What A Man Is

I am a strong and fiercely independent woman. I always have been. When I was 18 years old, in 1990, I left my comfy small town of Groton, Massachusetts, to attend college and live in NYC. I wanted to be a performer, actor, comedian, writer, or anything that got me out of that boring and predictable suburban life. I wanted more. So I went out on my own, leaving behind my wonderful family and all my relatives and friends, hoping to make new friends and a life for myself. And I did. I lived in and around the city for years. First, at college. Then, getting apartments with friends in Brooklyn, Queens, and ultimately, New Jersey, just 10 minutes outside NYC. I was 5 hours away from family, and often lonely and scared.

But I never had a problem doing things for myself and by myself, or not being in relationships for years at a time. I was never one of those girls you see who always has a boyfriend or has to be with someone. Nope. In fact, I was usually not with someone at all. I carried my own groceries up the stairs or across multiple streets, lugged my own heavy suitcases, figured out ways to try and keep myself feeling safe on those days I had to come home late at night on the subway by myself. I did all of that for years. Alone. By the time I met Don, and by the time he finally moved in with me so we could start our life together in 2005, I was exhausted. I was so beyond ready to have a man in the house, or, apartment. I am an independent woman, but there is something to be said for what a man brings, what a man gives, and what a man is - in a relationship. It's now been 4 years since my dear husband died his sudden death, and once again, I am exhausted. I'm exhausted from being a woman, who no longer has a man. And at the end of the day, there is something to be said about that. 

There is something to be said about having male energy around you. That force of strength and testosterone and gruffness, to counter my feminine qualities. I find myself longing for that hug from a man, the way they just hold you and envelop you in their arms, making you feel as if there is nobody else outside of that embrace. 

I miss the safeness and the security that comes from a man's presence. Don was the walking poster boy for "safe." Everything about him screamed and whispered safe. He was a paramedic. He was an Air Force Vet who fixed the planes and made them safe - a Flight Crew Chief. He was a car mechanic who always made sure our car was safe before I got in it to go to work. He spent his days off volenteering for animal rescue, helping with adoptions and caring for the dogs and cats with such tenderness and love. Before I met him, I had gone through a huge traumatic event in my life, and so as a result, I had unbelievable insomnia and nightmares. Don made me feel safe. When he was lying next to me in our bed, just knowing he was there and looking over and seeing his large, 6 foot 3 frame, made me feel like nothing could ever harm me again. He was my protector, my safe haven, my lighthouse. Hearing him breath in the night gave me a comfort like I had never known. 

There is something to be said for a man like my husband, who always held the car door open for me to get in. Who carried the groceries and all the heavy bags and boxes. Who carried the table and products from the car inside the store when I used to do Food Demos part-time. Who acted as my unpaid assistant, doing all the really hard stuff, when I had my own side business as a Wedding Planner. There is something to be said for a man who instinctively throws a blanket over you at night, when he feels like you might be cold. Who gets in the car at 3 am and runs to Target, because your printer ran out of ink, and you have to write up your syllabus for first day of teaching in the morning. He puts oil in the car and always gives it to you with a full tank of gas, and when that red service engine light comes on, you call him and he jumps on a bus from New Jersey into the city, and then a train from the city to Long Island, and then another bus, just to get to you and take care of it. He doesn't have much money, but he gives you the last of whatever is in his wallet, always. He sends you off with a kiss on your forehead as he hums happily or strums his guitar, creating the background noise of your life together. When you wake up from a nightmare or a flashback about your trauma, he holds you and rocks you back and forth and runs his strong yet soft fingers through your hair, whispering: "It's okay Boo. You're safe here. I'm not going to let anything happen to you." 

He waits up for you on the nights when you come home late with the car, and he meets you inside the dark parking garage across the street, and then walks you back safely to the apartment. You could do it alone. You did do it alone for years. All of it. But that's the point. You no longer have to, because now you have this incredible, wonderful man, and you get to let him take care of you in all those ways that he loves doing. 

And when the world gets terrifying and people are getting shot and killing one another for no goddamn reason and you are scared out of your mind at all the violence, and you are feeling all those old trauma triggers coming right back and re-surfacing, he takes you in his arms and he explains that nothing bad will happen to you. He takes the bad scary world and somehow makes it fluffy and beautiful again. 

And there is something to be said for the smell of a man. That smell of fresh laundry and linens, mixed with just a hint of aftershave. And the way his hands are like oven mitts and your hands wrap entirely around his so that they become invisible when you are holding hands. And his tallness and large frame make you feel petite for the first time in your overweight life. And he offers you his coat even though you're never cold. And he stretches out all the way across the couch, his legs lying across it and up and over the sides. And his things and his "stuff" are everywhere, taking over the entire apartment. Gym bags filled with ratty t-shirts and tennis rackets and towels and guitar equipment and speakers and socks and that ugly off-white shirt he wears that you hate, and isn't every bit of it so glorious? That man, and every cell of him, is there with you. He chose you. He chose you to annoy and to comfort and to frustrate and to love until the end of time, and far beyond. 

And now that man is dead, and you look around 4 years later, and all the stuff is gone or boxed up somewhere in a basement, or donated to some pleasant and worthy cause. There is no more man-smell in your life, and you are once again carrying all your own groceries and lifting those heavy suitcases and holy shit, do you resent it. "I already DID all of this by myself for YEARS!!!", you scream into the nothing. "I found my person and I thought I would never have to do this shit alone, ever again. I found my teammate. I FOUND him. And now he has been taken away. FUCCCCKKKKK!!!!!" You scream this as you are shuffling down the city streets after a long day at work, carrying all the baggage that comes with no longer having that beautiful man in your world. And you go to bed that night, and you try like hell not to feel like you are unsafe, and like bad things are going to happen to you because you are female and vulnerable and terrified. You close your eyes, and you wonder if the nightmares will begin when you fall asleep, or do they start after you wake up again, in this big bad world without your lighthouse in it. 

