Saturday, February 05, 2011

Moist Men

The longer they live, the more likely men are to cry or at least tear up in response to emotional stimulus. Perhaps the deepest effect of John Boehner as Speaker of the U.S. House may be awareness of adult crying. We are still in the puerile ridicule stage, but more is in the works. Already, there's lots of pop and academic chatter.

Two months ago, the NY Times got into it and today the Boston Globe did a light variation. Before and between, the MSM and net is rife with commentary. I suspect the interest is really more of a boomer issue than for other age groups. The older folk are still in a weird, repressed cultural hole and the young folk, at this point at least, don't care...yet.

For those of us not of my generation — and for those not particularly introspective —boomers felt lots of old-fashioned pressures. Our parents (and grands) as well as the movies and TV that we lived by and from, were of heroes and villains.

We swam in Westerns and WWII movies in addition to more frivolous and fantastic fare. Our parents as a group were deep into cultivating the mythology of themselves as what has become known as the Greatest Generation, partially through history and more through that fluff piece.

We didn't question their courage, their world-changing post-war decisions, or much of any of their vainglory. As much as the white hats or helmeted GIs on the screen, the entire bunch were God's gifts to us and the world.

A key aspect of the real people and screen folk was assumptions of manhood...including that real men did not cry. Our movie men bit leather belts or bullets or took a swig of whiskey to have a leg cut off or a bullet dug out. Manly men could grunt or curse (mild exclamations at high volume only), but tears were for weak women or little girls.

Given the culture, at least for the white middle class, women were the primary enforcers of such inanity. As constantly available surrogates for the working dads, they taught day to day how a boy was supposed to behave to be an acceptable man. Look no farther to figure out where the bullies, repressed men and wife abusers learned their stuff.

Yet, it was the whole culture that constructed and reinforced this rigid role. I recall from pre-elementary school how a crying boy was ridiculed by peers, parents, teachers, strangers. Men don't cry.

Yet, men in their 50s and beyond do. Their daughters' weddings, a grandchild's hugs and kisses and more and more bring out the tears.

An amusing aspect is that the surviving WWII folk are in their late 70s into their 90s. Those men cry. I've seen and heard it. Oddly enough, many of their boomer kids and grandkids are very forgiving and understanding, we'd have to say more realistic and mature. They simply don't buy into that unrealistic fantasy of manhood precluding tears.

The older you get, the more you have powerful libraries of experience. You also have changing and even rogue hormones rushing in when you don't expect it. The control the so-called Greatest Generation claims to have had erodes under the constant lapping of life's tides.

We can look back to 1972 to Sen. Ed Muskie crying on TV as he spoke into mics. That was end end of his presidential chances. He was defending his wife against outrageous slander of her as a swearing drunk. Yet, even as he spoke in New Hampshire cold, he later claimed he wasn't crying, rather those were snowflakes, not tears. We can be sure that Boehner would not be reduced to such ploys.

This is another century, a couple of generations out. Honest emotion is out there and Boehner is in its vanguard. Sure, he's a silly guy, but more for his crazy politics and pandering to wingers than his handkerchief wetting.

He may not give a good name to weepy pols. In fact, we could likely do without the melodrama. Yet, here's a very powerful guy, a certified male of the species who cries in public. That really isn't so bad now, is it?
Tags: massmarrier, crying, Boehner, Greatest Generation, manhood, boomers

No comments: