In days gone by, men were expected to work things out for themselves. They were supposed to have a grip on their 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 – or got drunk. Mostly got drunk or took up with women of dubious repute.
Strong men, following a kind of John Wayne/Hemingway model at one time weren’t allowed to have insurmountable problems. Men were 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 and wanted to know why?
“Drinking too much? Get a grip on yourself, man, and cut it out!”
That would have been old Doc Jones’ advice in grandfather’s day. Either that, or Jones would join his patient for a few jars.
And what if a man in that ‘golden era’ was faced with an — ahem — sexualproblem? What if he, say, became unable to ‘perform’ like he’d been able to when he was younger? In all likelihood ‘nobody’ would have known about that little problem. Maybe, in a case of extreme duress about the matter he might have gone back to chat with Doc Jones or maybe even his priest. The doctor would have advised a hunting trip just to get away from it all, and the priest would have suggested appropriate scriptural passages, and a more liberal use of whiskey in his daily life.
Men didn’t get help at an earlier time because the prevailing belief was that a ‘real man’ didn’t need help. Womenfolk needed help and guidance toget them through their ongoing rough passages, 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 psychiatrist she was seeing for a bout of depression she was undergoing at the time. Actually, she was undergoing a bout of depression at virtually any time in my recall, but that’s another matter, and it’s kind of sad. 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 for you to find a ‘Self-Help’ section for men. There would have been a smattering of 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 anearlier day were concerned, there were rare items like the Kinsey Report,which, at the time of its publication in 1948, was deemed so frank and revolutionary that the innocents of the day couldn’t figure out whether it was a scholarly study or just a dirty book. Consequently, it was usually sequestered 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 proliferate until the 1970s when people of the boomer generation were coming into their own and were demanding, not to mention creating reference material designed to help us cringing 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 that 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 a guy’s past fifty.
Some of these books are good, and some are very, very bad. Some are well-considered and scholarly, and others are nonsensical and excruciatingly ‘new-agey’, and a few are 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. And, within a year, it will be as stale as, well, last year’s new theory of the moment.
And then there is the entire realm of the Internet. A body doesn’t even need to avail himself of a pricey book; not when he can look it up, and then proceed to tell his doctor or psychiatrist that he knows ‘exactly’ what is wrong with him, and he needs no further clinical assistance, because some ‘theorist’ has suggested he doesn’t.
Instant expertise is one result of Internet browsing. Instant hypochondria is another, in which the peruser deduces, from what he reads, that his symptoms are terminal so there is little point in carrying on. The doctor might have told him that his upper right quadrant discomfort stems from a surfeit of fried onions at bedtime, but our website checker has become convinced it’s pancreatic cancer and he’s a goner.
Maybe it was better when men ‘pretended’ to have everything under control.