How It Was: 1960’s, my brother yelps, wasp got him. Grown men are near. Mr. Murphy, the oldest man, reached into his mouth and pulled out his spit soaked chew of tobacco and slapped it on the wasp sting. Positioned my brother’s hand on it, grunted, “Hold it.”
That was it. Ten seconds. Back to talking, like a wasp sting wasn’t nothing, because it wasn’t.
That’s how it was. Not long ago…
These Few Decades Later…
Guy gives me a $20. I give him back a $5 and some $1’s. Next thing you know, he’s pumping out sanitizer, rubbing his hands like money was nuclear waste. He’s doing this in front of a guy who never washes his coffee cup, who wipes a knife across the back of his jeans and calls that clean enough.
Off he goes, climbs in this big manly pickup, with tires and lifts that cost a year of college, a 4wd truck that will never leave pavement, a hitch that will never tow, a steering wheel gripped by hands that will never know splinter nor callous, driven by a man who doesn’t know how to change a flat tire, find 3/16 on a tape measure, or know what aisle the hardware store sells board stretchers, bubble water and left handed hammers. He’s got the beard, but it don’t offset the don’t-add-up.
In the long chain of American males, we have come to this…
Most obvious first answer is – life got easier.
Second answer – America got feminine.
And Why Did America Get Feminine?
The pendulum was too blue. Nature wants balance, so it swung the other way, to pink, to feminine.
Sometimes I flinch, with how we thought back then, and by we, I mean everybody… Women were for kitchen ‘n kids, and making sure the accent pillows on the sofa matched the drapes. If they worked, the career path was narrow, the ceiling low, and the duration was often waiting-for-Mr.-Right.
Men ran the town, men ran the school, men ran the bank, men ran the law. James Brown even had the song for it, It’s A Man’s World.
I click Start with the 1960’s. (Arguments can be made for earlier, but I write about what I know, and this I know.) It’s a great whirl of change, the Civil Rights Movement and desegregation of the schools, The Pill, dissatisfaction with Vietnam (and the males who got us into it), the increase in divorce, the subdividing of American identity into dashes, change and more change each decade, consistently the ascension of women and descension of men.
I pass no judgement. Change was due and overdue. If I mourn anything, it’s that I think we’ve got a classic baby-thrown-out-with-the-bathwater scenario.
This Is My How-It-Was
When I’m a kid America is layered with war veterans. The school board president might’ve served with Pershing in WWI. The school principal may have been a tank gunner under Patton in WWII. The algebra teacher, coldest day of the year, out smoking cigarettes wearing only a short sleeve shirt, because this wasn’t cold, not after Korea…
They were all veterans of The Great Depression. Men were tough, in that silent, nothing-to-prove way.
Common sense was thick. Perspective was deep. Jack o’ all trades were common, and just about anybody could work a tape measure, understood level and square. Hard times return, your banker could shoot his dinner. The lawyer’s first childhood job was milking cows before school. The football coach had dynamited pine stumps to pay for college.
Wars over, these men were a civilian army of order and dependability, united by some mysterious code of honor and manners.
Men didn’t complain. Bad marriage, bad job, bad knees, not a peep. Men were foundational back then. Families on their back, communities on their back, America on their back. And if some country wanted to war with us, well, good luck…
When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor our army still had horse cavalry. In four years, we beat Italy, Japan and Germany. We literally saved the world. Those guys were the prime adults of my childhood. America was the inspiration of the world: any good invention – America; any good technology – America; cure diseases – America; aim high, work hard, make something of yourself – America.
That’s your male ancestor. Not long ago…
Hear me clear: I’m not saying that we’re not raising quality males. I’m saying, “We have much less, of what we used to have in abundance.” The proven stuff. The no-matter-what-comes-they’re-up-to-it stuff.
Change is imperfect. It starts too late, moves too fast, gives no warning, has no proportion, rarely has a plan, is run by a mob, and like Goldilocks ‘n the bears ‘n the porridge, it’s too hot, too cold, and almost never Just Right.
Today’s American male is different. How could they not be?
When I was a boy there were few divorces. It matters, the man presence. It’s the Other Way of looking at things, and kids need it, both sexes.
Primary education is more than 3R’s. It’s where you learn social skills, learn to deal with hormones, and for boys, it’s where we learn to handle that pesky masculine trait, aggression.
Boys fought at recess when I was a kid. It was like popping a pimple. Boom. Done. I never fought the same kid twice. Avoid each other for a day or so, and it was over. That’s how guys are. We had bullies, because life had bullies. I tried turning the other cheek, but one day I got up-to-here with a guy who outweighed me by fifty pounds. Two punches during P.E., I cured him. Coach right there watching, said, “Stop that nonsense,” and that was that.
Now they don’t even let kids play Tag, lest it get too rough. School is feminized, the rules set to pink sensibilities. Any classic boy behavior is viewed as something wrong behavior.
Watch a TV commercial. If there’s two speaking parts, and one of them has to be dumb, or nerdy, or soft, or doesn’t get it, watch who it is…. over and over and over, that’s what society is telling your boys…
What good comes of telling half your population that they are Less?
It’s Too Too Too
Change is usually a red hot mess. There’s always a mysterious “They” who make the rules, pick the emphasis. Who are they, where are they, and how did they rate influencing me/us/right here?
I trust common sense. Every ladder has two legs. Socially, America needs the best of male, and the best of female, in balance, in your turn, my turn, your best, my best, and up we go.
Our problem was balance, and lookee here, we still have the same problem, we just switched the colors…
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This edition of Uncle P’s Bedtime Stories is brought to you by Eighty-one, where we think God knew what He was doing when He made the two sexes.
Uncle P’s Bedtime Stories, Vol I, in book form, can be purchased at Eighty-one, 3507 Ryan. Uncle P can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org”