Friday, July 2, 2010

Quotes of the malaise

We had been thinking of the following even before B-Daddy goaded us into it proving feeble minds do think alike:

In the discreet white-collar realm, men and women are interchangeable, doing the same, mind-based work. Physicality is suppressed; voices are lowered and gestures curtailed in sanitized office space. Men must neuter themselves, while ambitious women postpone procreation. Androgyny is bewitching in art, but in real life it can lead to stagnation and boredom, which no pill can cure.

Meanwhile, family life has put middle-class men in a bind; they are simply cogs in a domestic machine commanded by women. Contemporary moms have become virtuoso super-managers of a complex operation focused on the care and transport of children. But it’s not so easy to snap over from Apollonian control to Dionysian delirium.

Nor are husbands offering much stimulation in the male display department: visually, American men remain perpetual boys, as shown by the bulky T-shirts, loose shorts and sneakers they wear from preschool through midlife. The sexes, which used to occupy intriguingly separate worlds, are suffering from over-familiarity, a curse of the mundane. There’s no mystery left.


In retrospect, I believe I was cheated. When I was a kid, adult behavior consisted of men and women dancing close to the sounds of Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole, and practicing sophisticated rites of wooing and seduction. The string arrangements were lush and romantic - Dad played Jackie Gleason and Gordon Jenkins albums that fully defined the style. Then came rock and roll, freedom from parentally-imposed restrictions and the celebration of being young. (In some ways my parents became co-conspirators in the movement: In an effort to make me more representative of my generation, Mom bought me a hot green Nehru jacket that I refused to wear. She also tried talking me into wearing my hair like the Dr. McCoy character in Star Trek, and threatened to take me to a barber with a illustrative photo for guidance. "Don't you want to wear your hair like JFK?" she'd ask. I kept my buzz cut - it was easier to remove playground sand from at the end of the day.)

The pacifism, idealism, altered awareness, Eastern mysticism and the relaxed grooming standards my peers adopted during my teenage years confused me, and by the time disco arrived when I turned eighteen, I was deeply disappointed. Sure, culturally we were becoming dominant, but what we had was empty and nowhere as mysterious and promising as the postwar adult culture I had observed when I was younger. Driving was nice, of course, and signing my own cut slips from class was a liberation of sorts, but what happened to the mystique of being an adult? Where were all the other members? What's more, opposition to the war in Viet Nam puzzled me. Wasn't this part of the admission to the club I had been exposed to as a child? How on earth could one talk about their war days, as my parents' friends had, if there weren't any war days?

You know something is amiss when a sexual libertine as Camille Paglia and a 50-something cultural traditionalist blogger from Southern California recognize the same dysfunction from somewhat divergent view points.

Back in junior high we had to take a class called "Man in Demand". It was a Scripture-based how-to manual for masculinity, nobleness, strength of character and discipline. Given our upbringing, it was totally redundant material. However, 30 years on where we've progressed to the point that not only have we elected our first black President but our first female one, as well, we believe the good Baptists that ran the school knew what they were doing.


SarahB said...

The other day I had to kill a rattle snake at the new house while in the presence of a very liberal "male" friend of mine. And while I was perfectly capable of lopping off the head of the viper with a handy tile scraper, I have been deeply annoyed ever since that any able bodied man would even consider being the observing party to something like that. There is no dignity in losing our gender rolls...and our terribly androgynous president is definitely party to the problem (for God's sake, learn to throw a baseball, man!).

B-Daddy said...

Thanks for making explicit what I had only alluded to, in my haste and of course, for the link love. Whatever you might say about our previous President, he seemed to understand the lessons of "Man in Demand" instinctively, and for that he was reviled.

With regards to the present President, Temple of Mut provides a compendium of comparisons to James Buchanan, who was slightly odd himself.

Road Dawg said...

Now you're calling HIM a "girl"? Just don't let the Russian's be disrespectful though.