Let’s just say my relationship with straight men is confusing.
I was harshly gay-bullied all through elementary school and much of high school. And while I harbor no resentment towards the male species, I have often felt that I had to work too hard to find common ground between us.
Until this past weekend …
Sixty empty chairs were arranged in circle formation when I entered the main room of the EVRYMAN retreat where I was invited to guest-teach just one hour of yoga during the weekend and to be a participant if I wanted. And I wanted. Sort of. But my heart was racing and my mouth was dry because I didn’t expect such a large turnout. Sixty straight guys and me on a healing journey? Buckle up, Marc.
EVRYMAN is a scrappy, B-Corp startup with an ambitious mission: to help men become better men by providing a safe space to bond, share, trust, be vulnerable, and listen–NOT to problem-solve (which men love to do), but to deeply listen.
Curated and facilitated by a group of dynamite therapists and life coaches, the weekend demands deep, uncomfortable inner work in a group dynamic. Last year, there were 30 participants. This year, there were 60 plus a waiting list. So this scrappy B-Corp, which deliberately removed the second E in EVRYMAN (they couldn’t afford the EVERYMAN domain name) has clearly tapped into something.
For example, did you know that men are four times more likely to commit suicide than women? For myriad reasons, men isolate, swallow emotions, and suffer in silence. EVRYMAN provides the decompression valve.
As the weekend progressed–whether in small break-out groups, around the dinner table, or on a silent hike–I watched these brave men doff their heavy armor. The trusting and sharing deepened. The laughter amplified. Tears flowed more freely while embarrassment melted away. Decades of unexpressed fear and loneliness released into vulnerability.
This had been the missing link!! It was in our willingness to be vulnerable with one another that I finally found comfort on the soft, fertile, common ground of our shared humanity.
We all have closets. A closet is simply the inability to have a difficult conversation, and gay people don’t hold a monopoly on that. On the surface, our closets may appearto be different (notably, mine sports a rainbow flag), but they’re not.
The commonality that all closets share is that they’re dark and lonely on the inside. And our willingness to be vulnerable with each other about that feeling of isolation holds the power to free us from it.
On Sunday evening, at the end of the weekend, we all filed back into the barn for our closing circle. Only two days earlier, we had sat in the same formation, alone together … sweating, unsure, isolating ourselves in our own minds. Now, as I looked around the circle with 60 closet doors flung wide open, one thing was palpably clear:
In just 48 hours, vulnerability had turned Every Man into EVRYMAN.