I see you on your bike, leather jacket on and sunglasses hiding your eyes, those windows to the soul. You sit as a king sits on his throne, powerful and revered. You appear to be fearless, strong, as masculine as a man can be. Your arms are strong with muscles built from lifting heavy things and doing manly stuff. You are a tough guy, a guy who has seen some things, been through some times, made a few scenes. You are a bruiser, a ball buster and a badass who is truly bad to the bone.
But wait….there’s more.
There’s the son who calls his mother every day, ensuring she’s taking her medication, eating and being good to herself. The son who stops by with groceries and provides instructions for the hundredth time on how to work the VCR/TV/cell phone, etc.
There’s the brother who fights mental illness, the soldier whose waking nightmares are a true horror show with no end in sight; he goes to therapy, talks with others about his experiences and actively seeks to heal and to be of service to others like him.
There’s the man who was once the boy who witnessed unspeakable terrors and grew to help others face their fears, all while facing his demons, day in and day out. The struggles of mental illness and addiction, the battle to maintain sobriety and sanity in equal measure.
There’s the son whose father wasn’t around and he had to raise himself and be the man of the house, all well before his time. The man who had no childhood, no role model or no man to emulate or understand what it means to be a man. He made is own family on the streets and now helps those who cannot help themselves.
There’s the boy who swore he would make a difference and he did.
He’s you, he’s your brother, your friend, your husband, your worst ex-boyfriend and they all have one thing in common; they appear to all the world to be a tough guy. This means no tears, no emotions other than anger, rage and various shades of violence because violence means power and power is what makes a man, right?
WRONG. OH SO FREAKING WRONG.
A tough guy is a guy who lets the tears fall. Like a pressure relief valve, emotion needs to be vented. He understands this and while he may not shed these tears on Instagram or make it a group event, he lets it happen. He mourns his losses, his heartbreaks, his frustrations and dreams lost. He mourns the state of the world, wonders if it will be different for his son and decides unequivocally that it will.
A tough guy loves kittens, helps a stranded motorist, opens doors for anyone, male or female, young or old, white or not white. He believes that one person can make a difference and will not let anyone tell him otherwise.
He wears tutus and sits in a tiny pink chair and drinks tea with his pinky out when he has tea parties with his little girl because that’s what daddies do. He is fiercely protective and will make sure he teaches her how a man should treat her, talk to her and respect her, above all else. He’ll be there when her heart gets broken and he knows that day will come, even though it makes him heartsick to even contemplate it.
He is a man of principles and a student of the school of hard knocks; he has experienced suffering and takes nothing for granted. He seizes each opportunity to learn and recognizes the hardest lessons bear the sweetest fruit. He works hard because that’s what it takes to make dreams come true.
He has his faith and values his family, works hard and tries to make things better for others around him. He doesn’t pretend to be anyone other than who he is and owns his scars, his shortcomings and knows that the story is far from over.
He may wear leather and he may appear to be rather scary, but don’t let all that stop you from meeting a Real Tough Guy. You’ll be all the better for having met him.