I’ve belonged to a few groups on Facebook especially set up for camping, with names like solo campers, 50’s & Over, and wandering women. I’ve also joined one called rver’s, and something like Roadtrippers. Today there was a post on another group by someone who talked about a male camper she had just met who creeped her out by asking a lot of personal questions. Maybe there was more to the story that she didn’t tell. Anyway, I was shocked by the “support” she got from so many other women who had to share horror stories of their own. You now might think that all male campers are weirdos or psychos, or that the world is so very unsafe that we should stay home and lock ourselves in and away from it all.Those comments said as much about the storyteller as about the other characters or the interaction itself. I felt sad to think that there were so many walking wounded, or angry, hurt, and scared people. It’s one thing to look for support or guidance or to give a warning. It’s another to employ scare tactics or bash someone (or a class of someones) because of a victim mentality or exaggerate to gain attention. It was difficult to read. I could grow a little seed of fear since I camp solo from time to time; instead, I choose to celebrate a few good men, on behalf of all the other good men. I don’t think it’s because I am in any way desensitized to these kinds of things. I’ve worked in the legal/judicial field all of my adult life. I have heard true stories that can’t be matched by amateurs. But more than that, I think it’s because I trust my own experiences of this world over that of someone else, even if they really believe their version of whatever they are telling me. If my own experience is different, then that is what I know to be true. I know – it can be challenging to change my opinions when necessary, but I always start from the point of what is true for me. As a woman “solowingnow,” I’m sure I could be excused for feeling vulnerable or withdrawing into a very tight niche. I spend a fair amount of time by myself. I don’t think that makes me gullible. Rather, it has made me aware, of my surroundings, of my own limits, of the value of another person. I know at least a few good men, starting with my sons.My sons (including my son-in-law) are good parents. They are responsible and law-abiding and funny and loving and helpful and productive and thoughtful and smart and generous. They aren’t perfect, but they are awesome, and they learn and they grow and they try. They are confident without being arrogant; they are courageous without taking stupid risks; they are creative at living while doing what needs to be done. I have no reason to believe my grandson won’t carry on these fine qualities. I have a good brother, too. He has figured out how to not fix things when I call in tears, and to just listen. But when I do need things fixed, he picks up a screwdriver and flashlight or a chain saw. When I need to worry and say things out loud to make sense of them, he listens and waits for me to give him the green light to talk, and then he says “I’ve got your back.” We don’t always agree, so we’ve learned to disagree with respect. Of course, I had a great husband, and actually, two great husbands but the first one was only great for a while and then he wasn’t so great, so I consider him my starter husband. He wasn’t him all bad all the time. My second husband, though, was a real keeper.He had a way of smiling so that you knew he felt it all the way to his bones. He was as gentle as they come when it came to holding babies and playing with puppies and baking pies. He never tried to force his opinions on me (or anyone else), and he was patient, and shy, and appreciative. He couldn’t keep a dollar in his pocket, and he had some kind of damn bad luck with boats and docks on the fishing opener, but he was comfortable in his own skin and liked his own company. I trusted him with my life. I worked with some great guys over the years, too. There was an attorney boss who helped me study for a paralegal certification exam. The director made a call to put things in motion when I was only getting stalled. Another attorney nominated me for Legal Secretary of the Year (I won, by the way). The judge still sends me Christmas cards more than 10 years after he retired. The colleague who invited me to co-present at a conference so we could both get some national experience. The one a few steps away on the org chart who went out of his way to come to Kevin’s funeral a few years after we both had gone on to other jobs. The neighbor who shovels my walk when it snows, and the one who cares for his wife in a Memory Care Facility twice a day, every day, and the one who fostered and then adopted two brothers, and the one who taught me to drive a motorcycle, and the ones who help me back my camper in at the campground, and the one who helped my friend push her dead car out of the traffic, and the one who shares joy by dressing as Santa Claus and distributing toys on his motorcycle, and the one who takes pride in helping newbie public speakers practice their speeches, and the one who teaches self-defense to women, and … and … and …. so many more. I know some jerks and liars and cheats and condescending animals, too, of both the male and female variety. I’m not naive; I’ve got my own sob stories and tall tales. There are some people I avoid, some I am wary of, and some I tolerate. And some I love. But what I don’t do is lump them all in the same basket and consider them ALL bad apples. I am glad that women are engaged and informed and that they find reasonable opportunities to express their views openly. I wish it could be without attacking or antagonizing – and yes, offending. I do feel offended when the men in my life are defenseless against this infectious, unfocused, unbridled anger. So today I am standing up for not just a few good men in my life, but the ones in your lives, and everywhere. When I was raising my boys, I used to say that I couldn’t show my boys how to be men exactly, but I could show them how to respect themselves and others. When I was dating, I would ask myself if I would want my children to be like this man. And now as a widow, I say this prayer: God, please help me help myself, so I can help others help themselves. I’d sure like it if you would tell me about a good man, or a few good men, that you know! Please comment below. Let’s share the goal of spreading some civility today.
by Patricia Duggan