From Madness to Manhood: Sex, Sexism, and My Red Keds

I’ve been writing a memoir, From Madness to Manhood, and sharing chapters with you, my readers. Your comments and feedback mean a lot to me. You can read other chapters here, here, here, and here.

When I was four I announced that I was tired of my white baby shoes and I wanted “big boy shoes.” My mother dutifully took me to a shoe store and I was entranced by the colors and variety of shoes. It was like going from a world of black and white and discovering that there was color. I wandered past all the shoes looking at each pair until my eyes lit up.

“Mommy, mommy, I want those.” I was jumping up and down and pointing to most beautiful shoes I had ever seen. They were red Keds.

I finally settled down enough for the salesman to sit me down, measure my little feet, and go in the back to find the right shoes. I couldn’t stop smiling and the wait seemed interminable. But finally he emerged from the back with a number of boxes.

“I brought a couple of different sizes, to be sure we’ve got the right ones,” he told my mother. It seemed even better than Christmas when he opened the box and folded back the tissue paper covering the shoes.“Here you are,” he proudly announced.

My smile collapsed when he took out the first shoe. It wasn’t the shoe I had admired. It said “Keds” on the heel, but it was blue, not red. I was crestfallen.

“But I want the red Keds,” I was finally able to say.

He smiled and patted me on the head. “Red is for girls,” he told me and smiled at my mother. “Blue is for boys.”

I thought about that for a second and a half. I had never heard of colors being assigned by sex. I had thought all shoes were white until recently. But even as a small child, I knew what I liked.

“I want the red Keds,” I stubbornly told him, though I was beginning to feel a little shakey and tearful. [Read more…]

How My Father Escaped From the Act Like a Man Box and Saved His Life

If you’re male, sometime in your life someone has told you to “act like a man.” I heard it from my first wife when she got mad and screamed it at me after I had refused to confront a guy who had sold us a faulty appliance. I heard it again from a friend who wanted me to leave this same woman after she had taken her anger out on me…again, and punctured the tires in my car.

Most of us grew up with certain rules that required men to act and be a certain way that were different from the way women were required to act and be. Growing up I knew that a man must fight anyone who disrespects him, his mother, or his wife. I learned early that a man must be the breadwinner and support his family, no matter what.

Writer and activist Paul Kivel described these manhood mandates as putting us in the Act Like a Man Box. As I grew up I found my life work helping men and women break free from the restrictions that keep us locked down. I came to see that the Act Like a Man Box and the Act Like a Woman Box were mirror images of each other.

When I read Betty Friedan’s book, The Feminine Mystique in 1963 I realized “the problem that has no name,” which is the title of Chapter 1, highlighting the dissatisfactions that women were feeling, also stirred similar feelings in me. The book begins with these words: [Read more…]

The 6 Numbers That Will Change Your Life

We all have numbers that are important to us. Our anniversary date, the number of friends and family we will invite to our daughter’s wedding, maybe even the number of calories per day we’re going to try and maintain through our next (and this time it’s going to work) diet. But there are six numbers that I believe will be even more important for you to know if you’re going to survive long enough to enjoy a golden anniversary, your daughter’s wedding, or the new bathing suit you plan to wear at the beach once you take off those extra pounds. Are you ready?

            Number, #1: The number of people in the world today.

            Number, #2: The median age of the population.

            Number, #3: The number of people living in towns and cities.

            Number, #4: The number of people getting their energy from renewable resources.

            Number, #5: The number of people who will lose their jobs.

            Number, #6: The number of people who are depressed and losing hope.

Let’s take a look at these numbers and what they mean in our lives.

#1: According to a report by the BBC Future, based on United Nations and CIA figures, the present world population (2017) is 7.5 billion. Difficult to get our head around a number that big. But we feel it in our lives every day when we compare the past to the present.

I remember being ten-years-old and enjoying the orchard groves that went on forever which I could see from my window at our home in the Los Angeles suburb of Sherman Oaks in the San Fernando Valley. The air was clean and it felt like there was plenty of space. According to the World Population Survey there were 2.6 billion people in 1953 (if you want to see the population at various times in your life, check it out here.

