Thursday, November 8, 2018

What My Dog Has Taught Me About Life

Dobby is a 15-year-old mouthy miniature pinscher with cataracts in his eyes, a limp from being run over by a car a decade ago and the heart of a lion... in the body of a puppy.

While he barks bloody murder to get anyone to help him down off the couch, he can still jump up to the couch when he thinks no one’s watching. He sleeps a lot now but his ears still perk up at the sound of any crumb hitting the ground and while he can’t really run like he used to, he still canters like a mini stallion on his infrequent walls.
He avoids the outdoors if it’s raining, refuses to eat soft foods despite not having most of his teeth and gets in your face to sniff you when he can’t see you, which is most of the time now as his eyes cloud with cataracts. But he still gets playful, crouching down, his butt and tail wagging when he’s offered a snack and prancing around my husband’s buddies while they play cards in hopes of a few table scraps.
As I get older and the body aches and pains start, I look at my dog and think, “if he can still jump up on the couch, I can keep scrubbing this tub.” Okay, probably not the best analogy, but he’s an inspiration in many ways. Here are some ways he's taught me to live life a bit better.
  1. Don't let life get you down. Dobby couldn't care less about your political leanings, who you sleep with, what church you attend, or how you identify, he just wants you to sit down on the couch beside him, so he can get some of your warmth. It's not that he's ambivalent about the world his masters live in, he'd rather focus on the more important things in life, like how much time his Momma is going to spend on her Netflix binge of the British Baking Show, so he can stay curled up, catching some much-needed sleep beside her.
  2. He works hard at not working hard. He spends his days looking for ways and areas around the house where he can sleep comfortably. He knows sleep is a very important part of his health regimen, and he commits himself to it with laser focus.
  3. He doesn't let obstacles get in his way. Dobby will walk all over the laptop, remote control, books and papers strewn on the sofa to get to his sleeping corner. He refuses to eat soft food preferring to crunch on hard kibble with the remaining teeth he has left even if it takes him twice as long to eat.
He’s crotchety, ornery, ridiculously divaesque in his ways, but he’s still playful, loving, and at times, even helpful. I mean, he can still hear, so he’s sure to let you know every time the neighbor has company, steps outside or the breeze blows any leaves across our lawn. This is still his castle, after all and his instincts are to defend it any way he can. If that means barking at 3 a.m. to let everyone know he heard a sound somewhere, then so be it. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Why We Need More Male Friendship Books

Photo by Papaioannou Kostas on Unsplash
I'm a sucker for friendship stories. If a book has a strong, core friendship that lasts throughout the story, it's a good chance you've hooked me as a reader. Some of my favorite stories are adventure stories where a group of friends help each other achieve an impossible feat or where the main character defeats their nemesis with the help of their friends.

Photo by Aman Shrivastava on Unsplash
But while good friendships make for good stories, we don't encourage male friendships to thrive beyond childhood, and we don't encourage physical affection between them to extend beyond puberty. We tend to sexualize their bonds instead, creating rifts and establishing an environment of toxic masculinity. We tell our boys to be boys, to stop crying, to stop feeling or showing emotion after they reach a certain age (an age arbitrarily chosen by parents or the community they're raised in, by the way). We teach our boys that if they still hug or kiss their male friends, they're acting like girls, or equate affection to a homosexual relationship.

By rejecting anything stereotypically feminine, men and boys are taught to reject an essential part of themselves, something that is to be valued. - Michael Carley, The Good Men Project

The truth is, we learn more about ourselves through the media than in any other way. Movies like Stand By Me, Goonies, and The Sandlot show us how boys can be friends, holding hands, hugging and even kissing on the cheek for comfort but soon as those boys grow up to be adults, their affection shifts. Their relationships are shown as distant while close.

So where are the books exploring adult male friendships that show men loving each other as they did when they were little? Why is it so difficult to show adult male friendships in genre fiction without adding a romantic component to their love? Don't get me wrong, I'm all for romance novels featuring same-sex pairings and don't ever want them to go away. I want more of them, in fact. Would love to see them on the shelves at Walmart and Target stores across America but that's a topic for another post. I want to find more of those stories and encourage storytellers to give us those great adventure stories where men have friendships that have lasted a lifetime; where they are affectionate with one another on page as adults.

We need more male friendship stories in adult genre fiction. What are some of your favorite books featuring adult male friendships?