My family moved house to a new place around the corner from my elementary school when I was about 11. The surrounding neighbourhood is definitely a bit dodgy, but our street in particular has always been friendly and relatively safe. My pre-teen and teenage years were spent with three other families, all of whom had children around my and my sisters’ ages. We were — and remain, in some ways, despite most of the kids scattered around the country and indeed the world at times — closer and more tightly-knit than many blood-related families. It’s hard to describe all the benefits and value this environment brought to my life and continues to do so.
Last night we continued our decade-old tradition of Christmas tree hunting and dinner. After we found our trees and took the obligatory group pictures, we went to our favourite NY-style pizza place in our hometown and just…sat there for two hours, chatting and eating and laughing. I ended up sitting next to and across from three of my male “cousins” (all of whom are around my age) and was struck by how lucky I was to have these men in my life. Not just these specific three, but all of the boys and men from my family.
Of course it hasn’t always been a picnic, growing up with these guys. Middle and high school were fraught with petty fights and competitive arguments and emotional upheavals and ridiculous drama. Like all families, we didn’t get along all the time. (Us girls had our issues too. But that’s not the point of this post.)
But oh, these guys.
I hold up the men I befriend or date to the standards that my cousins have set. Can you hold your own in a debate with me? Do you like at least one sport? Do you care a bit about your appearance? Are you respectful and open-minded? Can you make me laugh until my sides hurt? Are you kind to your family? Are you supportive of your friends, as much as you are able? Do you give good hugs?
All my closest male friends meet these standards. They have to, otherwise I wouldn’t be friends with them. Unfortunately, none of the men I have dated in the last couple of years — dated very infrequently, admittedly — have measured up. Which is a big reason none of them have lasted beyond a couple of dates or a hookup.
I realised I’ve been doing this just in the last couple of years. I’m not sorry for it.
Frankly, my standards keep me sane. I don’t have time to deal with bullshit that immature men — or women — are prone to throwing around. You want to be in my life? Fine. Meet these basic expectations. I promise I give as good as I get.
Phillip, Robert, Isaiah, Jared, Elijah, and Ben…
Thank you for being the boys you were and the men you’ve become. Thank you for setting the bar so high. I will always be better for having you.