So, we’ve added 4.9 billion more people to this finite planet we call Earth since I roamed free as a ten-year-old. And like me, they all want to eat, have a job, and most would like to get around in a multi-horse-powered automobile rather than ride a donkey. There’s only so much space, so many resources, so much soil, water, and clean air and we don’t seem to be doing a very good job taking care of what we have.

You don’t have to look too far in the past to notice the change. In the last year, we added 80 million more people. That’s like adding all the people presently living in Germany. Do you feel the pressure? I feel my stress levels going up, just writing about it.

Plus, people have a tendency to move away from home when their local living conditions don’t allow them to support their families. More than 65.3 million people are currently refugees or are displaced in their own countries according to the United Nations – the highest figure since records began before the Second World War. If these people all lived in a country it would be 21st biggest country in the world with a population larger than the UK. [Read more…]

7 Reasons Men Should Do Yoga

When I was growing up there were certain things that boys did and other things reserved for girls. Boy sports included boxing, basketball, and football. Girl sports…Well, girls weren’t encouraged to engage in sports at all. They were the pretty cheer leaders who did back flips when we scored a touchdown. They were the ones we hoped to score with after the game if we were good enough, strong, enough, fast enough, tall enough, and handsome enough.

But, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, “The times are a changing,’ big time.” Now women are doing all the sports that were once reserved for men. In addition to female basketball players and footballers, we now have women boxers like Laila Ali, daughter of Muhammad Ali, and Regina Halmich, who popularized female boxing in Europe. We have mixed-martial artists like Amanda Nunez, Holly Holm and Ronda Rousey.

While women have been breaking through the barriers that have kept them out, men are slower to break through the barriers that have kept them from enjoying and benefitting from healthy activities such as Zumba and Yoga, which in my town, continue to be predominantly practiced by women.

I go to Zumba classes twice a week. I love the Latin music and I get a great workout that keeps me fit. There are additional benefits as I wrote in “Six Sex Trends From My Zumba Class.” I also go to Yoga classes, which I also enjoy and get great benefit from attending. My wife, Carlin, has taught Yoga classes for many years. It took me awhile to try them out. I had accepted the stereotype that “men go to the gym. Women do yoga.”

But now I find they are a super good work out. The classes I attend still have mostly women in them, but hey, hanging out with a lot of hot, sweaty women, isn’t too bad. I mean, someone has to do it.

Here are some great reasons to do Yoga:

  1. Increased flexibility.

Staying flexible is good at any age, but as I get older, it’s become increasingly important. A lot of my men friends are stiff and move like old men. I like the feeling of ease I receive.

  1. Improved respiratory and cardiac health.

We all want to keep breathing and insure our hearts are healthy. The American Heart Association recommends Yoga. “Hand in hand with leading a heart-healthy lifestyle, it really is possible for a yoga-based model to help prevent or reverse heart disease,”  says M. Mala Cunningham, Ph.D., counseling psychologist and founder of Cardiac Yoga. [Read more…]

Why Does Stress Cause More Depression in Men Than in Women?

Sex and gender differences are central to our lives. We all think about them, struggle with them, and seek to better understand them. From Professor Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady who lamented “Why can’t a woman be more like a man” to Sigmund Freud who wondered “What do women really want?” to our nursery rhymes which taught us to believe that “Little girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice,” while “Little boys are made of snakes and snails and puppy-dogs tails” to Charles Boyer who proclaimed Vive La Différence!

There is an exciting new field emerging that offers new insights into the age-old questions, “Are men and women really all that different?” In a world that still limits the lives of women in significant ways, it’s not surprising that many feminists have argued that the differences between men and women are superficial and more the result of our sexist attitudes than real differences in the ways our brains and bodies are built.

However, an emerging new field called “gender-specific medicine” recognizes that sexism still exists and must be eliminated if women and men are going to reach their full potential, but there are real differences between the sexes that need to be understood and respected.

