Shame Stories

I was born in an era when men did not cry or show emotion except anger and restrained anger. They were expected to be rough, violent at times, and gruffly tender when appropriate. Like with the women and kids. They were not trained to access the stockpiles of covered up feelings they lugged around with them everywhere. They didn’t know much about what lay beneath the surface of valor and strength.

My father was physically strong enough, but he had been shattered somewhere along the way, and an ever-present eagerness to please masked who he was, underneath. I was privy to the surface below the mask and grew to hate the mask, largely because it prevented me from having a voice about what I experienced.

Through the years I have come to understand that shame is below the mask. Men in my father’s era did not reportedly experience, encounter, or acknowledge shame. Yet, my father felt like a bad person, and though he desperately tried to cover up this awareness by pleasing others, he plunged into a headlong descent that began when he was forty and ended when he turned forty-nine. It was not a pretty descent into death, and as much as I hated the process, I witnessed my father’s passing, complete with inarticulate attempts on his part to declare something through scribbled scrawls. I understood I was the one meant to crack the scribble code and unlock the mystery beneath the mask.

Shame is beneath the mask. Shame experienced by men who supposedly do not feel such things is unbelievably powerful. I have learned this, painfully and slowly. Men are perpetually seen as the predator, the bad guys, but men feel shame, and shame is a tremendous guiding force in unraveling the mystery of life.



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Cap Kotz

Cap Kotz


Writer and Story Mapping Guide, I follow the life path no matter how challenging.