When I wrote the other day about having found my ‘lost’ manuscript a few expressed an interest in my posting some excerpts. So, that is what I am doing here. I did a couple of little updates, like the ‘Mad Men’ reference (see illustration) but otherwise it’s pretty much as I wrote it. Hope you enjoy. If I did ever run this earlier, please forgive me.
In days gone by, we men were supposed to work things out for ourselves. We were expected to have a grip on our lives and if, for some reason, it got too tough to carry on, then the reasonable man went and talked to his father, priest or pastor. The unreasonable man (most) got drunk.
Strong men weren’t allowed to have insurmountable problems. Men were supposed to be, nay, expected to be in charge. In command of not only their destinies, but also those of their families. What kind of a real man would have gone whimpering to a shrink or counselor if, say, he thought he might be hitting the sauce too hard?
The characters of the series Mad Men are perfect if clichéd representatives of that ethic.
“Drinking too much? Get a grip on yourself, man, and cut it out!”
That would have been the physician’s advice in grandfather’s day.
And what if a man in that ‘golden era’ was faced with an — ahem — sexual
problem? What if he, say, couldn’t get it up like he’d been able to when
he was younger? In all likelihood ‘nobody’ else would have known about his little problem. He couldn’t admit that things weren’t working the way they should for a ‘real’ man. Maybe, in a case of extreme stress about the matter he might (just ‘might’) have gone to chat with Old Doc Jones. Those were pre-Viagra days so male sexual dysfunction was not broadcast far and wide like today.
Men didn’t get help in any area of their lives at an earlier time because the prevailing belief was that a ‘real man’ didn’t need help. Womenfolk needed help and guidance to get them through their ongoing rough passages (“She’ll be running for the shelter of her mother’s little helper” – ah yes, thank God for Valium), and children periodically called out for a good back of the paternal hand, but men. Men were tough.
Such attitudes prevailed until quite recently. I know my father never willingly spoke to a counselor in his entire life — though God knows he needed to. I mentioned “willingly”. He once accompanied my mother to a counselor she was seeing. She was undergoing a bout of depression at the time. Actually, she was undergoing a bout of depression at virtually any time, but that’s another matter. Anyway, my father went once, and refused to go again. He hated the experience because the counselor turned around and actually blamed him for some of his wife’s concerns. That wasn’t right, in his eyes. So he never went back.
Guidance seeking on the part of males is a recent phenomenon. If you had
entered a bookstore prior to 1970 it would have been unlikely to find a ‘Self-Help’ section for men. There would have been a few tomes on psychology and perhaps even sexuality, but not sufficient books on male issues to warrant any shelf space.
As far as actual guidebooks (as opposed to clinical offerings) in an
earlier day were concerned, they were rare items like the Kinsey Report,
which, at the time of its publication in 1948, was deemed so frank and
revolutionary that nobody could figure out whether it was a scholarly study or just a dirty book. Consequently, it was usually secured in the old man’s underwear drawer, just in case youthful eyes should happen upon it. There were a few other studies around, but most of them were deadly boring, and not particularly helpful in aiding folk to deal with their lives.
Guidebooks as we understand them didn’t truly proliferate until the 1970s
— that is when people of our generation were coming into their own and were demanding, not to mention creating reference material designed to help us cringing baby-boomer neurotics deal with the perils of modern living. These books not only were written in massive numbers, some of them even became best-sellers.
Books galore. Books dealing with every human concern, real or imagined.
General sex guides weren’t enough. There were and are books to address gay sex, geriatric sex, sado-masochism, transexuality, polygamy, and so on and so on.
There came into being guides to marriage, divorce, common-law living, blended families, older men/younger women, and older women/younger men, and we can anticipate, considering how our generation is aging, lots more stuff on geriatric love-making and how tantric sex is becoming increasingly the trend of the moment, since holding on gets so much easier when you’re past fifty. That is – ahem – if it’s still working (see Viagra or a chat with old Doc. Jones).
Some of these books are good, and some are very, very bad. Some are
well-considered and scholarly, and others are nonsensical, with a few being downright dangerous.
For the most part I am wary of experts and their guidebooks. I attempt to
be as circumspect as possible when I glean through the ‘effective living’
thoughts of another. I’ve read a lot of them, both out of interest, and in my work as an addictions counselor. For me it comes down to a matter of caveat emptor. The only advice I can give is that if you are reading a guidebook that sounds like faddish bullshit, it probably is faddish bullshit.
I won’t even go into the TV gurus on damn near anything and everything. “Take two cuddles from Oprah, after a bit of crankiness from Dr. Phil, then call me in the morning.” If pop-pap really solved all our woes then we would live in a completely healthy society. Maybe we should stop being so self-obsessed and get out and see what we can do for some other people. You know, people who are hungry, have been dispossessed and ground under. We just might end up feeling better if we dish up some turkey for the hungry boys and girls with Thanksgiving rolls around. Puts things into perspective.