DREAMING THE DREAMS OF OUR CHILDREN:
Dr. Deighan's weekly newspaper column
As a former high school principal, my gut reaction to any new word is always suspicion followed by a quick internet search to identify any possible double-entendre, especially if I see the new word on a t-shirt. I was cautious, therefore, when my daughter used the term mansplaining the other day. From the context of her story, I tried to surmise its meaning, but my facial expressions must have betrayed me, so my very professional daughter elucidated mansplaining to me in simple, man-friendly terms. I suppose the term womansplaining might be appropriate under the circumstances, but my gut tells me that is a very, very bad word.
Nevertheless, the whole experience reminded me just how oblivious we men can be at times, something I am beginning to realize after living with three women for the past twenty-three years. Case in point: mansplaining already exists in my spell-checker, so what else I have been missing all these years? Honestly, we men pretend some things do not exist out of convenience, like toilet paper holders, but other things legitimately escape our consciousness. For those phenomena, I have coined a brand-new term: manvisible. I googled it to confirm it is new and even tried it out a few times, and I am proud to report that I have not had to mansplain it once!
We men have long needed such a term to capture our disabilities of perception and nuance. My exceptional wife and daughters can immediately identify numerous areas of life completely manvisible to me: holidays, birthdays, matching colors, certain cable networks, and those rogue hairs that miraculously appear atop my otherwise bald head. Men worldwide suffer from this in some measure, and numerous things like ear hair and our expanding belt sizes are universally manvisible. But before we start stereotyping, different things are manvisible to different men. For example, I am completely unaware of University of Oklahoma football, and I have a degree from OU! And lest anyone get side-tracked, manvisible does not describe phenomenon like sleeveless shirts, cargo pants, or the six packs we imagine in the mirror. Those delusions fall under another term I coined – mansightedness – also googled, but a topic for another time.
My family believes that much of my manvisibility is selective, however, because so many things fade in and out of my manvisible zone on a regular basis, especially if they bore me or cost a lot of money. Yet, I am awakening to a wide world of things that I have never appreciated . . . or have forgotten that exist, like barber shops. The deeper point, however, is that we all have our blind spots, and none of us can truly comprehend what we cannot see. Merely because we have not personally experienced something does not mean it does not exist, and just because we live with certain realities does not mean others know they exist.
Our world seems to be ripped apart lately by people who either refuse to acknowledge that differing points-of-view exist or who demand that others enthusiastically embrace their personal truths, period. Both extremes refuse to accept the others’ experiences as valid while simultaneously begging to be validated by their nemeses. Honestly, it sounds like two sides of the same manvisible coin to me, so for our kids’ sake, I hope we adults can somehow manage to somehow stitch our diverse society together with the complimentary threads of tolerance and resilience: tolerance of things we cannot always understand and the resilience to accept that the world that does not revolve around us. Children must see it in us soon, otherwise, the diversity which has always been our strength may calcify into the fault lines that fracture into a thousand, jagged shards. We all suffer from our own special forms of blindness, but maybe by acknowledging the railroad ties lodged in our own eyes, we can start to help our neighbors with the tiny specks reddening theirs. So let’s usher in the 2018 Word of the Year: manvisible, and may we all open our eyes a little wider.