(This author with Croix Sather)
The stereotype of men in Western culture is that they are insensitive, uncommunicative, and completely allergic to feelings. And of course, all they're interested in is sex. There's more, but I'm sure you're just as familiar with the image as I am.
I'm happy to report that I know of some men who are nothing like that. And in fact, one of them who has become quite special to me is extremely open about his views on what constitutes a "real man" and it's nothing like the stereotype.
Ultra-athlete and world-record-breaker Croix Sather is one of the most fascinating men I've ever met. He is as gentle as he is strong, and as intelligent as he is handsome. He's also an inspiring speaker and author, using his own incredible story of transformation and accomplishment to encourage people to move mountains.
At the age of 40, Sather ran 2,621 miles from L.A. to New York City in 100 consecutive days - averaging a marathon a day. A year later, he completed the beyond-gruelling Badwater Ultra-Marathon, dubbed "the world's toughest footrace." Running 146 miles through the blistering heat of Death Valley pushing a 270-lb. cart of water, food and other supplies, he was unassisted as he broke the 13-year record by more than five hours making his way from 282 feet below sea level to the peak of Mt. Whitney. Temperatures ranged from 117 degrees in the desert to below freezing at the finish line.
How can anyone push himself to these lengths?
I suspect part of the answer lies in a life-altering event that would demonstrate his remarkable approach to even the most harsh of challenges when he was still a boy.
At the tender age of 14, Sather was riding his bicycle when he was hit head on by a drunk driver, sending him flying 50 feet into the air. The nearby hospital could not handle his injuries so he was sent to a NY trauma unit. The brain surgeon told Sather's parents that if he survived the night, he would be a vegetable for life.
After four days in a coma, miraculously Sather came out of it. But he was in hospital for weeks, ultimately spending a year in rehab and casts, and then spent years overcoming other issues. You'd think a 14-year-old boy - and one who had been an excellent competitive swimmer prior to the accident - would have a tough time coping with all of this but Sather says he never felt that way. "Life throws shit at you and you just have to deal with it," he offers matter-of-factly. "So I just dealt with it. I dealt with the pain. I dealt with learning how to walk again and all that stuff...I just dealt with it because it was there, I couldn't change it. I just thought, 'What do I have to do to get back to swimming?' I never did get back to it; I wasn't nearly as strong as I used to be."
Acknowledging that he lost his drive for swimming, he got "a bigger drive - figuring out why [he] was still here. "I should have been dead. Why did I survive? There's got to be a bigger purpose for me. I always asked myself, why was I saved? Why didn't I die? That was the initial start to a path I've never left."
After two failed marriages, Sather began reading books on relationships and has developed a less-than-stereotypical view of how things should work between men and women. "The one thing I've learned is that I didn't date the person I was married to. At some point, I stopped dating her and that's when it stopped being exciting for me and being great for her, and when it started ending. Every guy wants to have a woman enamored with him, wants to be that knight-in-shining-armour...every guy wants to be the hero. He wants to be the guy who comes in and triumphantly saves the day and sweeps her off her feet. Even the nerdy guy that doesn't have a gladiator bone in his body...they still want it at some level. They just don't know how to be that guy."
Sather adds that they don't know they should be that guy. "Part of it is the woman's fault because they don't know how to be the woman that encourages that in the man." He asserts that it's the man's job to chase her down and it's her job to make him want to do it.
He adds, "If a guy steps into his greatness and masculinity and owns that, it will always become amazing. And every woman I've spoken to...secretly reads her romantic novels and wants this big, muscle-bound, smart, romantic guy to sweep her off her feet, take her out to dinner and live in Paris...We're here for 70, 80, 90 years...I don't want something that's just really good...I want...something that's wholly enrapturing and makes me ridiculously happy and can't stop thinking about her and makes me want to write poems and songs and...go conquer the world and change lives, and I can't do that when I don't feel alive."
Sather describes how a man should be like the "amazing, iconic lighthouses on Cape Cod" that withstand the worst storms off the coast. "The lighthouse does nothing but stand there and shine its light, strong, stable and beautiful throughout this whole thing...and the storm stops raging...the sun comes out. My responsibility is to be the lighthouse and let [a woman] storm and rage and beat on my chest."
He continues, "Being a real man is about being...confident but not arrogant. It's being powerful but gentle, finding the balance between the two. This isn't easy for a guy...By no means am I perfect at this but I understand that this is what I'm supposed to be. It's what I strive for."
As far as I can tell, he's doing a damned fine job of it.
For more about Croix Sather, visit www.croixsather.com.
For more about this author, visit www.libertyforrest.com