Losing myself in someone else’s story is one of my favorite pastimes. I’ve been a big reader since I was old enough to make my own book selections at the library. My father would drop me in the children’s section and I’d prowl the stacks looking for just the right story. After a while I’d hear my father making his way down the hall to collect me, the clicking sound his knee made pre-announcing his arrival in the quiet of the reading room.
Growing up I’d spend my free time imagining myself to be Laura Ingalls Wilder or Jo from Little Women or Anne of the Green Gables or one of many other courageous and independent girls or women who came to life on the pages in front of me. I didn’t fully appreciate how much I valued that skill in others until I got older. Now I’m fully aware of the ability to see the world through someone else’s eyes, or empathy, when it comes, like a gift, from others. I had one such moment recently that’s memorable for a few reasons, but one in particular makes it stand out. It came from a man.
You see I’ve always expected more from women and what I once thought was their natural ability to relate on a deeper level, but I’ve clearly underestimated men. In fact, women — and they’re usually in the MOM community — are the ones who’ve bruised me most with their callous disregard for infertility. They offer up their dismissal with a mixture of statements like, “Must be nice to have all the time in the world to devote to shopping” (no, you’d find it rather empty after a while) or “You have no idea how hard it is to be a MOM” (you’re right, I don’t).
In contrast, there was this encounter. One of my men friends printed out my entire blog and read it on a cross country plane trip. A few weeks later he and wife along with me and my sweet guy were together on a visit to a noisy beach populated mostly by toddlers tearing into the water with inflatable dragons wrapped around their bellies, fathers playing catch with their progeny and mothers carefully reapplying sunscreen on their infants every few hours. It’s a scene that has always produced a mixture of envy and heartache that I’ve just come to accept.
Later that night over a glass of wine when we were discussing the progress on my book, this man turned to me and said, “you know after reading about your experiences I arrived at the beach today and tried for the first time to imagine how it must look to someone who can’t have children.”
Suffice to say I was touched. Touched that he would take the time to see the world through my eyes, touched that he would acknowledge the difficulty those with infertility face in the most ordinary of weekend afternoons and touched that my words gave him reason to express true empathy.
* * * * *
And as a helpful pointer to men who themselves might be having difficulty with the “male factor,” I came across this news report: Taking steps to slow men’s fading fertility.
August 28, 2007 3:38 pm
To have a friend like that, a MALE friend, is truly special. I know how hard it was for him to imagine that since even though I read blogs of women who are going through PIF or even childfree, it’s truly a test of my imagination to look around my little world and try to pretend I never had X. It’s so hard to do, to show that empathy, because the emotions can get twisted up in what was lost compared to what wasn’t ever there and that’s incredibly difficult.
August 28, 2007 4:17 pm
Thats so great you had a male friend read all your thoughts and offer you an HONEST opinion and he seems very insightful and compassionate to understand seeing it through your eyes. Great post PJ…and thanks for that news link–I need to read over that!
August 28, 2007 4:26 pm
What a wonderful story, thanks so much for sharing.
What prompted him to print out your blog?
August 28, 2007 4:45 pm
I am convinced that one of the best gifts we can give a person is to understand him/her.
I’m glad this happened for you. It motivates me to seek to do the same today.
August 28, 2007 9:17 pm
Most of my male friends do seem to get it — whether they be gay or straight, fathers or childless. Unfortunately D. has not had such a sympathetic reaction from other men. Perhaps both men and women resort to (cruel) humor when attempting to commiserate with members of the same sex?
August 29, 2007 12:01 am
Your friend sound like a very unique and kind individual. It is impressive not only that he took the time to print and read your blog but that he practiced such genuine empathy. What a great lesson for all of us.
August 29, 2007 1:20 am
Wow what a wonderful man. I agree we sometimes under estimate men.. 🙂 I can’t believe he printed it out your entire blog and read it. What a great friend.
August 29, 2007 1:44 am
Women actually suck in many ways. I’ve often found men to be more comforting listeners. They don’t seem to feel the same anxiety when it comes to knowing what to say.
August 29, 2007 4:51 pm
Empathy is a powerful thing. Truth is we could all use more of it – for ourselves and for others. Like Ellen said, my husband gets jokes and jabs from his male friends. Nice to know the sensitive type still exists!
August 29, 2007 7:24 pm
That is amazing–it definitely speaks volumes about his large heart.
August 29, 2007 8:36 pm
You’ve got a real point here, because my dad gets it more than my mom does (or at least I feel he’s giving it a real effort) and my BIL has been the most sensitive/supportive person on C’s side of the family. And my most supportive IRL girlfriend, well she isn’t a mom.
Hmmmm . . .
I’m glad your (male) friend was able to show you think kind of understanding.
August 29, 2007 9:16 pm
What a wonderful friend!!
August 30, 2007 9:45 am
what a great guy! don’t you love it when people surprise you? wonderful story, thank you for sharing. I was actually thinking today how fine it is of you to read my blog as often as you do. It is filled with my child! I want you to know, I too through your teaching, have come to see it through your eyes. So thank you for coming over and your constant support.