It's not about Oprah or People Magazine or the red carpet or American Idol or even Dr. Phil. Men don't talk because the very vocabulary for day-to-day life has been so dominated by a female frame of reference that we've lost the ability to explain ourselves in any meaningful way. So we dig a deeper and deeper hole as men. It's about Tony Soprano and Don Draper. Only in real life.
"Feelings" is a female word used to describe one of thousands of states of mind that a woman goes through on a daily basis. As a devoted husband, madly in love with my wife, the only thing I know for sure is that she's the one. But I have had to become an expert at reading the tea leaves and using my powers as a Vulcan mind reader to anticipate my wife's moods because I am not like her. I'm a guy.
I'm all about getting stuff done and not talking about it during the process. My life is like a long to-do list where I am constantly trying to check off the boxes. Walk the dog. Check. Take the kids to the dentist. Check. Make investment decisions. Check. Ride my bike until my heart rate maxes out. Check.
I also like to think that I am on some kind of against-all-odds heroic mission in my life, even if its on the tiniest of scales. In my case it has to do with experiencing huge professional success early on in life, going through a god-awfully painful divorce with little kids that shattered me as a man, and then trying desperately to put all the pieces back together again. I have seen the mountain tops but also the gutter. Most guys have.
I'm a sucker for come-from-behind stories from the Shawshank Redemption to the Red Sox winning four straight against the Yankees in the 2004 ACLS. It also means when I look into Tony Soprano or Don Draper's eyes and see a good man trying desperately to get out, despite all kinds of depraved behavior, I can relate. I'm transfixed by the moral battle going on in one body. That struggle is what I end up talking to my guy friends most about. Just how to do the right thing as a father and husband even when the cards seem profoundly stacked against you.
My theory is that my group of friends and I are not the only ones. At this moment in history guys from Wall Street to General Motors, Sing Sing to Harvard, Boston to Marines in Bagdad are all looking in the mirror asking what the hell happened to the life they had thought they were chasing.
Its a moment of national introspection for us men as we re-evaluate what's really important. Some are staying home with the kids, some are changing careers completely, some are re-dedicating themselves to marriage, and some are getting divorced. Some are going green.
What unites us is that we each have a story to tell. And we are a lot more similar than we know. We sure as hell don't want to talk about our feelings. But deep down we want to believe we are good guys. And we don't want to be alone. We're fascinated by other guys who are also the real deal, fighting the good fight and winning.
So the answer to me is not Oprah for guys. It's guys telling their stories in men's language. About doing right and wrong. About pain and suffering. About violence endured and inflicted. About success and failure. About redemption. About being a father, son, husband and provider. And in the end about the struggle to be a good man.
Follow Tom Matlack on Twitter: www.twitter.com/tmatlack