Men to Boys

 “When antagonistic people do not reconcile through physical contact, they are more likely to re-engage in conflict”. That sentence is from an article in “The Science in Society Review”, an eggheads magazine I picked up at the U.C. Berkeley University gym from a grouping of dumped cast off papers and magazines in the reading bin, used for taking the monotony out of my daily treadmill walks. I passed up the old New Yorker’s and Wall Street Journal’s and zeroed in on it for the cover stories about “Cognitive Steroids’ and “The Mozart Effect”. I never made it to the steroid article but as it turns out the Mozart effect which posits that if you listen to his music you get smarter is untrue. According to the thesis it just makes you feel better for a few minutes afterwards so you are a bit calmer and thus smarter.

But the article on “The Role of Touching in Social Relationships and Infant Development” an essay on the importance of tactile influence really pumped my interest. I’d been wondering why simply holding her hand had given me such an adrenaline, testosterone and pleasure senses rush. Why I wondered would such a simple thing make me feel so childlike, innocent and loved? I even told her it was better than any sex we’d ever had. But even I didn’t know why. 

Dr. Benjamin Spock, the man who would become the most trusted pediatrician and best-selling author of all time; published in 1946 his iconoclastic views in “The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care”, a tome he penned that initially sold for a modest 25 cents. The book would go through seven editions, be translated into 39 languages, and sell more than 50 million copies, making it second in sales only to the Bible.

Spock told parents that they shouldn’t hit the kids. But nobody listened to him until way after I was twelve years old in 1960 and the damage that still occurs today was cast somewhere in my and my common brothers psyches. Our fathers where all WWII veterans and tough guys who raised us up to be, groomed us up for, the warrior class, presumably to fight the next war which we thought at that time was to be against the Russians. So they tried to make us tough, wanted us to be athletes, cops, firemen, and soldiers. They told our Mother’s not to baby us. So for my generation there was a marked lack of nurture. Hugs were not encouraged. When we’d get hurt on the playing fields or the street corners or back alleys the old man would tell us to “just rub some dirt on it and walk it off”. It worked.

Some of us took it to heart and really leaned into it and became what then was called “Juvenile Delinquents” when the truth was we were more “Juvenile Deficient”. When we left the nest and ventured into the streets we tried to exercise our manliness and this caused our parents and teachers and the nuns and priests and finally the cops to beat on us. In their ignorant and tortured view prevalent at the time this would make us fearful and cause us to toe the line but it had the opposite effect. We were stoic and took it and we thought that this was the thing so we started to beat on each other. A strange phenomenon occurred. When we’d finish a fight with another warrior he’d often become our good friend. We saw the touching, the physical contact and the pain as a kind of love. Our youth became a kind of self-imposed Gladiator Academy.

When we matured, so to speak, and it was time for us to pair off with women we wanted them to treat us the way our Mother’s had not and this confused them. They took to calling us “Mommy’s Boy’s”. They’d say we were like children looking for a Mother and they were right. We’d been chiseled into men too early, and when love came we reverted back to boys, too late.

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About circusinpurgatory
Nick Masesso Jr’s fictionalized short stories, poetry and prose have been published in the Starry Night Review, Elegant Thorn Review, Language and Culture.net and Vagabond Press; the Battered Suitcase. His latest book “Armor of Innocence” and first book “Walking the Midway in Purgatory, a Journal” are available on-line and through bookstores.

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