Life Is Different These Days

I grew up in southern Alberta, Canada, on a farm. There was strict division of male and female roles: Mom cooked, Dad worked first as a farmer and then went back to school and became a teacher. Dad still jokes about 'blue jobs' and 'pink jobs' (male and female roles) in the household.

In grade one I remember saying, 'I want to be a girl. It is easier to draw a skirt than pants.' I could see that it was easier emotionally to be a girl. Not so harsh. A boy's life was very isolated.

My first job was in a farm equipment dealership with a bunch of men. The lunch room abounded with stories, mostly about sex. I was fascinated. Several times in my growing up I would hang out1 with older men while they told stories of sexual conquest. Because it looked like the only closeness I would get, I put my hope in women.

When I got to university, my connection with men was around a common interest: marijuana. I 'scored'2 a girlfriend, so I figured everything would be all right. In retrospect I was miserable most of that time and didn't know it could be any different. (A fish does not know it is in water.) Most of the people I thought I was close to were women. They were trying to figure out sexism and feminism; to me it felt like man-hating, and I internalized it that way.

I wasn't close to any men for a long time. I had no closeness with anyone except for the mostly patterned closeness of my current girlfriend relationship.

Around the time I started figuring out that I was miserable and there was an alternative, I found a book called In Our Own Hands; a Book of Self-Help Therapy. It was for women (I probably wouldn't have picked it up if it was for men). In it there were many group and paired exercises, basically about reclaiming goodness. (It also mentioned Harvey Jackins and Co-Counseling, and that is how I ended up here today.) I thought, "Imagine if men did this!" It was inspirational.

Six months later I was in my first Co-Counseling class, taught by our (amazing) Area Reference Person, Louisa Flander. During the class on sexism Louisa did a demonstration with me. I remember saying, 'I don't actually like men very much,' to which she replied something like, 'As you go on, you will find that you have closeness with men, things in common with men, that being with women can't even come close to.'

That was about seven years ago, and my life is a wee bit different these days. In fact, a revolution has occurred. I have good relationships with men, and I am getting there with women. I play badminton with a group of Latino men every Wednesday, and we laugh a lot. I am even close to a white Catholic country boy (like myself) and to my brothers and dad. It still feels hard, but thankfully now I have a tool for getting through the difficulties.

Dennis Wollersheim
Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia

1 To hang out is to spend time in a relaxed manner.
2 Scored means obtained.


Last modified: 2017-05-06 23:35:41-07