by: Richard Brea ((Header art by Karol Bak.))
An ode to all the amazing mothers, daughters, wives, girlfriends, queens, angels, givers of life, and goddesses in the world…
I take great pride in being a mental health advocate and knowing that I am doing my part to break the stigma attached to mental illness. While sharing my story, I have come across many brave, strong, inspiring, and beautiful souls. If you aren’t familiar with the stigma attached to mental illness, it’s a condition that causes many people (especially men) to suffer in silence.
While taking a National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Peer to Peer class last summer I realized something very upsetting: Most of the women that I have met during my mental health advocacy work have been victims of physical abuse, sexual abuse and/or rape. It broke my heart to hear these women share their stories because it made me think, Damn. How can men do this? What’s wrong with us? Why do we do this to our women? I’ve had people tell me I’m brave for sharing my story of living with a mental illness, but after hearing what these women have been through it’s difficult to consider myself as brave. I haven’t been raped or physically or sexually abused. Don’t call me brave. These strong and fearless women are the true definition of brave. I admire their strength and courage to keep moving forward in the face of such horrific experiences.
After graduating from the NAMI class I knew I wanted to dedicate my next essay to women. I spent a few months brainstorming topics and one of the first ideas that came to my mind were Tupac’s lyrics to his feminist anthem “Keep Ya Head Up”:
“And since we all came from a woman
Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman,
I wonder why we take from our women?
Why we rape our women? Do we hate our women?
I think it’s time to kill for our women.
Time to heal our women, be real to our women.
And if we don’t, we’ll have a race of babies
That will hate the ladies that make the babies.
And since a man can’t make one
He has no right to tell a woman when and where to create one.
So will the real men get up?
I know you’re fed up ladies, but keep your head up.”
I often ask myself, “Why did I take my ex-girlfriend for granted? Why do I objectify women? Why do me and my best friend lust over women?” I’ve seen some of my closest friends cheat on their amazing girlfriends and fiancés. Why? I don’t know. That’s a question only they can answer, but I know a lot of men can be dogs who only think with their heads and I’m not talking about the one attached to their necks. I’ve never cheated on any of the women I have dated because infidelity is something that has been around me my entire life. My first girlfriend cheated on me and it’s something I promised myself I would never do to someone I cared about.
As a gender, men often lust, obsess and go crazy over models, singers, actresses, and adult film stars. These women don’t give a damn about us yet many continuously shower them with tweets, comments, love, and affection. Again, I must ask, Why? Why do we let the inspiring women in our everyday lives go unnoticed? Why do we take them for granted? I wish I had the answer to these questions but I don’t. What I do know is that I will do my part to respect women. I will do my part to appreciate and show gratitude towards the women in my everyday life. I will show love and respect to every woman I come across. I have two beautiful nieces and I want them to grow up feeling loved and respected by men.
I’ve told the story of my last relationship numerous times before. It goes a little something like this: Boy meets girl. Boy and girl like each other. Boy and girl start dating. Boy takes girl for granted. Girl breaks up with boy. Boy is heartbroken and wants girl back, but it’s too late. Girl won’t go back to boy because she’s discovered there’s someone better out there for her. There’s someone who will love and appreciate her more. There’s someone who won’t ever take her for granted. Girl lives happily ever after. Boy learns a valuable life lesson and vows to be the best man he can be. Boy learns to never take another woman for granted. The end.
A lot of factors led to the break-up between my ex-girlfriend and I, but I’ll admit that I am the reason why we are no longer together. I took her for granted. I would check out other women while we were out in public. One day she opened my journal and saw the name of a female co-worker of mine named Nazareth written in my notes. Nazareth was the prettiest woman at my office. My ex also saw a note that said, “Babes on Melrose.” If you live in L.A., you’ll know Melrose Avenue is a shopping, dining, and entertainment destination where you are likely to come across celebrities and a bevy of good-looking women. My ex wasn’t happy with what she saw but I assured her she had nothing to worry about. It didn’t matter though. She was already drifting away from me.
I am not sure I will ever fully understand why men disrespect women and take them for granted. But I’m not here to point the finger at anybody because I know I need to look at the man in the mirror and take responsibility for my actions. I salute and respect the men out there that love, respect, and appreciate their women. This essay is dedicated to all the amazing mothers, daughters, wives, girlfriends, queens, angels, givers of life, and goddesses in the world. I can’t speak for other men but I promise I will do better. I promise I will be better. I am confident that in time we will be the men you want and need us to be. I know a lot of us can be dogs but don’t lose hope. Please keep your head up.