“It’s the time when you find out, all of a sudden you realize as you get older, that maybe your father wasn’t just there to raise you, that he actually had dreams of his own and things he wanted to do and things that he has sacrificed.” – James Gandolfini, on a moment in the film Not Fade Away
Actor James Gandolfini, known for his role as Tony Soprano, is a 51 year old man with a 13 year old son. His statement that I quote was meant as an interpretation of what inspired him in the role that he played in the movie, but it’s obvious that the truth of that statement likely comes from his own personal experience. His statement is very obvious, not really in the realm of an epiphany for me, but I can relate to what he says simply by being a 51 year old father of a 13 year old son.
The more I experience as a father, the more I am able to communicate with my own father about my own life. We can relate on a more personal level because I am no longer just looking at him as my father, I know I am talking to someone who has already gone through much of what I am also going through. My dad sacrificed for me, put himself aside….
There is a reason I didn’t finish that sentence.
There is something most men don’t directly talk about as they get older, a pain most endure alone — a sacrifice not as obvious as putting aside a dream, giving up driving new cars or having nice things, writing a book or finding the perfect fitness zen. Those are all on my list, by the way, and sometimes they are just plain excuses. Oh, guys complain, mostly joke about it, and indirectly talk about it. One group of guys I hang with and exchange emails with are constantly talking about the WA (wife alarm) and sending out cartoons that make fun of marriage. If I may say so, and I will, that strikes me as a bit emasculating and I won’t do it.
Others take it a step further and complain about their wife to that single or married woman for sympathy or a potential screw. That is not emasculating, it is pitiful and pathetic.
Of course, some just blog about it. Oops.
I do feel a bit pathetic. Not just because I do use my blogging privilege as a mechanism to clear my soul (you have been warned), but because I am guilty of complaining about my wife. Guys are pitiful that way.
What I am trying to convey when I say that married men, men who stay the course with their family and wife through thick and much thin even when they get to that point when it starts to become obvious that youth is starting to leave them and the attractiveness of youth is being replaced by the comfortable appearance of middle age, really have to put self aside to stay. When the comfort of sex, of any physical attention, starts to wane and the children take priority, it takes a real man to stick around and stay faithful. It is a sacrifice that really isn’t comfortable to speak about in public, to admit to any one.
I said this to my dad by email this morning. We talk a lot through email these days.
I think most guys, if they are honest, are going to say that sex takes a back door and even their marriage takes a back door for a season in their marriage. I never expected it to last.
We don’t expect the honeymoon to last. I enjoyed the party as long as I could, not realizing how delicate of an arrangement my marriage would become. Nor did I realize what it would be like when the physical attention came to a screeching halt. The delicacy of marriage, the sensitivities required, is not always as obvious as any man would like it to be no matter how hard he tries. I found out in a counseling session that my wife did not feel that I supported her enough through a miscarriage and the procedure that followed. That was the reason she gave for shutting down on me, giving me years of pounding my head against the shower wall during cold showers.
I have stayed. That is what real husbands do. Real husbands stay even when it hurts to think that maybe, just maybe, his wife is not what he envisioned as a newlywed a real wife to be.
And we wonder if we are alone in that type of situation. We are not. It has taken me a while to figure that out. Because guys never say it. They never talk about it. We do not want to embrace the notion that we are not sex gods.
Some give up and leave. Some turn to a mistress. Some turn to perversion. Others find ways to indulge themselves, to replace what they are missing.
Then I see ads for movies like “This Is 40”, listen to my dad tell me that something similar (but not as extreme) happened to him, think about what my friends talk about. I realize that it’s a condition that happens in every marriage, a condition that has to be overcome. Likely by sacrifice, not by accepting the ceiibacy that comes with the season, but by sacrificing the part of a man that refuses to talk about it with his wife.
I am trying. I am not all the way there yet. At least I know I am not alone.
Cold shower, anyone?