View from the Bridge: 63

by John Morrison


63: News from the Front

As we race into the final bend of the last lap of the twentieth century, it's men who seem to be moaning loudest about their lot. All those magazine articles - What Are Men For ? - are taking their toll on our self-esteem. They're cunningly implanted into those areas of the male psyche where more traditional interests - football, beer and sex - ought to be.

Men's customary place at the head of the nuclear family seems to have been usurped. And the nuclear family itself is going the way of nuclear weapons and nuclear power: another experiment in domination that seems to have failed. If we're surplus to requirements - no longer needed to carve the Sunday joint, put up shelves or become a convenient bogie man to frighten mischievous children ("Just wait till your father gets home...") - then what does the future hold for us?

In the past we've tended to regard self-analysis - along with weeping uncontrollably - as activities best left to women. They do it so much better. And for so much longer. It's a shame that the emotions expressed most commonly by men are blind rage or maudlin self-pity. So now we are trying to get in touch, instead, with our more nurturing side. We read copies of Cosmopolitan - openly, brazenly - and not just the bra ads either. But whenever we collapse in floods of tears because our football team has lost, we're given no credit whatsoever.

In the age-old war between the sexes, Wounded Man is one foot-soldier who has arguably spent too much time behind enemy lines. He listens - a lot - to women's problems and concerns. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays he can usually be found sitting at a stripped pine kitchen table, in one terraced house or another. He'll be cradling a mug of herbal tea, gnawing at a home-made biscuit and nodding understandingly while a woman with wild eyes and unruly hair is emoting at interminable length. He's learned to be a good listener, but it's a role he seems to be stuck with.

He's done his best, God knows, to be what the women he knows say they want men to be. He's tried to tap into his feminine side (he's not gay, exactly... he'd just be prepared to pitch in if they were short-handed). He's come to see women not merely as sex objects but as co-travellers down the rocky road of life. He resists making chauvinistic assumptions about a woman's sexual proclivities. In short, he's become so benign and docile that the women of Milltown have come to see him as just part of the furniture. They don't see him as a sexual being any more, just a willing ear. Which means that all he gets is aural sex. It's so long since he last had a tumble under the duvet that he can't even remember who gets tied up first. The most exciting thing that happens to him in bed these days is cramp. In the gender war he's no longer even mentioned in dispatches.

The final humiliation came when Wounded Man was beaten up by a twelve-year old. He's tried to rationalise the situation: he was taken by surprise... she was big for her age. But there's no escaping the fact that his pride - as well as his face - has taken quite a beating. When Willow Woman calls round, to tell him that her inner child is starting nursery, she is too preoccupied to offer much sympathy. "Take it like a man", she says, unthinkingly, before leaving him alone to cry hot tears of anguish and humiliation.

The truth hurts. Not as much as having your testicles wired up to a car battery, of course, but that's scant consolation to a man in pain. Wounded Man knows he's got to find a way to rediscover his manhood. It's been swamped by a tidal wave of uncritical empathy and constant emotional honesty: it's what can happen when you spend too much time in the company of women.

A man needs to stand on his own two feet, look the world straight in the eye and say "This is what I am. There's nothing to apologise for. OK, I'll take a shower..." in an unequivocal statement about his own masculinity. He needs to run with the wolves, shit in the woods and enjoy relationships with other men that can include farting contests.... but isn't merely defined by them.

So it seems like providence is taking a hand when Wounded Man spies an unassuming little poster in the newsagent's window, advertising the first ever meeting of the Milltown Men's Group.

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