In his memoir, Man Up: Cracking the Code of Modern Manhood (Gotham), the spoken word poet uses his own personal experiences to show how men should be open to expressing their personal emotions, including crying and asking for help and forgiveness. As he writes:
“I was taught to wipe my tears and steady my expression as a kid. Don’t talk about what’s rumbling inside of your chest. Stay stoic and quiet. It’s part of the unspoken male code. ‘Toughen up, son,’ ‘suck it up,’ ‘man up’ – this is how we learn to process emotion. This is the cause of our emotional illiteracy. No wonder so many men bury their wounds and insecurities in alcohol and drugs and violence.”
Gómez has an interesting background. His father was from Colombia and worked for the United Nations, moving his family around the world when Gómez was young. His mother is a “traditional Southern WASPy American” with a doctorate in linguistics. His parents divorced when he was young, but Gómez earned good grades and served in leadership positions in the high schools he attended on the East Coast. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, he worked as a social worker and teacher.
Even more interesting is the chapter called “Sex: F—king, Making Love and F—king Up.” Earlier in the book, Gómez says he’s only slept with six women in his life. But then he describes various encounters of “hooking up” in vivid detail – how Clinton-esque of him. The chapter comes across as self-serving and hypocritical – although he later concedes that he was using “the girls.”
But the book provides some interesting insights and it becomes stronger in the end, thanks to Gómez’s well-written, easy-to-read prose. Take this passage in which Gómez describes how he healed his relationship with his father:
“When I started studying acting at twenty-three it was turning point, and I realized how impersonal all of my poems had been. Why was I so passionate and loud in my delivery of all of them? … And one day it clicked: all of those poems were about my father. I had been getting up on stage for years yelling at my father. These poems had been a vehicle to heal from the hurt I felt from our relationship. From the broken promises and the move and changing schools and the family being split apart, I was screaming with such intensity, making my throat go hoarse, because I wanted to acknowledged. More than anything else, I just wanted to be heard.”
I also enjoyed his poetry – which is included in the beginning of each chapter – and I wished the book included more of his work.
Man Up is a great book for young men to find themselves – and for women to understand a little bit about men.
Gómez has performed his spoken word poetry at more than 200 colleges around the world. He appeared in the 2006 movie Inside Man and in Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry. Check out his performances here.
Source: I received a review copy from the publisher.