Male Vulnerability Isn’t Pretty—But It’s Important

Why do we pretend we’re “just okay” when we’re obviously not?

Benjamin Sledge
Human Parts
Published in
8 min readApr 12, 2019

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II found the frogs in a puddle after a thunderstorm. The earth was still wet. Insects and amphibians were crawling out of holes to soak in the humid sun. I tottered along the sidewalk grasping my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Party Wagon, where I stored the small frogs I’d discovered. Settling next to my neighbor’s outdoor air conditioning unit, I peeked over the top to stare at the internal fan blades purring in a rhythmic cycle. Rust had eaten away a few slats to create a small opening. I looked into the hole, which reminded me of the blender my mother used at home. I was smart enough to know if I put my hand through the slats, my fingers would disappear like a tomato in a blender.

The air conditioning unit was one of the few dry spots among the puddles gathered on the sidewalk. I sat down, removed the frogs from inside the Party Wagon, and played. I owned none of the actual Ninja Turtle figurines, so the frogs would have to do.

In the animated series, the Turtles Party Wagon has a removable roof they use as a springboard to launch the four brothers into the air. Following the cartoon depiction, my Party Wagon also had a flippable roof. The idea was to launch the frogs from the Party Wagon, reenacting their battles with the Turtles’ nemesis—the Foot Clan.

The small frog I placed on the roof hopped off several times, but eventually tired of the tiny human scooping him up and saying, “Stay put. It’s Turtle Time.” Raising my hand high, I came down quickly, connecting with the end of the roof, which spring-boarded the frog high in the air. I smiled in awe as the frog rose so high I had to shield my eyes from the sun. Then gravity kicked in and the poor creature fell at a rapid rate toward the concrete, landing with a splat.

I couldn’t tell if I’d killed the frog. He wasn’t moving as I poked, then begged him to get up. I rolled the green amphibian onto his back and his legs spread wide. Panic set in. I scooped up the frog to blow on him, like God breathing life into Adam. No reaction. In the biblical narrative of Cain and Abel, Cain tries to disguise the murder of his younger brother. Cain’s mindset became clear as I continued to blow on the…

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Benjamin Sledge
Human Parts

Multi-award winning author | Combat wounded veteran | Mental health specialist | Occasional geopolitical intel | Graphic designer | https://benjaminsledge.com