The Virtuous Man – Chapter One
1. Detroit (Early Beginnings)
My story begins growing up in Detroit, Michigan. I was eight or nine years old and my mother and father had recently separated. Along with my two older brothers and sister we lived with my mother in a small two bedroom upstairs level of a two-story home in a lower middle class neighborhood. For a short time after our parent’s separation, we did not have any contact with my father. Several months later this issue eased up somewhat and we were able to have visits with him. I remember one of the first things my father did to reconnect with us was to get his three boys together for a meeting. I had no idea why we were going over to his house, but for some reason my mother had our big sister come along. Once at his house, our sister went down the hall to hang out in one of the bedrooms and then our father began to whisper to us. He quickly and quietly told us that he was going to talk about having sex with a woman. All three of us sat up attentively and listened as our dad tried to verbalize what that all meant. I don’t recall any specific instructions on the physical act and what it entailed. But I do remember that it simulated me to want to go out and find some girl to try it with. This was my earliest recollection of getting the “Men’s Code” and it came through my father. As I reflect upon that encounter and the information I received, I’ve realized the following: (1) Sex was a physical activity (2) It was something that was discussed in secret (3) It did not address anything spiritual (4) No discussion or perspective on how to interact with females was given. As we grew older, I don’t recall my father ever addressing me nor my brothers on how we should love a woman, what special qualities we should look for and what our behavior and attitudes should be toward women. I’m not blaming my father for how he communicated to us, because that was most likely what he observed from the men in his life growing up. Like many other men, he passed down the “Men’s Code” from his generation to us. I should point out that while living with my dad and mother I was baptized at around seven years old at the church around the corner from our house. We would also attend my father’s church, Second Baptist Church alternating with our neighborhood church, Community Baptist Church. I don’t recall getting any information about what was appropriate and inappropriate regarding sexual behavior from any of those worship services or church related activates. After my parents separated, my siblings and I stopped attending church, and Sundays simply became just another day. It wouldn’t be until I was in the tenth grade that I would be in church regularly as a pianist working with my sister who was the music director. By that point, being in church was just a job.
Going back to my mother’s house that evening, I remember being somewhat sexually aroused, but didn’t quite understand what I was feeling. I was curious and began to think about girls and how I could try what my Dad had spoken to us about. Months later while playing with the kids in the neighborhood, I ran into such an opportunity. I somehow managed to talk a girl around my age to come with me to the alley. It was getting dark outside and kids were starting to go home. We found a secluded spot and tried to have sex. This experience did not work so well because I had no idea what the sexual anatomy of a female was and what I was suppose to do in that situation. My dad did not discuss these details and I left that encounter thinking, “ Is that all that there is to this?” I thought that playing army, sports and music was better and more exciting than what I had experienced in the alley. As I reflect on this encounter it brings up other important aspects of the “Men’s Code”: (1) That men would often pass on incomplete and misguided information about sex to young boys (2) There is no discussion about the consequences of having sex at a young age or getting a woman pregnant and the responsibilities that comes with that (3) There was no discussion of when the right time was to engage in sexual activity. (4) There was no discussion from a spiritual or biblical perspective on what God’s word reveals about sexual behavior. By the fifth grade I was receiving further sex education from looking at bikini-clad centerfold girls in Jet Magazine ™.
After these early episodes, I began to focus more on music and other fun activities with my friends. As I continued on to Junior High School, I advanced rapidly with music and opportunities to perform began to abound. During this time I played cello, saxophone and piano extremely well and was involved in the top performing ensembles at school and throughout the city. I also became attracted to girls and would walk some home from time to time. There would be occasional supervised weekend visits to some as well. I remember my older brothers dating and having girlfriends during that time. They would dress nicely, comb their hair in cool styles and put on cologne. They would let me hang around them, but there were no talk about girls and how you date them. Today, they are both single, never been married and can’t seem to maintain any long-term meaningful relationships with women. I’m sure they have their individual issues with the “Men’s Code” as well but, have not been able to address its deeper issues. During this time, there were occasional visits to see my father. But I can’t recall any conversations that would have helped me develop maturely into manhood regarding sexual matters or even general life issues. At his home, I remember seeing nude pictures and paintings of women in open view. Perhaps this was his interest in the art form of female anatomy. But I did not take that perspective from such display as it indicated that this is how men lived and viewed women. Here I gleaned additional aspects of the “Men’s Code”: (1) Men often did not take responsibility to shape and guide their sons in practical living matters (2) It was cool to have images of nude females and to view them mainly from physical perspective. On a positive note, my father would always come to my performances and was very supportive of my music endeavors. By the time I was fourteen I tried to get sex from a girl again. This time I succeeded in knowing what to do physically but got to the point when the orgasm was about to happen and got scared. Not only did I not know what to do at that point, but also I didn’t know how to react to the physical and emotional responses that were taking place. I withdrew from the situation and didn’t discuss it with anyone. I was embarrassed and sex continued to remain somewhat of a mystery for me. It was fortunate that I didn’t go through with the entire act of sexual intercourse; I could have gotten that girl pregnant or caught some disease. A major flaw of the “Men’s Code” is that boys and young men often learn critical information by themselves resulting in creating wrong attitudes and behaviors toward women.
My next major encounter with the “Men’s Code” took place when I was in high school.
Things were changing and as I continued to advance musically, I was also growing more attracted to girls. I remember being rejected sexually by the first girl I pursued. She was an attractive violin player and I planned a date with her by making arrangements with my piano teacher to use his apartment after our date one evening. Well that didn’t work out well and I didn’t accomplish my goal with her. I was very disappointed and frustrated with the process and thought it required a lot of time away from music. At age sixteen my hormones were raging and I was feeling that it was time to find out what real sex with a woman was all about. During that time my information relating to sex was coming mostly from fellow male students at school who spoke of their sexual triumphs. All of the ‘players’ talked about which girls were hot and sexy and how they got it on with them. My first real sexual experience would come from a prostitute. One day after school I was en route to my piano teacher’s apartment to practice on his grand piano. His apartment was in the downtown area of Detroit, which had a few bars where prostitutes would hang around. Being somewhat naïve, I wasn’t aware of what their profession was about but was certainly aroused by seeing them in their seductive clothing. I remember being lured into a bar looking at all those sexy women, but not knowing what to do. It didn’t take long for one of them to approach me and ask if I wanted to do anything. Well I acquiesced to her persuasion and thus received my first sexual experience with a woman. I remember the satisfaction I had received and thought that getting sex from a prostitute was easier than having to spend time dating a girl hoping that something would happen. That was the beginning of embracing the “Men’s Code” that taught that it was okay to buy sex from a woman and the bigger misconception that love can be bought. In the eleventh grade I got a girlfriend who was more than willing to engage in sexual activity. We had sex just about everywhere we would go. I thought that I had now figured it out somewhat. During my last year of high school, I was performing throughout the city of Detroit with its best and most prolific musicians. I was receiving additional “Men’s Code” information from the older musicians I performed and hung out with. I had the opportunity to observe how these men talked and interacted with their women. However, no one “schooled” me regarding how to respect and love women appropriately. Nor did any of the married musicians talk to me about how to treat your wife properly. I would still occasionally visit the area where prostitutes hung out to have sex with them. This was where I learned to relate and treat women in my early developmental stages. This would be some of the baggage and thinking that I would later bring into my marriage.