Monday, February 01, 2010

3 glimpses of manhood:

Someone sent me a link to this picture of Elizabeth Barrett Browning with a young person that on first glance I identified as a girl.
... but which after reading the caption I can now only identify as male.
I wonder what happened to him.
I imagine him going through the rite of passage of being seperated from his mother, having his hair cut, and being forced into the ugly uniform of the public schoolboy.
Toughened up and turned into a man.
And looking at that picture in the context of a generalised misogyny I can understand, somehow, why even up to my childhood the male-dominated culture viewed it as unhealthy for sons to grow up too close to their mothers.

In the gym this morning a man came onto the treadmill next to mine. A male staff member was going round checking on the machines, and they engaged in "banter".
The man said his machine was OK, it was just him that had something wrong (I suspect like me he was in "heart rehabilitation") and the staff member asked him if he'd like to volounteer for euthanasia? Because if so he would be happy to give him a hand. I can think of lots of my friends who would think the same, the man said, and my wife would probably agree with them. It's the only thing they like about her, he added. Wittily.
And the whole exchange, in its sneering denial of friendship and affection, struck me as totally appalling.
But for them it was inconsequential.

Then i went onto the cross machine. Because my feet don't touch the ground and jar my knees, it is the only way I can ever jog. I set myself a target of doing a kilometre in 6 minutes. Which in the context of the three minute mile does not seem like that much of n achievement. But for me, approaching sixty with sore knees and two years after a heart operation, is actually quite something. I did it with three seconds to spare.
And only then became aware that i can completely forgotten to be in feedback with myself and was unpleasantly out of breath.
And that reminded me of how much we were encouraged to lose touch with our own bodies, ignore all the message they sent us, and push on regardless.
Which is so damaging.


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