Role Models

The question of what male role models we looked up to growing up and now as we’re transitioning showed up on one of my message boards recently and it really got me thinking.  Currently, I don’t think I really have any role models of any gender.  I look around my life and it’s not that I don’t admire certain traits of some people I know, but I can’t point to any one person and say, “I want to be like them.”  But if I think back to childhood and my teenage years I definitely had some role models.  In fact, what I find disturbing about this whole question for myself is that I didn’t just look up to some of those people, I got obsessed with them and tried to be like them as much as possible.  I’ve come to the conclusion that I was going through a complete identity crisis and had no idea who I was or I was disassociating from who I was by trying to be someone else.  I often confused some of these obsessions with crushes and thought that my fascination with them was sexual in nature when it wasn’t at all.  When given the opportunity to have sex with one of my “crushes” I quickly said no thank you.  He was confused why I would not want to have sex since he knew I had crushed on him for several years.  I was confused too.

But the thing I know now is that I didn’t want to be with them sexually.  I wanted to BE them.  Or at least be LIKE them.  I wanted to look like them and act like them and have other people treat me like they were treated.  Most of my crushes were on male pop stars of my youth.  I’m ashamed to name them because it would show everyone what a sap I was back then.  But, I’ll be brave and name a few here.  First there was Joe Namath of the New York Jets.  Sonny of Sonny and Cher.  The Captain from Captain and Tennille.  Shaun Cassidy.  David Cassidy.  My trumpet teacher from college.  The tuba teacher in college (different college).  A couple boys who played trumpet in music groups I was involved with.  All of these guys/men made an impact on me in some way.  When I was obsessing about them I would become them and in my fantasy world I WAS them.  I can look at some of my school pictures and tell you what celebrity or real life person I was obsessing about at that time.  Ninth grade picture, I’m in a navy blue turtle neck.  If I had been able to wear a captain’s cap and round sun glasses I would have.  Tenth grade I had grown out my hair and was trying to pull off the David Cassidy look.  Eleventh I was channeling one of the boys in the band and then, as some of you may remember, in 12th grade I had turned into a man with a mustache.  Haha, kidding, but my senior picture got replaced with a picture of a dude in the yearbook.  Senior pictures for girls at my school entailed stripping down to your bra and trying to keep this velvet drape thingy over your shoulders to look like you were wearing an evening gown.  Somehow I pulled it off and it wasn’t too bad.  Then in freshman year of college I was crushing on the tuba teacher who wore Frye boots and suddenly I wanted Frye boots really badly.  Sophomore year I was doing my hair like my trumpet teacher wore his and dressing like him.

Where was I in all of this?  Hiding, I guess.

There was a war going on inside me that I wasn’t even aware of.  My fantasy world was rich with all these characters I was playing in my head.  Male role models?  Umm…my uncles?  My dad that I didn’t even know?  I don’t know.  Before, when I thought I was female I would tell you that Eleanor Roosevelt and Amelia Earhart were my role models.  Well, I looked up to them at least and I still do.  I could do a lot worse than to have them as my role models.  There are men I admire, of course, at least in some regards.  Hemingway, Teddy Roosevelt, Gene Kelly, John F. Kennedy.  In real life, I had a couple neighbors who were Navy men and I admire both of them very much.  One of them passed away a while back and his funeral moved me in a way that funerals never have before or since.  I’ve never seen so many grown men kneel down by a casket in Arlington cemetery (or any cemetery) and weep the way his friends did at the end of his funeral.  It chokes me up to recall it in my memory.  The Eulogy his best friend gave before the burial is something that Candace and I still talk about to this day.  It was moving beyond anything you’ve ever seen in a movie or on TV.  I left his funeral feeling like a changed person.  The other neighbor battled cancer at a very young age and it nearly killed him.  Somehow he has survived and thrived through it.  I saw family and friends from all over, including myself, come to his and his family’s aid during this trying time.  To make things worse, his wife had just given birth to twins when he got his diagnosis.  I’m happy to report that they are all doing great now and the twins are in 7th grade.  What’s extraordinary about him is not just the amount of respect and love that was poured on him and his family at that time, but also the strength and determination he showed to be here for his family today.  It was a bad time, but he always kept a light spirit and gratitude for the generosity he was receiving from others.  He’s a very humble man, yet he’s a Navy commander and is deeply respected by his peers and friends alike.  I respect both of these men tremendously.  If I have to pick male role models it would be both of them.  They are the kind of man I want to be.  And I don’t want to BE them.  Professionally, I look to several people who shaped me as a young musician and the joy and love of music that they infectiously shared with me.  They’re my role models too.

I can’t point to one single person as my “role model”.  Instead, I take the best of these people and try to integrate their morality, ethics, work ethic, value systems into my own and use that to upgrade what I already have.  People we’re attracted to are like mirrors of ourselves.  What we admire in them is already within us.  They’re simply here to show us how we could be better than we currently are.  No one person is perfect.  I admire Teddy Roosevelt for his determination, curious nature, and spirit with which he lived his life.  Benjamin Franklin is another man I admire for all of the amazing things he was able to accomplish in his lifetime.  A wiser man I couldn’t ever hope to find.  Hemingway I think of as a man’s man and ultra masculine in an old fashioned sense.  Many don’t like him for the same reasons I find him interesting.  That’s ok.  JFK, well, his handsome, youthful idealism is still intriguing to much of the population.  We all hunger for a leader like JFK again.  I’m nothing like him, but I still admire him and once upon a time I was a little bit like him.  Maybe.  Maybe in my fantasies at least.

