12/30/2013 05:14 pm ET Updated Mar 01, 2014

Two Ways to Be a Man

During the waning days of 2013 where buildings are adorned with gaudy blinding lights and people strut around with saccharine cheer, soul music has been a welcome depressant. Names like Teddy Pendergrass, Barry White and Eddie Kendricks are in constant rotation. For years, I have listened to these men shriek, wail and lament about love, sex and relationships. And probably till the day I die, these men and I will never be able to truly understand that beauty, that scourge, that ultimate salvation. The Woman.

Like these soul men, I think I revere, hate, love and need women. I lived in a household surrounded by women, who informed me on life's many secrets. But as I grew older, I always felt trapped by societal chains. My Papa, the embodiment of the strong and silent type, told me, very seriously, "Men don't cry," I took that to heart, opting to punch stuff or secretly write a couple of poetic lines in a journal. But then in soul music, I would hear these grown, handsome and successful men literally cry on these records, struggling mightily with this lady that they couldn't shake or let go of.

My two role models, these crooners and my papa, gave me two ways to be a man. I thought that being a man meant never showing who you truly were. But that was what these soul men that I admired did on the daily.

Once I got into relationships, I went in with some sort of arrogance. I had this duplicity that I could use against women who bewildered my father and stunned these soul men. Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes taught me how plead with a woman. Marvin taught me about sex. And my Papa taught me how to be strong and mysterious. I thought I knew the game. And with some girls, that was all that was needed. But of course, the older people get, the wiser (hopefully) they become and can see the game before it's played out. Before I knew it, there was water on my face and I'm out the door, shaking my head, musing, "You know, its funny, I thought I had her in the palm of my hand."

I gaze with jealousy at my sisters, or some of my female friends, getting to do what soul men, Papa and I couldn't do. They gather round with their ladies and have "shit sessions": they talk shit but they also talk through shit. After they wade through the bullshit, they come to a realization about their man and what a lot of women realized about me :"You ain't shit."

But what do fellas like me do? We smoke a little bit, drink a little bit, and then fuck (or fuck up) a whole lotta nothing. Damn, Papa, is that what you meant by a being real man? That's why, late at night, we end up making those phone calls like Drake and start asking stupid questions when its way too late like, "have you seen her?"

I believe I have been in love once. My reference is the soul music that sometimes acts as my muse. And one song in particular, "I Met a Little Girl," has been haunting me this holiday season. I met a little girl, sure was fine and took me home and made love to me. And with her was where I wanted to be. We never got married, but it sure felt like it. But as Marvin, and me and many men are wont to do, we mess it up. With a couple of lies, a few missed rendezvous and a few too many bouts of immaturity she was gone. I haven't spoken to her in more than year, but as I write this, I wonder if she is a friend of mine.

I desperately do not want to be these soul men, stuck in heartbreak, sadness, and worst of all, loneliness. But I also do not want be my Papa, hardened by past demons. They both showed me ways to be a man, but I have to be my own man. I do not envy those who are married nor do I see myself being in a serious relationship anytime soon. But as 2014 looms larger, I pray in earnest that when that woman, that beauty, that scourge, my ultimate salvation, chooses me, I am a better man and even better father. Only then, oh Marvin can I say, "Hallelujah, I'm free."