Dr. Phil To Nick Gordon: Man Up?

March 12, 2015  |  

Man up.

I didn’t see the full episode of Dr. Phil’s heavily promoted interview-turned-intervention of Nick Gordon, Bobbi Kristina’s partner. Nick is a drunken, grieving and suicidal mess in the clips of the show and the subsequent press that are in heavy circulation. Then there is Dr. Phil, all ready to take advantage of it seemingly for the massive ratings that will result. However, Dr. Phil said one thing that unnerved me more than anything: he told Nick Gordon to “man up.”

“You gotta get yourself cleaned up. You gotta man up. You gotta straighten up…”

“I’ve been so strong for so many people, for so long. So please, don’t tell me to man up.”

“Yes, I am going to tell you that.”

“No, you’re not.”

“I just did.”

I am no psychiatrist or mental health counselor, but I am wondering where telling a suicidal, grieving and in-need-of-rehab individual to “man up” falls on the list of wrong things to say. I am not inherently upset at the use of the word term “man up.” If you have children and aren’t taking care of them, then “man up.” If times get tough and you start to crumble under the weight of a little pressure, telling somebody to “man up” just may be an improperly proper use of word. However, I think Dr. Phil made some pseudo attempt at toughness towards somebody clearly isn’t built like that (another manly term).

Somebody near and dear to me said that I was a “manly man,” something which I had never heard before. I’ve been told I am a stern dad, but I am also a lot of fun with my love of comic books, music and all-around goofiness. If I am some form of “manly man,” I got it from my father or – gasp – I am turning into my dad. I never saw my dad weak, particularly mentally. Even the day he died, he was powerful in the midst of a dying state. So, I understand why some people may say to Nick, “Man up!” Yes, he looks extra frail, mentally even, but I think that is the time when you have to have some compassion. When Mike Brown was killed by Darren Wilson, I momentarily broke down. Everybody is not cut from burlap and we all need support to keep from taking succumbing.

Oddly enough, the latest episode of “Being Mary Jane” shocked me when it delved into the issues of Black men, mental health, suicide and stress – all valid issues. On the episode, a prominent male Black attorney kills himself after succumbing to life’s pressure. Sheldon, one of the shows characters smoothly says to Pauletta “Mary Jane” Patterson, “Black men, in America, today like (the lawyer) Brian Ellis, have been smothered literally their whole lives as they claw their way up the ranks. Smothered by corporate greed. Smothered by racism. By oppression. Smothered by hatred. Smothered by fear. Smothered by a system that truly never meant for them to succeed.” Then – for sexiness sake – Mary Jane and Sheldon’s conversation devolves into a tit-for-tat Black men versus Black women conversation. I am sure it made for good TV to those that watch regularly and lust for twitter quips.

The only thing is: this is real life.

“There’s definitely a mental health aspect to all of this. Black men in particular are reared and taught to be a certain way, whether it be our culture internally or society at large. We’re always taught that we’re tougher. Just because you’re Black you’re tougher, which may be true to a certain degree. But, with a lot of Black men, we don’t allow ourselves to express sadness.” – Chuck Creekmur from “Celebrity Crime Files: Shakir Stewart”

One thing I concede, as explicitly stated in “Being Mary Jane,” Black women have been there for me in my hardest times and I’ve done my best to be there for them as well – a  notion rejected in the show’s dialogue. The reality is that men don’t often feel they can release those emotions to women or other men for fear of somebody saying, “Man up!” As it relates to boys, this basically says, “Push down all your emotions, keep it inside and don’t even let it out again, boy. You are to be stronger than you are and, frankly, I don’t want to see it.” There are always going to be life struggles so parents will have moments that test their child’s intestinal fortitude. These instances are not when somebody is crying out of grief, threatening suicide and compromised by drugs or alcohol.

Here is my clip from Celebrity Crime Files:
PS: For the record, this op-ed piece is not meant to determine if Nick Gordon is acting hurt or not, or whether he is the reason Bobbi Kristina is on life support.

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