I was raised by women. After my father died, it was women who stepped in and taught me how to be a man. I am a card-carrying mama’s boy.
It was women who instructed me to be respectful, patient, diligent, sincere, attentive, spiritual and most importantly, how to put the toilet lid back down.
Women taught me to revere heaven, country, neighbor, and dog. They taught me to wash my hands before meals, to say my bedtime prayers, and I was taught to refer to my elders as ma’am, sir, or whenever I was I trouble, “your honor.”
And so it was that my youth was shaped by a gaggle of aunts, cousins, and matronly women who wore bath powder and polyester pants. I grew up being carried to and fro by females. It was a wonder I ever learned to walk.
When I was a baby, it was women who dressed me in ridiculously frilly outfits for Sunday service, such as yellow jumpsuits with white patent leather shoes. And they dressed me like this until was in my early thirties.
It was women who cut my hair. My mother gave me haircuts on the front porch with a stainless steel mixing bowl placed over my head. She used a pair of equestrian hair clippers which predated the First World War, draped me in a bath towel and gave me a popular hairstyle common among Navy SEALs.
But I am grateful for women. For it was women who taught me to believe in God, and how to memorize Bible verses. Throughout the years, these maxims and proverbs have stuck with me. Such as the verse:
“And the Lord doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.”
And it was my aunt Eulah, the fiery Pentecostal, who made me memorize uplifting verses to encourage me during dark times:
“Let him that hath understanding count the number of the antichrist: for his number is six hundred threescore and six.”
It wasn’t just my family’s women who raised me. It was the women in our community. Church ladies. Teachers. Neighbors. Other people’s moms.
When I hit my teen years, women were still very central to my life. There was always an older woman emerging from the shadows trying to feed me.
I remember when I was 16, I dated a young woman whose grandmother sincerely believed that I was on the brink of serious malnourishment. I would show up on my date’s doorstep and an old woman would answer the door.
“You’re looking skinny,” she’d say. “Are you hungry?”
“Would you like something to eat?”
“No, thank you. I just ate supper.”
“How about a chicken leg.”
“Really, ma’am, I’m okay.”
“Some chess pie?”
“No, thank you, ma’am.”
“How about a tall glass of milk?”
“Are you sure? Because if you were any skinnier, I’d have to alter your pants so you only had one back pocket.”
And then the lady would feed me so much blackberry pie that I would take a nap on their couch while my date drove herself to the movie theater.
When I was younger, I was jealous of young men who still had their dads. These young men went fishing all the time with their fathers. Their dads taught them how to use table saws, field dress whitetails and turkeys. Their fathers taught them how to hold in their tears.
I was so envious I wanted to puke. I desperately wanted someone to sit beside me on the porch, crack open a Budweiser, offer me a sip, then fuzz my hair and say, “Don’t tell your mama.” I wanted someone to slap my backside whenever I came trotting off the Little League diamond and tell me, “Good hustle out there.”
Instead, I had the coiffed hair brigade.
But as I get older, I realize truly how lucky I was. And I particularly realized this today at the supermarket.
Today, I saw two young women, walking into the store. They were in their mid-twenties. Ahead of them, lingering on the sidewalk beside the door, were several young men.
As the young women approached, the young men did nothing. They didn’t smile, they didn’t greet the young women, they didn’t tip their caps, they didn’t run to open the door. You know what they did? They played on their phones.
That’s when I saw a kid trot toward the door. He was maybe 10 years old. The young boy tossed the door open for them. And then, as if the kid hadn’t done enough, as the young women passed he removed his cap to reveal a mop of sweaty brown hair.
I don’t know much about life, and I know even less about the nature of this world. But I know one thing: I’m grateful I was raised by women.