One of the leaders in this field is Marianne J. Legato M.D. In her book, Eve’s Rib:  The New Science of Gender-Specific Medicine, she says, “Everywhere we look, the two sexes are startlingly and unexpectedly different not only in their internal function but in the way they experience illness.” Dr. Legato is a cardiologist who was one of the first clinicians to recognize that heart disease presents differently in men and women. Men feel a crushing pain in their chest, while many women experience fleeting pain in the upper abdomen or back, nausea, shortness of breath, and sweating. [Read more…]

For the First Time a Participatory Media Company Addresses The Changing Roles of Men in the 21st Century


I’ve been interested in the changing roles of men since 1969. As an expectant father, my wife and I had gone through the Lamaze childbirth classes together and were committed to bringing our child into the world as naturally as possible. I had been with my wife through twelve hours of labor. But when she was ready to go into the delivery room, I was asked to leave and join the other fathers in the waiting room.

I did as I was told, kissed my wife, and watched as she went one way down the hallway while I went the other way. But I couldn’t go through the waiting room doors. Something or someone was calling me back. I turned around, walked into the delivery room and took my place beside my wife. There was no question of my leaving. I felt I was being called by our unborn child. “I don’t want a waiting room father. I want a father who is here with us.”

When he was born shortly thereafter, I held my little boy, Jemal, and made a vow to him that I would be a different kind of father than my father was able to be for men and I would do everything I could do to bring about a different kind of world where fathers were not separated from their wives and children. I remembered my own father who was forced to leave our family when I was five years old because he had become depressed and enraged when he couldn’t make a living in his chosen profession.

In 1988, I started MenAlive to help men and the families who loved them to live long and well. In 2009, I read a book by Tom Mattlack, The Good Men Project: Real Stories from the Front Lines of Modern Manhood. When I found out The Good Men Project would launch the following year, I knew I wanted to be one of the writers. There were three things that I liked immediately.

First, they really were having a dialogue that no one else was having and were open to a range of topics from my article, From Madness to Manhood: In Search of My Lost Father and Myself, to The 5 Stages of Love and Why Too Many Stop at Stage 3. [Read more…]

The One Thing You Must Do If You Want Love to Last

Love has been a complicated presence in my life from the very beginning. My parents had been trying, unsuccessfully, to have a baby for many years. My mother was finally able to get pregnant through a procedure of collecting and injecting my father’s sperm into her womb (a procedure that was “experimental” seventy-plus years ago). Being pregnant brought both joy and fear. I still remember stories about her walking, gingerly, down 5th Avenue in New York, afraid she might lose the baby.

When I was born, both my mother and father were overjoyed, but my mother was afraid something would happen to me and rarely let my father hold me. My father felt the pressure of being out of work and the shame at not being “the family bread-winner.” He became increasingly manic and depressed. When I was five years old, he took an overdose of sleeping pills and was committed to Camarillo State Mental Hospital, just north of Los Angeles.

I got married shortly after graduating college, but the marriage ended after ten years. We both found it difficult to trust and were always worried that we would be left by the other. A second marriage ended badly. Well to be truthful, it started badly. The fact that she slept with a gun under her pillow should have been a tip off that she was not the best mate choice. Later in life when I became a writer I wrote a book, Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places: Overcoming Romantic and Sexual Addictions that described the ways we confuse healthy love with “love” addiction. For instance: [Read more…]

The One Thing That Kills Most Marriages

My wife, Carlin, and I were enjoying a wonderful dinner at the new vegan Caribbean restaurant in Willits when a friend and his wife saw us eating outside. “How’s the food here?” Henry wanted to know. “It’s great,” we told them. “It’s real, authentic, handmade, and delicious.” As we chatted they introduced us to Henry’s brother and his wife. They were in town for the wedding of Henry’s daughter. “I just happen to have a picture,” Henry said as he scrolled through his smart phon

There was a lovely shot of his beautiful daughter in a stunning wedding gown looking up at her new husband. There is so much hope and desire in their eyes. As a marriage and family counselor who has been working with men and women for more than 40 years, I can’t help but see both sides of the future: Marriages that end and marriages that last.

