons… those on the outside need find their own silence. They’d do well to speak less and watch and listen more.
Work on the septic starts tomorrow. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. I have two beautiful outlines ready to go for Friday’s start of NaNoWriMo. I still don’t know what I’m going to choose on day one… so exciting and nerve wracking all in the same time! And my task list for the week feels like it is ten miles long. I’m feeling exhausted today, but in an accomplished kind of way–15 kids came to play at playgroup today, dressed in costumes and so full of energy. I am sore and tired, but it is just so worth my time. But I was wondering this morning, as I loaded the boys in the car at 7:30 and drove for an hour and a half from MetroWest into Cambridge, is this sustainable? As much as I love this, can I do this for another semester? Because as much as I love it, the weather is about to turn… and then this is just going to be difficult. I hope I can keep up the energy–this is just too important to me to let go.
Happy Monday, ya’ll, and thanks for reading my ranty ravey rave. I’m going to come up with some joy between now and Wednesday.