And at the end of the day, there is something to be said about that. 

Showing 14 reactions

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  • Natasha Keeto
    commented 2016-02-09 09:37:00 -0800
    This made me cry my eyes out. I just hit the 6 month mark. Thank you for writing this. It made me remember some little things I probably have been avoiding. Like him covering me with a blanket at night, making sure I have enough room in the bed, the list goes on. Thank you for helping me remember all the little sweet things. And yes Ithe angers me. I spent much of my life to be independent. The man I give my heart soul and mind to, passes away. He spoiled me and made me feel like his princess. Now I’m here exhausted like you said, trying to remember how to do it again.
  • Dawn Kuebler
    commented 2015-10-20 20:07:01 -0700
    Well said. I lost my husband 3 months ago and miss his manliness. He made me feel safe in this crazy world. I miss him so much. Now, I need to help our 12 year old son feel safe without his Dad. Hope I have the strength.
  • Kelley Lynn
    commented 2015-09-03 20:43:52 -0700
    Wow thanks guys for all the comments. Some of them came later in the week so I didnt see them until now. Im so glad this resonated with so many of you. Rebecca – thats how I feel too, like I already paid my dues for YEARS with the horrid dating and the single life. Ugh. It sucks…..
  • Diane Buchanan
    commented 2015-09-02 18:07:14 -0700
    I was with my man for 43 years- since I wax 19 and he was 22. Now I’m alone and I hate every minute of it. You described my pain, the things I miss and that empty, achy, pusses-off feeling that this isn’t fair that makes up my life.
  • Rebecca Collins
    commented 2015-08-31 04:32:01 -0700
    Oh man, this even made ME miss Don!! I wish you still had that. I wish I did too. I think Dan and Don were very similar (and not just the names, haha). He made me safe. And I was alone and independent for so bloody long before finding him! I’d paid my single-girl-dues and deserved this wonderful guy that I’d patiently waited for! Damn it.
  • Casey Wheeler
    commented 2015-08-30 19:16:38 -0700
    I so get this! This made me cry. Oh how I miss everything about having a man (Rex) around me. I ways told Rex I fit perfectly in his arms and that it was meant for me. I hate this crap. You always have a way to put into words how I feel.
  • Sarah Treanor
    commented 2015-08-30 06:54:10 -0700
    Yeah, you made me cry today. Damn. Even after these years, I still hate all of this shit. For you. For me. For all of us. And even if i have found someone new… I still HATE all of this simultaneously. I still hate that Mike isn’t Drew in some small corner of my heart… and I always will. If that makes any sense (I’m sure in widow terms it does). God this shit is so so accurate. Well written.
  • Liza Rupp
    commented 2015-08-29 14:43:34 -0700
    Yup. You nailed it again. I can do all these things on my own and I’m proud of myself for being capable and independent, but damn it sucks sometimes to HAVE to do it bc you have no other choice. I miss that male energy too. Hugs.
  • Cathy
    commented 2015-08-29 08:52:38 -0700
    Having lost husband, Mom, friend, Dad, brother in law/best friend in the past 5 years, I can identify with everything you say. That safety net of loving people in my life isn’t there anymore, and I’m back to figuring it out and doing it by myself once again. Definitely sucks big time.
  • Lisa Richardson
    commented 2015-08-29 00:20:36 -0700
    Wow Kelley so, so true for me as well. And I get so tired of hearing people say “you’re such a strong woman!” I’m tired of being strong. I’m tired, and I miss not having to be strong. I’m just tired of all of it.
  • Judy Kaan
    commented 2015-08-28 21:26:00 -0700
    This really hit home with me – of feeling safe with my husband. The security, the caring – and I was very independent also. Now with this hurricane that could hit Florida and might now – missing him being with me and I would feel safe. So unfair. This is your best blog post ever! Thank you for validating my feelings – especially with this weekend coming up.
  • Sharon Kenney
    commented 2015-08-28 20:24:25 -0700
    Once again, Kelley, you nailed it. We don’t know what that sense of safeness is until we have it. And then to lose it, the love and security and protective caring, even for those of us who are independent and sure-footed, well, we all know the feeling. But you are the one who can put words to it. Thank you.
  • Marissa Hutton
    commented 2015-08-28 13:44:10 -0700
    “…unfairness of it all…”
  • Marissa Hutton
    commented 2015-08-28 13:42:16 -0700
    This really resonates with me. I really miss the safety of being wrapped in my hubby’s arms, the way he smelled after he worked out (he thought he smelled gross but to me, he smelled fine because he didn’t smell like an old gym sock or like he hadn’t showered in decades like some of the guys at the gym smell. Bleh!) and I miss how he smelled when he put on his cologne.

    My adult sons will occasionally wear his cologne and while they don’t smell like their dad, it does bring back memories. I start thinking how lucky their girlfriends’ are to have a man in their lives’ while lamenting the fact that mine has been dead for 3 years and 2 months.

    Maybe I’ll get a shot at having a good, loving man in my life again but until then, you’ll probably hear me drop hella F bombs at the unfairness at it all as I continue on this journey without my 6’4", 250 gentle giant by my side.