  • Approximately 50% of first marriages end in divorce.
  • 75-80% of men and women who have a failed first marriage will remarry, usually within five years.
  • However, 66% of second marriages and 73% of third marriages end in divorce.

Everyone who gets married says, “I do.” No one says, “I do…until…I don’t.” Everyone who gets married wants the “I do” to last “until death do we part,” but too often it ends before then. I know. It happened to me. Being a therapist, presumably an expert in understanding love and marriage, I thought I would beat the odds. But my first marriage lasted less than ten years and produced two great children. I followed the pattern and remarried after three years, but that marriage was short lived.

Before going for number three and facing the 73% divorce statistic, I decided I’d get to the bottom of what kills most marriages. I think I found the answer, at least one that made sense to me. I fell in love again and got married for the third time to a woman who had also been married twice before and had spent time learning how to have a marriage that lasts. All I can say is “so far, so good.” Carlin and I have been together now for 37 years. I can say we’re more in love now than ever and looking forward to another 37 years together and if there’s life after death, we hope to enjoy that together, as well. [Read more…]

From Madness to Manhood: My Father Escapes From the Nuthouse

We were planning to celebrate my 13th birthday with a dinner at my special restaurant, The Pump Room, which served my favorite dessert, a strawberry short-cake with homemade whipped cream. But the celebration was interrupted with a phone call from my uncle, Harry.

“Edith, Muni escaped from Camarillo today,” uncle Harry told her. I could hear his anxiety and worry coming through the phone lines as I put my ear close to the receive to listen.

What do you mean, he escaped,” she asked. I could hear the fear in her voice. “He’s been there seven years and the doctors told me his condition was chronic and untreatable and he could never leave.”

“Yes, I know. They told me that too. But he escaped.”

“How the hell did he escape?” Her voice was controlled, but I could hear the panic begin to rise.

“I went to visit like always and he seemed to be better so I took him into town to get an ice cream. He told me he wanted to get some stamps and went across the street to the post office. He never came back and I couldn’t find him.”

“How…”

“He just disappeared,” Harry said. “I looked everywhere, then finally went back to the hospital and told them. They’ve put out an all-points bulletin and they feel he’ll likely be apprehended and returned soon enough, but I wanted you to know.”

When my mother explained what had happened I was shocked and disoriented. After I stopped visiting my father when I was six years old, I stopped thinking about him. It was too painful. Bill entered my life and my father’s memory faded. My mother didn’t talk about him and he became a shadowy figure who slowly disappeared from my world, like cigarette smoke dissipating from the air. [Read more…]

The One Way to Resist Trump’s Shock Politics and Win Back the World We Really Want

Whether you are a Democrat, Republican, or Independent, it’s becoming clear that Donald Trump has not delivered on the promises that got him elected. Some still hope that he will “make America great again.” But the key promises that got him elected were these:

  • Make America safe.
  • Create jobs and get more people working.
  • Replace Obamacare with a better health plan.

There is no evidence that he has delivered on these promises or that he intends to do so. What he has delivered on is his promise to enrich the CEOs of corporate America, starting with himself and his family.

I’m reading Naomi Klein’s new book, No is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need. More than anyone I know, she helps us understand the Trump phenomenon, to place it in its proper historical context, and more importantly to show how to keep Trump’s brand of disaster politics from sucking the air out of our collective lungs.

When I read her book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism it brought clarity to much of the chaos in the world that I felt unable to understand or make sense of. It became clear, for instance, that Hurricane Katrina was less a national disaster, than a Corporate opportunity to enrich itself. Following Katrina, New Orleans’s residents, many of them poor, were scattered throughout the country. Rather than seeing their communities rebuilt, they saw them being replaced. The rich got richer and the poor got removed. [Read more…]