From top: Irish schoolboys, 1940s; Dan Boyle
The Irish education system threw back my proper socialisation by a number of decades. My school in Chicago was secular, integrated and most importantly was mixed gender.
The religion, race or sex of my classmates was a matter of complete indifference to me.
Proximity, though, made my still enlarging heart grow fonder. At eight years of age, a classmate, a young lady of Czech extraction, named Anna Cervinka, had me all a flutter.
Within months my mother had planked our family in Cork, where I was sent to a Presentation Brothers (GAA) Boys school. From then I was encouraged to consider the female gender, not only as an opposite sex but as more of a different species.
In secondary school céilís were offered as an alternative to the licentiousness of discos. Held in ballroom style with boys on one side and girls on the other; lights were left on full glare, with teachers never more than ten feet away.
Conversations were often stilted with little being offered lest idiocy, hesitation or spittle became too prevalent. Issues of closeness, to touch where, how and with what intensity, plagued us with insecurities.
In a parallel universe we lads, when among ourselves, would be consoled through locker room talk. Most of us knew this to be over compensatory twaddle. Many sadly didn’t. What was meant to be the language of insecurity became, for some, the practice of misogyny.
Most of us got over our hang up. Learning, if often far too late in the day, that our lives would be enriched when able to relate to strong, independent, ballsy women.
Others saw their verbal and psychological bullying of women as banter; their physical assault of those they perceived as underlings, as a bit of slap and tickle.
All power systems – political, commercial or artistic attract these ill formed versions of masculinity. Many have colluded with these power plays. The worst perpretrators have been lauded as ‘Ladies Men’. We learn too late how poorly their seduction methods are.
For those knuckleheads who believe they have arrived, they see the prestige and privilege bestowed on them as conferring a droit du seigneur. How hollow must their lives be that their relationships with the other half of humankind on this planet, can only be determined by their ability to implicitly, or tacitly, intimidate others into submission.
However pathetic the tongue twisted and floor gazing adolescence (and early adulthood) that many of us have had was, it could never scrape the barrel of those who while believing themselves to have had it all, in human terms have had nothing at all.
With the recent death of Hugh Hefner, perhaps this is a good time to dissolve the chimera his fantasy lifestyle was meant to provide. It seems that too often that what has happened in various corridors of power has been more Marquis de Sade than Mills and Boon.
We need to stop lionising these tawdry heroes of a tired and spent masculinity. We need to emerge from our emotional ghettos. We, men, need to cop ourselves on.
We still have a lot of growing up to do Lads.
Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle
Pic: Walker Harrison Howell