By Lisa Barr
My husband and I saw “The Dark Knight Rises” over the weekend, and I had that eerie feeling, thinking of the terrible tragedy the week before. I leaned over, and whispered what was in my head: Honey, would you have jumped in front of me, taken the bullet to protect me?
He held my hand tightly, in an As if You Need to Ask squeeze. My husband is the kind of guy whose mother taught him well. He always opens the door for me and others. Even now, after nearly 10 years together, he still opens my car door, and lots of other intimate things (not taught by his mother that I will leave out), but let’s just say, he is chivalrous across the board.
In his 40s, my hubby is from the generation before this one — known as Generation Z, aka: “Digital Natives” or what I term the I’m-S0-Bored Generation — so connected yet disconnected from real human wiring: Hooking Up, Friends with Benefits, Friends without Benefits, Benefits with Benefits, and so it goes …
In the Darkest of Moments, on one of the Darkest of Nights, three young men took the bullet for their girlfriends, sacrificing their own lives to shield the young woman at their side, for whom they had bought popcorn and a pop, less than an hour earlier.
I’m a mother of three daughters, and I always wished I had a son to add to my brood. I feel so sad for those families who lost their loved ones but I couldn’t help but feel inwardly proud of those young men, whose instinct was to forsake their own lives — like soldiers — and protect their date. One young man died protecting his sister, helping her boyfriend shove her under the seat as the crazed gunman walked up and down the aisles shooting.
A father of one of those heroic boys looked at the dazed Joker-like defendant across the courtroom: “What a coward,” he said. “My son could have wiped the floor with that guy.”
I thought of my own three brothers –and I know, with all my heart, they would have done the same for me. They know all the little and big things about girls (having been raised with three emotional, sensitive sisters): Always compliment a woman, especially after she has taken time to get “ready.” Never ever talk about a woman’s weight or hair — only in the positive sense, as in a woman’s ass looks great in those jeans no matter what. Call back even if you don’t want to go out with her again. Most of all, never hit girls, no matter how much they drive you to the brink of insanity. Hit the wall, punch a pillow, but always protect your sister.
As liberated as we women are, the double standard exists in terms of safety. I believe our most innate need is to feel protected. At the end of a crazy day, running, shlepping, writing, laundry and everything in-between — my favorite spot is in the protective nook of my husband’s arm — that is how I fall asleep.
When I was a Single Mom, that aloneness was probably the hardest part. All those pillows. The strong man once by my side had disappeared. It was Me protecting Me. I could do it, but deep inside I was scared. There were so many nights I felt vulnerable, and strange house sounds were terrifying. I couldn’t afford an alarm system back then so I slept with a turkey knife under my pillow.
I know perhaps all of this sounds a bit sexist, and so 1950s, but I can’t help but hope that my daughters find courageous men who would love them enough to protect them, at all cost.
I truly believe — despite criticism of the I’m-So-Bored Generation — these young men are no less noble than their Dads or Grandpas before them. They, too, would protect a girl, if put to the test.
When my 15 year old got her driver’s permit — every inch of me was in a panic. She’s smart as a whip but in the world of driving and directions– she is clueless (a trait admittedly inherited from her mother). One of her close guy friends recently told my daughter — “When you drive for the first time I’m going to be in that car making sure you are okay.” It didn’t matter that he didn’t even have his permit yet. His deep concern was for my daughter’s safety.
This generation continually surprises me. At times when I feel like we’re in Sodom and Gomorrah — heroes emerge in the shape of our young people — proving Internet Robots do snap out of it. And the result is truly beautiful.
I try to teach my daughters now (to prepare for later) to always treat boys (and later young men … and much later, their husbands) respect and kindness, no matter the situation. They don’t have brothers to see how guys are affected by all the girl scenarios, and what they really need. If you have a boyfriend, I tell my girls, and you want to break up, then pick up the phone and talk to him. Or, ask to meet him in person. Texting is so much easier but … texting a Goodbye-4-Good via thumb-tapping is unacceptable. It hurts and it’s hollow.
A human touch can be hard, but it is always healing.
What we teach (and show) our sons and daughters at a young age is surely what they will take into their intimate relationships later.
We get down on our men for not “understanding us” or “hearing us.” Men are from Venus; Women are from Mars. So cliche, so true. Different planets, different needs. And oh, those little enduring annoyances — the toilet seat, the garbage, the dishes, the shoes everywhere, the stuff not in the hamper, the kids still up after your GNO — none of it matters in that crucial moment, when a man is called on To Act.
My guy, and I bet yours too, comes through on the Big Stuff — the stuff that matters.
Those boys, and others, died in an unthinkable sickening massacre. Their families’ lives have been shattered forever. I don’t know those young men personally, but with all the media commentary, I feel like I do. We all do.
I couldn’t help but think once I turned off the TV, that when push comes to shove, boys will always be boys. And then later they morph into “Cavemen.” And it’s a good thing, no make that, a great thing. I see so many young boys-to-men in my town who, if placed in a similar situation, I believe, would have done the very same thing.
On the darkest of nights, chivarly wasn’t dead, it was there in a movie theater in Colorado, wearing shining armor.