I Love Awkward!

Shaun Emerson Blog 12 Comments

Every Saturday, for years, I have read Peggy Noonan’s Declarations column in the Wall Street Journal. Last Saturday, Peggy was writing as always about politics, the country and not too surprisingly COVID and the vaccine. Towards the end of the article, she wrote this, “It seems a funny thing to say of public policy, but so much of what doesn’t work in life has to do with an absence of love.”

How about it? Two weeks ago, I wrote about TB12 kissing his son and dad on the lips and this week I am going to write about love. My friend, Tom O’Brien, is famous for saying, “I love awkward!” This post might get awkward.

This line in a Peggy column in the WSJ took me totally by surprise. I don’t expect to see an essentially conservative icon pairing public policy and love. Her “declaration” is one I fully embrace. I have come to learn that life works so much better when it’s all about love. And that doesn’t necessarily jive with what we are taught as men.

Raise your hand if you feel awkward talking about love. If you raised your hand, I am not surprised. We (men) have been more or less conditioned to not develop our love gene, unless we are talking romantic love. And even then, how “emotional” can we be before our manliness will be questioned. I wonder if “what doesn’t work in life has to do with an absence of love” is at the heart of our struggles as men.

What is this love I am referring to? Love is new, fresh, curious, alive. Love is not sex. Love is not attachment. Love is not desire. Love is not fear. Love is not fear. I typed it twice for effect. Fear gets in the way of so much. We often fear what will happen to us if we don’t act in accordance with our conditioning. Learning to let the fear go, loving (and life) gets so much easier. 

But letting the fear go, can be hard. My good friend, Dr. Gerry Bouey says, “love cannot be objectified it must be experienced through, freedom, acceptance and mutual benefit.” Pitrim Sorokin, the famed sociologist, defines love as “a meaningful interaction or relationship between two or more persons where the aspirations and aims of one person are shared and helped in their realization by other persons.” 

Can you wrap your arms around these definitions? Easier than letting the fear go (at least in the short term)? They aren’t mushy at all. They seem almost practical to me. Definitions we can “operationalize.” Love that we can live, we can practice.

I think love and loving is foundational for MenLiving. The idea that expressing love in any form is not manly is counter to our charter. In fact, it is the loving man who is strong and powerful. I think Peggy would agree that for the loving man, more works than doesn’t work. And there is nothing awkward about him.

Comments 12

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  1. First thought was It was awkward for me. However- I just stepped out of my comfort zone and told an 80 yr old man who has helped me in my sobriety and in life that I loved him. Thanks for the inspiration to do so!

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  2. Powerful, Shaun. I still feel awkward talking about love, at times, especially with men I truly do love. Even in the past few days, I felt a little bit awkward hearing “I love you” and saying “Love you, too” to my brother. My frickin’ brother! But thinking about what drives my awkwardness, like you said, I know it’s mostly fear and my conditioning from childhood that men don’t show emotion, love or compassion. That’s weak and only for the women, so said my family as I grew up. My heart knows that’s bullshit, but my head still gets caught up, sometimes, in the past. Thanks so much for the insight. Love you, Shaun. 🙂 (That didn’t feel awkward at all!)

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  3. Jason, I’m sorry to hear to about that. I know we talked about this very subject at the retreat and my heart went out to you then.

    Especially because the men I grew up around, while not good role models otherwise, were quite comfortable expressing love between men. And when I look back at the super-charged man-lab that is high school, I still recall some of us freely expressing how much we loved our friends. And I absolutely tell my male friends now I love them.

    From what others are saying, it sounds like I might of have just got lucky. Maybe since I’m so comfortable with it just makes me feel like others are? Maybe I’m the one throwing it out first and making easier for those around me? I honestly don’t know but I do think most men are completely okay with it.

    Love you all.

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  4. Missed this on Christmas Eve but I love this piece, I love Peggy’s declaration, and I love you, Shaun, and all ya all.

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