Uomini Rispettati, Sicilian for Man of Respect
Defined by Gay Tales in his seminal Esquire Magazine Article, “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” as:
Men who are both majestic and humble, men who are loved by all and are very generous by nature, men whose hands are kissed as they walk from village to village, men who would personally go out of their way to redress a wrong.
I’m aware of the irony that Sinatra was known for his explosive temper, womanizing among other things but I want to focus on the words. Most especially majestic and humble. In today’s world where self-aggrandizement and self-promotion are part of the business model, where have these qualities gone? Yes, it is dangerous to be nostalgic, but if that is what I have to be nostalgic about, we as a country are in bad shape.
Generous by nature… redress a wrong...
I challenged myself: When was the last time that I did something that embodied these words. Not community service that I could put on a college resume, or getting involved in a charity to mitigate my own selfish behavior- something without a reward. Truly pure and good-hearted.
In elementary school, at the end of each year, around the first week of May, our gym class put on a day of games called Field Day. It was class versus class. Olympic Games for 8 year olds. Raucous. Competitive. Fun. Parents came, 2nd graders snuck to the bathroom to watch the 5th graders- it was the event of the year!
Somewhere between racing with an egg on a spoon and tug-of-war was the Three-Legged Race. (Those unfamiliar, you and a partner tie one leg together and take off in a sprint) In the 4th grade, our class was choosing who wanted to participate in each event. It’s somewhere between a lottery pick and the NFL Draft. My memory is a little hazy but I think each student had a finite amount of events they could do, 3 or 4, first come first served in each available slot. Anyway, when it came time to choose who wanted to do the three-legged race, a low demand event, only one kid’s hand shot up. Let’s call him Kyle. Kyle was the least popular kid in the class, outcast, often picked on and bore the brunt of a lot of false rumors about his family and their lower economic status.
No one wanted to do the event, much less be stuck, literally, with the poor, dirty kid. His hand stayed up through the snickers and glancing eyeballs. I remember sitting behind him, in full view of the entire class admiring his tenacity. I'm sure he was scared and embarrassed-
I raised my hand.
I had to give up an event that I wanted to do. Which one? I have no idea. Did we win? Definitely not. Did we place? Doubt it. Did I get teased, honestly- maybe, but I don’t know that either. The only thing I can recall is wrapping our legs together, taking off, falling down, getting back up and finishing the race laughing. He had fun and so did I.
I don’t know what happened to him after middle school, and if someone were to ask him about this race, I don’t know if he’d remember it but I do. I think I always will. I’ve actually been thinking a lot about that memory lately and how I can get back to being that little boy who raised his hand. Where did he go? Maybe he lost his way to ambition, failure, disappointments, competition, running away from pain and trying to a somebody.
What I can say now is that memory is my North Star.
Being a man is not about abs and pectoralis majors, Rolexes and Porsche’s, hell, as much as it pains me, it’s not about Tom Ford suits- it is about stature, self-respect, respect for others, integrity and in the face of all that is wrong, doing what is right.
For me, in order to get back on track to being a better man, I had to mine my heart… as a boy.