Today, it’s scary to pick a role model or “hero” to follow.  We live in such a transparent world that someone can be a hero one day and a chump (or convict) the next.  Anybody here used to look up to OJ Simpson or Tiger Woods?  Nope, me neither.  But a lot of people did.  I used to really like Pete Rose.  Now he’s a chump.  Even a lot of my real life “heroes” have fallen off their white horse after I got to know them better.  Bill Cosby used to make me laugh and I thought he was a great guy.  Wrong!  I guess it’s best just to take the best parts of people and work with that and don’t look for one person to fill the shoes of hero in your life.  Be your own hero.  And remember that even heroes have flaws so don’t get too hard on yourself for not measuring up to your fantasy of someone else.

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16 thoughts on “Role Models

  1. You left me with much to chew on, Shawn: “People we’re attracted to are like mirrors of ourselves. What we admire in them is already within us. They’re simply here to show us how we could be better than we currently are. No one person is perfect.”

    I have been asked who I would like to have been or who I would have liked to invite to dinner, but can never answer. I guess my ‘role models’ for lack of a male person close to me in childhood, were Robin Hood and Lancelot, but in retrospect I realize I admired certain traits or qualities in them: they were chivalrous, brave, assertive, and of course got the beautiful heroine! I agree that we should take the qualities in people we admire and strive to assimilate those qualities. What I have however found, is that genetics have imprinted qualities in me of which I am thankful to my parents, as I know they are admirable. The rebel streak I might have gotten from my father, but I did not get to know him before he passed on to be able to be certain. Or it might be a new genetic strain. Whatever it is, it makes my life less boring! Take care, bro.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Ah, Kris the REBEL!!! I believe you have indeed created your own unique genetic strain and that is part of what I admire about YOU!! Yes, of course, our genetics do certainly play into all of this and your rebellious side undoubtedly has attracted you to other rebels and them to you. I certainly have a strong rebellious nature as well. Lancelot and Robin Hood are marvelous role models and since they are fictional they can never fall out of our good graces or show up on Facebook making racist or sexist comments that will ultimately cost them their jobs as heroes.

      Liked by 1 person

      • And then of course the uber rebel Xena… my attraction to her confused me, till I realized it was her personality traits that drew me on the one hand, and her raw sexual magnetism on the other hand.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. “People we’re attracted to are like mirrors of ourselves. What we admire in them is already within us.” Love those lines! Super profound and spot on lol. Nice! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I had normal boy crushes on baseball players and some musicians, and “interest” crushes on real girls/women. All of the ball players and musicians were bad role models – like you I just wanted to look like them and get the attention they got.
    I don’t know who I used as character role models. I read a lot of adventure books, so I probably modeled myself after some of the boy heroes. I remember one book about some kids in Denmark who helped resistance fighters against the Nazis by carrying contraband and messages on their sleds. Every time I rode a sled in the snow I pretended I was one of those kids…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, real life people usually do make terrible role models. Those books sound very interesting. I can imagine you having lots of adventures on your sled as a kid. Fictional characters are the best role models because they will never fall out of grace with us.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Role models. Well, you’ve got me wondering about mine now, and I can’t for the life of me recall who they might have been. I guess I probably never really had them. Other than the female “role models” I tried to be because I had no clue how to be a proper girl.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My grandfather is one of my role models, for his calm nature, pedagogic skills, ability to see the greater picture and for his courage to stand up for himself and others.
    When I grew up I wanted to be like Cadfael, a fictional monk in medieval England from a series of books I read, for the same reasons as I look up to my grandfather actually.
    Then there was the child-goddess from, I think, The Elenium by David Eddings.
    Lately i found a new role model, also fictional, in a man called Ove. He’s an old and grumpy man but he also have a big heart, he’s non-judgemental (unless you’re an idiot or driving Audi, which in his world is the same. “Four zeros in the front and one behind the wheels…”) and he stands up for what’s right.
    I think I can see a theme here…. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • There is definitely a theme here. I think that says a lot about who you are too.

      Interesting about the Audi drivers. Here in the US it’s the BMW drivers that we say that about.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well, it’s Ove who says it, it’s not common “knowledge”. He drives Saab and is VERY proud of it. He looks down on all other car models, but can accept Volvo…
        I drive Kia and interestingly enough there’s just a handful of different kind of cars that overtake me on the roads. There seems to be a pecking order among car owners. At the top you have Volvo, BMW and Audi (can’t remember who overtakes who, but I think it’s in that order) then VW. On a tie comes Peugeot and Kia, and the rest I don’t have any idea about since they never overtake me. I.e. I rarely see them in pecking-order-action. I think Renault is just behind Peugeot…
        It’s interesting, most people don’t believe me when I say this but they tend to agree with me after taking notice when they drive…

        Liked by 1 person

      • I find your auto maker hierarchy very interesting and I totally believe it. We don’t have many of the brands you mentioned here in the US but I can see how where you are that would totally be true. It sounds like a theory I would have come up with too. Here, the BMW drivers have a reputation for being rude and pushy but not so much with the Audi drivers, though I saw an Audi doing some very dangerous and reckless behaviors the other day and it made me think of you.

        Like

  6. I love this! I really let myself down in some ways by getting hung up on certain heroes and idols. I really appreciate you saying, “I guess it’s best just to take the best parts of people and work with that and don’t look for one person to fill the shoes of hero in your life. Be your own hero.”

    Liked by 1 person

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