Posted by: Admin | August 13, 2010

MANLINESS

Thanks to Son No 2 for rescuing the blog yesterday while I chatted to God on the great white telephone. 😦   He’s home for his birthday, which means hours of deep discussion about the meaning of life and, when I’m a bit less wobbly, long walks in the countryside. Today we’ve been talking about what it means to be a man in today’s society (I warned you he was deep!) It’s got me thinking about the difference between this generation of young men and their fathers.

Regular readers of project50 might recall my mentioning the jostling and general argy-bargy that took place in the crowd at the Hard Rocks concert in Hyde Park earlier this year. Part of it took place when husband of my heart and Son no.2 were off hunting for food whilst we women kept the hearth burning, so to speak, by preserving our patch of grass by sitting down. Cue the appearance, separately, of two obnoxious middle-aged gits who clearly thought they had more right to be there than we did and proceeded to try to bully us, and the mother and daughter group next to us, out of the arena.

Hunter-Gatherer

On his return, Son No 2 quickly appraised the first situation and waded in with: “is this man bothering you, Mum?” I’ve never seen him so tall, or broad as, my hesitation to reply being answer enough for him, he turned to our tormentor and faced him down. Like all bullies, met with aggression the man backed off more quickly than a whipped dog.

Was it wrong to feel proud? Aren’t we supposed to decry physical aggression in all it’s forms?

Many of my generation of men were brought up as “new men” – nappy changers, equal partners, in touch with their feelings – the forerunners of the nineties metro-sexuals. So I hold no grudge against my dear one for not being particularly attuned to alpha-male behaviour. It was bred out of him by the times in which he grew up and with four children under seven, I was grateful for a new man, believe me! I find it interesting, however, that my sons seem in many ways to have more in common with their grandparents’ generation than their father’s. Is this a reaction against the general feminisation of men that has taken place over the past twenty years?

In my father’s day, boys were expected to channel their testosterone into “manly” pursuits such as boxing and camping. I’m not suggesting we should return to the days where men and women were constrained to one-size-fits-all stereotypes, where real men didn’t cry (though I have to admit, I wish they wouldn’t cry as much and as publicly as they now seem to). I just wonder what are boys expected to do with their “boyness”? What does it mean to be a man in 2010?

Society is quick to decry signs of aggression in the young (I’m not talking about knife-toting, mobile-phone-weilding happy-slappers here). Has “manliness” become a dirty word? The Oxford Dictionary defines “manly” as “having good qualities associated with men, such as courage, frankness, etc.” I recognise these qualities in both my sons and many of their friends.

That’s not to say that my husband isn’t manly. He is. He plays sport, drinks beer and doesn’t listen to his wife. He is a REAL MAN. Phew, did I get away with that?

Son No 2 thinks that because many young men have grown up without fathers they’ve had to learn what it is to be a man from other sources. They find role models in their lives such as a boss at work, a friend’s father or a gang. Films and computer games can also play a role – for example, Son No 2 cites the character, Tyler Durden, from Fight Club as a big influence.

So how does all this affect the relationship between sons and fathers? How many male project50 readers find their teenage boys difficult to understand? Is it just the generation gap or something to do with the times in which we live?

I’ve decided to dedicate this weekend to Fathers and Sons. The Saturday Interview will be a two-parter with Son No 2 talking tomorrow about his relationship with his father. On Sunday we’ll hear the other side of the story. Fathers and sons are welcome to contribute.

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