Masculine influence is sorely lacking in today’s world, just like it was when I was coming of age. My father grew up on a farm, surrounded by his grandfather, father, brothers and uncles. Today, unless you happen to grow up in one of the declining agricultural families, or are involved with fathers and bloodlines that hunt, which is also declining, you don’t really have that regular masculine influence to strongly counteract the feminist doctrine. Our efforts as fathers can play a large part in providing this, and I’ve mentioned before some of the things I do with my son LoudBoy to cut through the women-dominated world at least in small bites and pieces. Just being involved is important, and since as a suburban dad with a father who also didn’t hunt, I’m figuring out other options as I go along here.
With that as a backdrop, I thought I’d tell a quick story. In my senior year in college, my best friend and I did a two-week trip over to Europe over Christmas break. It wasn’t crowded by American tourists and hence it was way more authentic without all the loud, fat, dipshits that flock there during the summer. One of my former roommates (and future bridesmaid in my wedding) was studying abroad at Queen’s University in Belfast, so we decided to spend a week there to make our money last while enjoying an authentic living experience. If you know anyone who actually lives in Europe, this gives an experience you won’t find in Frommer’s . During our week in Belfast, living in an apartment with locals with local tastes and culture, we enjoyed eating things like black pudding and the traditional Irish fry breakfast,
and drinking so much Guinness morning, noon and night my poop turned jet black. We made fast friends with male friends of my friend and boyfriends of her roommates as we were quickly classified as the “crazy Americans.” We hung out in pubs as the only non-natives with our new-found friends, drinking at various times of day (Guinness and whiskey mostly), and learning Irish drinking songs (yes, just like the movie, they break out in songs pretty easily).
On New Years’ Eve, after drinking well into the morning hours, I was running on fumes, was fairly drunk and ready to call it a night. After basically just arriving “home” at our apartment at about 6 a.m., our new Irish friend Dwyer (boyfriend of one of the roommates) wanted to introduce us to the Dockers Club. Having no idea what that was, and ready to pass out, I had to be convinced.
This is essentially a private, social club for men only. It started for Dockworkers (hence the name) but other private clubs for men were noted as well: Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes, Welders club and the Ulster Sports Club. We obviously don’t have much here in the U.S. as even the Freemasons allow women these days. It was originally a place for the dock workers to come in from a hard day’s work and not have their women bark at them. They could enjoy the camaraderie and fraternity, and have cheap drinks. They hosted boxing championships and raise(d) funds for various charities. Today, it has since turned public for men or women, but back in the late 1990’s it was still a private men’s club.
So entered this men’s-only club, not knowing what to expect. Would there be strippers and dark corners with seedy characters? Would it be an awkward sausage-fest? Nope, neither. While we weren’t necessarily at peak times, the dock workers work at all hours, so the club was always open. They were happy to have us, and it was a mix of younger and older men, all enjoying cheap drinks at an early hour. Without women present, everyone was very relaxed and we had a chance to really enjoy ourselves, especially learning from the old-timers about the lives they led and grew-up in with the different culture. My best friend is about 6’6″ tall, and one of the old-timers there was impressed by his size, and asked him to stand “back-to-back” to compare their height differences. My friend misheard him, and thought he said “pat my back” at which point he looked at the grey-beard oddly and started patting his back. We still talk about that today, and it was hilarious then as it is now if you imagine a huge half-Mexican patting a 5’7″ pudgy Irishman on the back in very tender, if awkwardly loving way.
For me, that trip was all about brotherhood and expanding who we were at men before we settled into graduation, jobs and marriage. Not having had any regular men’s only weekend or similar social environments growing really adversely impacted who I became as a young man. My own father didn’t impart his masculine wisdom into our house, and we were left to our own devices to figure that out. Instead, he let my mother lead our family in her own crazy way. Because of these things, I took the lessons that so many other men of my generation learned too and built my masculine values upon that. It was an uphill battle to turn that around, though I eventually did. On the other hand, nearly without exception, those men I know who grew up in the Dockers-type environment or hunt camp or building demolition derby cars with their dads or uncles knew what it was like to be a man…at the outset not having to depend on women for their self-worth.
If you have sons especially, doing manly activities with other men (and without women) should be part of the curriculum. Read Keoni’s most excellent post of pushing his limits in an all male hunt. That is what we’re going for. Even if you’re a “nice guy,” know that you’re doing your boy a disservice if you aren’t setting the example of a few key things: men are men and shouldn’t apologize for being rude, crude and disgusting; men should be strong, physically and mentally; and men should get away from women on occasion and be with other men doing manly things. That will put them ahead of most of the wimpy-boys with regular dude dads of today. Peace.