Producers of daytime TV talk programs usually make shows for a mostly female audience, so talking about men’s issues on them has been a challenge for me. Sometimes, the best part of the show I do gets edited out, as was the case with this edition of the “Dr. Phil” show…
Ramon was a young man, newly divorced from his young bride. Despite the divorce, Ramon was determined to stay involved in the life of his two-year old son, but his former in-laws had other ideas. They didn’t like Ramon and so they devised a diabolical plan to keep him away from his son, their new grandson: “Grandma” lured Ramon into a garage and then “Grandpa” shot him in the back of the head with a handgun!
But the gun used by the parents of his ex-wife apparently didn’t have the firepower needed to separate Ramon from his son. Miraculously, Ramon survived the attack. Grandma and Grandpa were found guilty at trial and were sent to prison. Ramon went to the family court to re-establish the relationship with his son and it was there that he encountered obstacles more formidable than the gun used by his former in-laws.
A discouraged Ramon, fighting a frustrating and up-hill battle for meaningful time with his son, turned to the “Dr. Phil” show for help. Dr. Phil McGraw invited me on the show to offer my opinion of the case. Ramon’s ex-wife was represented on the show by a letter sent to the show by her attorney. In the letter, the lawyer suggested that if Ramon wanted more time with his son, he should get himself a full-time job.
Somehow, a man’s worth, a father’s worth, is still measured by money. Fifty years of changing roles for women but not much has changed for men. Not really. Pay your child support and then maybe we’ll let you see your child. Earn your right to be a dad. You can be shot in the head but you better have a good job if you want to be respected as a real man.
“If someone shoots you in the back of the head and you survive,” I insisted on the show, “and then you have the courage to fight for your child, from that point forward you should enjoy a very strong presumption that you will be a great dad.” The studio audience expressed agreement with applause.
And then I continued because I knew that Ramon is claiming that accusations made by his ex-wife to the family court are false. His case presents a striking and symbolic irony. “A false accusation can be a highly destructive weapon that can be used with impunity,” I observed. “While a gun couldn’t separate Ramon from his child, a false accusation might.”
I thought it was an important and pertinent observation but no one outside of the studio heard it. It fell victim to the editing. Dr. Phil McGraw has always treated me with respect and I have been grateful for opportunities to be on his show, but I do wish that someone, someday, would make a talk show for men as well as women. There is so much more to be said.