A legacy of men’s mess!

In this narrative you’re going to meet, okay vicariously, the hidden side of some men you thought you knew but perhaps you didn’t. Beginning with “MZ,” I’ll name the rest of them further down.

But first, I was amazed by how I was able to compress years of the masculinity façade and pent-up insecurities that mask many men into a 24-hour span. You see, it started with a call from “MZ,” a guy I had not talked to in years. After reminiscing about the fun we had during our college days, he paused with this heart-breaking revelation:

MJ: Although those were great times Terry, after all these years I’m still haunted by how we treated girls on campus.   

ME: Huh?

MJ: Yes, I just can’t seem to shake memories of how we rated girls based on how they looked and the terrible things we said about those we deemed unattractive.

ME: Well, as difficult as it is you cannot remain a lifetime of regrets. And besides….

MJ: Yeah, but the truth is that we did some terrible things to girls, stuff that should have gotten our behinds thrown in jail. I’ll spare you the details.

ME: Wow, I don’t know what to say.

MJ: Admittedly, because of that shame I don’t have many male friends in my life anymore.

Unnerved about what “MJ” ended our conversation with I thought about a powerful article I read years ago, “Why Men Don’t Have Friends and Why Women Should Care,” and figured that I’d send it to “MZ.”

But less than 20 minutes later, I opened my newspaper and came across an article written by Lux Alptraum, “Some #MeToo Men Want to Change. We Should Let Them.,” about Morgan Spurlock, the creator of the hit documentary, “Super-Size Me” who’d recently died from cancer. Up until his death, Spurlock was still reeling from a confessional he published, one that acknowledged his history of abusive behavior toward women, including college era rape. Despite his attempt to accept responsibility, Spurlock’s confession tanked his career, delayed the release of his sequel to “Super Size Me” and led to his leaving his company.

In his article Lux Alptraum included an admission of his own.

“I can’t shake the feeling that nearly seven years after the #MeToo (movement), we still haven’t found a way for men who want to make amends to do so meaningfully. If we truly want to truly break the cycle of harm, we need to offer an opportunity for forgiveness to those who are truly willing and eager to change. It seems wrong to me that Mr. Spurlock – who I believe genuinely hoped to learn from his actions – would have fared better if he had stayed silent.” 

Now as I’m wont to do with compelling articles I come across, I cut this one out and tucked it into a book I’m currently reading (“The Grift. The Downward Spiral of Black Republicans,” by Clay Cane in case you’re curious).

Humm, is there a connection between the experiences of MJ and Morgan Spurlock? Well as my favorite actor, TV’s “Columbo” once said, “this can mean only one thing and I have absolutely no idea what it is.” Me neither Lieutenant.

But as fate would have it, less than 24 hours later an opportunity landed in my lap when I found myself in the company of four men I knew, “Willie,” “Nat,” “Doug” and “Alonzo” at a local café. They also were in college about the same time as MZ.

After first exchanging views on the current state of world affairs- and of course sports – I asked them to share any recollections of their college experiences:

NAT: Oh yeah, those were the good old days when Boones Farm wine and girls in miniskirts were plentiful, and I had more than my share of both.

WILLIE: Yes sir. Those were the days of party, party, party, days before AIDS.

DOUG: My biggest fear is that because of advances in DNA, kids that I didn’t know I fathered may show up at my front door.

Now except for “Alonzo” who sat silently and expressionless for most of the time, the guys high fived and laughed it up after each remembrance.

ME: You’ve been quiet Alonzo. Are you okay?

ALONZO: Well to be honest, as a member of a fraternity back then, for years I’ve lived in shame, not only for the brutal hazing we did to pledgees, but to how we took advantage of girls during off campus parties.

NAT: C’mon man, we didn’t end up killing anyone, did we?

ALONZO: Fortunately not, but I still think about the long term psychological harm we caused those girls. Have you guys ever thought about the parents of those girls who worked their behinds off to get their daughters educated only have them abused by the likes of us in college?

Without anyone answering Alonzo’s question, the conversation clumsily shifted back to, well yes you guessed it, sports. But not willing to let them off the hook I posed this last question to them:

“After absorbing what you’ve learned from all this, what would you say to the man in the mirror and, in the end, to your daughter or son as they leave for college?

Minutes later, we quietly left the café having raised more questions than answers, chief among them, what is it about our culture that permits animal-like behaviors men wreak on women and how do we break the cycle?

“I’m part of the problem,” wrote Spurlock before he died. “But I’m also part of the solution.”

But aren’t we all?

Terry Howard is an award-winning trainer, writer, and storyteller. He is a contributing writer with the Chattanooga News Chronicle, The American Diversity Report, The Douglas County Sentinel, Blackmarket.com, co-founder of the “26 Tiny Paint Brushes” writers guild, recipient of the 2019 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Award, and third place winner of the 2022 Georgia Press Award.


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