As men are are the major theme of our August issue, Verve editors Fran and Jude invited resident writer Jamie to pen this month’s introduction.
Making Sense of Masculinity in the Modern World
Self-awareness vacuum-in-chief Donald Trump has publicly bragged about the size of his personal fortune, his crowds, his private jet, his hands, and his Johnson, but with each boast comes a greater insight into his almost tragically thin-skinned insecurities.
Trump, like his boss and fellow bully, Vladimir Putin, suffers the misguided belief that a strong man must be a strongman. His prehistoric views on, well, everything, appear emblematic of those of many a male baby boomer, while, on the other side of the political — and social, cultural and intellectual — spectrum, the likes of Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada, or France’s President Macron, appear to represent all that a modern man could, or should, be: self-assured yet temperate, sensitive and inquiring. It’s tempting to put these polar opposite philosophies down to generational divides, but life’s not as neat as that. US senator, and possible 2020 presidential candidate-to-be, Bernie Sanders, 75, and British prime minister-in-waiting Jeremy Corbyn, 68, are silver-haired proof that manners, grace, humility, kindness, decency and even feminism are virtues that transcend both time and gender.
My father has never been around. My early years were spent living with my mother at my grandparents’ house, so my first recollection of a male figure was my granddad. He rarely spoke and spent his days sat in his armchair reading hardback books and smoking too much, occasionally tending to his runner beans in the back yard. I was nine when he died and, save for a kind uncle who became a part-time surrogate father I guess, I was raised by my mum and nan with few other male role models — my two aunts were around a lot, also.
It’s said you can’t miss what you never had, but that adage is of only limited truth. For all the love and emotional care that so many women are so adept at bestowing, for a child, they lack a certain presence and physical security that comes only with the company of an older male. Later, through my teens and probably even into my twenties, whether it be the fathers of friends or girlfriends, work colleagues, or the older crowd down the local pub, I sought the company, conversation, and, ultimately, validation of older guys — and you hardly need a degree in psychology to figure out why.
So, what does it mean to be a man? There’s certainly no need to be built like an All Black or possess the wit of Oscar Wilde or the bank balance of Warren Buffet, Start with just being there, man. Whether it be at home, the office, the factory, the farm, or the pub. Be open. Be available. Listen. You never know who needs it.