What Lexington Needs: Neil Chethik – The Men’s Movement
By Neil Chethik
Since moving to this town last July, I’ve met a large number of men who say they feel isolated. They have few male friends, unfulfilling relationships with their partners or children, unsatisfying work lives. They feel trapped by a culture that sees them as “success objects,” measured by the status of their jobs and the size of their paychecks. Yet they have almost nowhere to turn.
This doesn’t have to be.
I moved here from California (which undoubtedly makes me suspect). There, for nearly five years, I was a member of a men’s group. Twice a month, I met with seven other men—gay and straight, of varying ethnic backgrounds—in the basement of a school building, where we spent two or three hours simply talking about our lives. That meant revealing our confusions as well as our conquests, our failures as well as our feats.
The experience changed me. For years, I had relied on women for emotional support. Now I found men who not only offered me support, but understood me in ways that a woman could not. I also learned, from the variety of men’s lives that were opened to me, that I did not have to accept society’s restrictive definition of what it meant to be male.
Some women, including my wife, were skeptical of this group at first. Would we spend our time women-bashing? Would we develop strategies to counter the women’s movement? Would we create just another “good old boys” network?
In fact, just the opposite occurred. By understanding my own frustrations, I was better able to empathize with my wife’s. By having male friends to rely on, I could relieve her of some of the burdens I had put on her. By recognizing that society limits me unnecessarily, I could begin to work with her to help counter a social system that limits us both.
Shortly after we arrived in Lexington, my wife got a call from a member of a local women’s organization. Somehow they had heard she was in town, and they wanted to invite her to an upcoming social function. Almost immediately, my wife was welcomed into the community of Lexington women.
Lexington also needs a community of men.