Solitary Man

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Men. I love men. I love talking to men, working with men, chatting them up at bars. They’re usually easygoing, and I can let my guard down around them. Sometimes this is taken the wrong way—an unfortunate side effect of being a woman talking to a man—but I’m not going to let a potential misunderstanding keep me from having a cool conversation with someone who’s done interesting things—someone who happens to have a set of balls.

As a feminist, I’m supposed to say that there’s little difference between men and women, that we’re the same. But it’s not true, at least in my experience, and that’s why I lean toward the French feminist philosophies, which celebrate these differences.

If I could meet anyone one earth, it would be Hélène Cixous, seriously. And I also adore Betty Dodson, a sex-positive feminist in her eighties, who is incredibly spry and outspoken. But the thing that these women have in common, other than their wise recognition that men and women tend toward particular ways of thinking and behaving, while at the same time not prescribing feminine or masculine behaviors, or saying that women can’t be masculine and men can’t be feminine, is that they both have exhibit more masculine qualities than most women I encounter.

These are the women I feel comfortable with: the ones who have a kind of sophisticated bawdiness about them, the ones who say what they mean instead of hint at it, the ones who approach situations with more logic than emotion, the ones who don’t require outside opinions to make a decision about a dress, the ones who are comfortable with their own bodies and other people’s bodies. Bold women. Deep thinkers. Low voices. The ones with more of the characteristics that are considered masculine rather than ones that are considered feminine. And of course, we all possess both, in a range of balances. I just tend to be attracted to people whose needles lean to the masculine.

Which brings me to why I never became a nun. It’s not what you think: it wasn’t about the sex. I was a virgin when I went through the rigorous process to get into the Catholic Church. Granted, the Church got on my bad side when my Confirmation sponsor asked me out and let me know he thought I was sexy. But more than that, I discovered that what I really wanted was to be a monk. Yep: a monk. A solitary man. Or rather, a solitary predominantly masculine woman. I didn’t want to be around the women. I wanted to be around the men. I imagined that their faces would be more honest, that there wouldn’t be any silent backstabbing, that they were more intellectual and introverted and quiet. I swear: if I had to hear super-feminine women’s chirpy voices for the rest of my life, I would go bonkers. But the thought of living with a bunch of tonsured men in little glasses and brown cassocks? Heaven. Pure heaven.

I realize I made some assumptions back then and continue to make them. Still, I don’t think I’m too far off. I have preferences. Feminist or not, I don’t have to be ashamed of them; only aware. My husband gravitates toward women. We complement each other well.

So since I couldn’t be a monk, here I am. And I lust after them, no matter how screwed up that might be. But the great thing about not being a monk is getting to fill myself with music that’s not about God and angels and heaven. Here’s a playlist to celebrate men, beautiful men, men of all kinds. And then here’s some literature that tell some men’s stories. Because there are a lot of them, simple and complicated creatures that they are. And these stories tell us what the actual living, breathing men can’t often articulate, so I treasure them. I hope you will too.

 

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“Solitary Man” – Neil Diamond

“Horse With No Name” – America

“This Woman’s Work” – Kate Bush

“I’m a Man” – Chicago

“Lucky Man” – Emerson, Lake, and Palmer

“He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” – The Hollies

“Alone Again, Naturally” – Gilbert O’Sullivan

“Father and Son” – Cat Stevens

“Old Man” – Neil Young

“Free Man In Paris” – Joni Mitchell

“Tonight Will Be Fine” – Teddy Thompson

“All By Myself” – Eric Carmen

“I’m Your Man” – Leonard Cohen

“To Be Young” – Ryan Adams

 

*****

Matt Mullins is one of our own, but even if he hadn’t been an Atticus Review conspirator, we would have accepted “Moon with Princess” nonetheless. The indelible image of a photograph lingers long after the last line of prose, and a son’s deep desire to hang out with his father as a guy—just a guy who did really cool stuff—is stirring and palpable.

Being trapped, being righteous. Belonging, bewilderment. “For the Birds” is a sharp piece of flash fiction that deserves a few reads to let it settle in and quietly rustle around. Mark Budman’s use of a second-person point of view presents itself as a relaxed choice—the right one.

I read “Plantation House,” and became an instant Travis Mossotti fan. The poem begins crisp and tidy, and then the speaker swoops in and rescues it just short of become sentimental, adding shades gray between two kinds of aloneness.

 

 

 

 

 
Art: St. Jerome in His Study. Caravaggio. 1606.




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About Author

Katrina Gray lives in Nashville with the writer John Minichillo and their curly-headed lovechild. Her writing has appeared in JMWW, Necessary Fiction, Women Writers: A Zine, BLIP, The Northville Review, Emprise Review, and other places. She has a special fondness for overcast days, kalamata olives, magnolia blossoms, singer-songwriters, Twittering comics and iced soy hazelnut lattes. She blogs in two places: the sometimes-literary Katrina Gray website and the always-literary Fictionaut.

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