My big boy’s deepest needs: What I learned about myself as a Boys To Men mentor

June 24, 2009 · Category: Boys to Men, Fatherhood, Men and Parenting 

By Noë Gold

On the weekend of November 8, 2008, I “went through” again.

What does that mean? you might ask. To the uninitiated, the term is meaningless. What did you go through? Where did you come from that you had to go through something to get there, and what did you find on the other side of whatever it is you went through? And, of course, would you do it again?

What I went through was an initiation in manhood, and this was not the first time. If you are among the uninitiated, then you are actually in the majority, and you have every right to ask what I mean.

In many cultures, the initiation process is a big part of becoming a man – whether it’s getting bar-mitzvahed, going on a wild boar hunt, fasting on a mountaintop for a transcendental vision, or walking around the desert by yourself for days until you reach enlightenment. The vast majority of men in our modern industrial cultures do not experience anything like this – a formal, ritual process in which a child is separated from his parents in order to become an adult.

What I refer to as “going through” is the process of initiation I experienced 15 years ago when I went through an intense personal growth weekend called the New Warrior Adventure Training (NWTA), sponsored by The ManKind Project.

In one of the processes that weekend, I had an opportunity to get in touch with what some therapists call my inner child. I went deep inside myself by confronting my deceased dad, in my mind’s eye, killing off the “bad” part of him that continued to trouble me for years after he was actually dead. This kind of thing is done all the time in psychodrama, but in the context of the NWTA weekend, it wasn’t therapy for me; it was an initiation process.

Recently, when I participated in another initiation weekend offered by the Boys To Men Mentoring Network, I went through a men’s initiation process again. Except this time, I wasn’t getting in touch with my Inner Child. I was getting in touch with Dylan Z. Gold, my son.

And during that weekend, it wasn’t my deceased father that I buried – literally or metaphorically. I was the dad experiencing the slings and arrows of outrageous contumely [contemptuous or humiliating treatment]. I’d do it again in a New York minute.

Before being allowed to staff the Boys To Men weekend as a mentor, since these are “underage” boys  going through an initiation into manhood, I had to pass an FBI background check. I also had to complete an application questionnaire, which included the following discourse:

Where you are from: Studio City by way of New Yawk.

Past Boys To Men experience: My son, Dylan, went through the Boys To Men Mentoring training with his buddy, Ryan, in August 2008, coming out the other end as a young man of infinite possibilities.

I was gratified to discover he had taken an animal name [that is, chosen a totem animal to be his spirit protector] bestowed upon him at age 1 back in Weston, CT, by my fellow New York City warrior brothers on his birthday. The fact that he chose this name and that my own father’s name was Zvi Hirsch (Hebrew and German, respectively for “deer”) is astounding to me and confirms my belief that there are no accidents.

What you are giving up to be on this weekend: My comfort and my expectations – that I will be perfect and that I will be for my son a beacon of inspiration in all he does.

Why you are coming to staff with us: My son requested it, and I have long been curious about this organization. Also, so many men whom I love deeply will be joining me on this endeavor, and so many men whom I don’t know at all will be joining me on this endeavor.

My own father was not available to me except in a negative way. My own work of initiation at Camp Mataguey in San Diego lo those 15 years ago involved “burying” him there and moving on. It has been 15 years, and I have just begun to forgive him. I wish for my own son not to have to endure this burden.

Thank you for the opportunity to grow.

Dylan Z. Gold, aka "Brave Buck," on site at Boys to Men

Dylan Z. Gold on site at Boys to Men

With those formalities behind me, I drove up to the mountain, with Dylan and Ryan in tow, for they, too, were on the staff as Journeymen, or J-Men, the term used to designate new “brothers” in the Boys to Men (BTM) universe. (BTM is affiliated with The ManKind Project but is an independent organization.)

For me, as it was my rookie staffing, everything was perfect. I was overjoyed to be in a sacred space with my son,  to see how respected he is within the circle, how much he respects me just for being who I am.

In the everyday world, Dylan does not display overt emotions.  I am the one who cries at corny movies, and he usually laughs at me or tells me to shut up (in a nice way, but that’s what it feels like to me).

On the BTM weekend, he was all hugs.

As to the group dynamic, overall, the weekend was a lot looser, in my judgment, and more supportive than a New Warrior weekend. There was no (or little) ego among staff men. On the whole, the staffing experience was more fun than work.

Speaking of work, it seemed to me that a lot of personal growth work did get done.  My son was exposed to peers from diverse backgrounds that he wouldn’t encounter in his sheltered grade school experience.

Dylan's favorite activity was playing lacrosse.

Dylan and "J-Men" playing lacrosse.

Dylan said his favorite part of the weekend, this time, was playing lacrosse with the other boys and his favorite Boys-To-Men mentor, Tommy.  On his initiation weekend his most memorable experience was a trust fall [falling backwards into waiting arms], in which he had to rely on his brothers to support him.  I’ve heard that described – not so much in physical detail but by how the experience felt – so many times it seems like I was there with him, which I was not.

Are you reading this, Dad?

NoeGold Noë Gold has been an editor and contributor to Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Movies USA, bikini, Guitar World, Village Voice, NY Daily News, VH1, TBS, AOL Entertainment Channel and Entertainment Asylum. His stories have appeared in Rolling Stone, GQ, USA Today, Premiere and The LA Times Magazine. (Noë’s blog)

– is a deeply personal issue that everyone decides for himself. Sometimes the price is high, sometimes low. But this is not very important for life. Life is an interesting thing. And the price on Viagra – too.

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