A boy’s passage to manhood usually includes making love with a woman. His first confrontation with her nudity is slack-jawed, breathtaking wonderment. Tales in this section, “The Simple Truth of Her,” by John Updike, and “Cool,” by Ron Jones, find guys trying to deal with this first intimate encounter, one all men feverishly wish to get right, but rarely do.
Like the young men in these two stories, American boys are often lost in their first intimacy with a woman, because unlike a girl, whose mother has more likely given her “the talk” by then, guys don’t always hear it from Dad or any man. Some of what my generation of boys thought we knew about sex was locker-room jive. But even a well conceived talk (or talks) would not prepare a boy for the astonishment of being with a girl for the first time.
In Marc Wilder’s story, “Planned Parenthood,” we see a teenage boy trying to do right by his girl and become a better man for her.
Jordan Legg’s “Sharpie Stones” pivots on a teen pregnancy and how the young parents deal with this life dislocation.
John Biesecker’s “April 3rd,” about an abandoned husband with a sick infant, was the most-visited story I posted at the HeartOfAMan.net website. Both men and women had strong reactions to Biesecker’s piece.
Michael Morgan’s “A Premeditated Starving” shows men trying to understand and care for a woman in need. “Men grow quiet when we sense problems peculiar to women,” Morgan writes.
In “It’s Always About the Girl,” Michael Estabrook pursues his sweetheart and acts to protect his interest in her.
These poignant stories are rich with guys’ honest efforts to understand what Jack London termed “the eternal mystery of woman.” By watching men watching women, I hope you will see us more clearly.