How to be a real man without the spewing

Inevitably, women will expect more from their partners. Are the men up to it?

Share
Related Topics
According to the General Household Survey two of the Spice Girls are not getting any. And poor old Mel C was driven to admitting on television that though she felt broody, she hadn't found a suitable father. She answers to the name Scary, but she is attractive and wealthy. If she can't find the man of her dreams, then who can?

On average, two out of five single British women say that they are not in relationships. Let's assume that as in past generations the majority of them will seek out a Mr Right. But the feminist joke now goes that men are like public lavatories - either desirable but occupied or vacant but useless. Of course we could solve the problem by the more efficient use of the "occupied" - what captains of industry call "sweating the assets". However, I can't quite see polygamy catching on, especially not among young women. Who wants to be on the romantic equivalent of the substitutes' bench?

So let us turn to the vacant but useless. As if by magic, the picture of three young men staggering from a London club swims before our eyes. Lads' icons Danny Baker, Chris Evans, and Paul Gascoigne were splashed across the tabloids this week, bleary-eyed and blowsy after a night's drinking. I can see Scary Spice's dilemma if this really is the face of Britain's young men.

We know that girls are outperforming boys at school, right up to university level, and that the gap is getting wider. Forecasters predict that women will start to catch up in status and pay, even at higher levels in industry. With the decline of manufacturing, men are heading in the opposite direction. Inevitably, women will expect more from their partners. The men just aren't up to it.

Well, maybe not. Let us return to the now notorious photograph. I will for the moment leave Gascoigne out of consideration; until he is cleared of the allegations that he uses his fists against women as readily as he uses his feet on a ball, he need not occupy our attention. Imagine instead that the third figure were Arsenal's Ian Wright, and you have a trio of bad boys - arrogant, mouthy, boorish and overpaid, the worst possible role models.

Baker's moment of madness gave BBC bosses no option but to sack him. Evans' megalomania made him impossible to work with. Wright's volatile temperament, which has now left him suspended for several games, deprived him of a regular England shirt. Whatever little boys are made of, these three and thousands of others like them have it in bucket-loads. The conventional wisdom is that they grow out of it, and that family life will mellow them. There is unfortunately no evidence that this holds true for many young men. These young men may be bad examples. But they are also good examples. Baker is a brilliant scriptwriter and gifted radio performer. Wright is the striker that England should have had through the past decade. Both are affable, intelligent, and not in the least bit loutish in person. I don't know Evans personally, but he is an authentic broadcasting genius. All three are talents in the arena that will help to drive our economy in the next fifty years - entertainment and leisure.

The nation's biggest earner, finance and business services, has been built by exactly the same sort of awkward talent. Snobbish talk of barrow- boys in the City and financial scandals have obscured the fact that deregulation blew away the dead hand of the upper classes and allowed in people without manners, but with huge vigour and inventiveness.

I am not arguing that we should ignore boorish behaviour, stupidity or wrongdoing. Not every lout is a potential Ian Wright. Not every yob in a BMW will be a George Soros. But by dismissing the bad boys we may well be dismissing much of the talent we will rely on in the future.

It's time to pay some urgent attention to our boys. We can no longer knock off the rough edges by war or a turn in the colonies. But we need to know why so many of them are being excluded from school. We need to find ways of being real men that don't involve regular spewing and head- butting. And most of all we need to prepare boys to be decent husbands and fathers.

As much as I resist the automatic importation of American solutions to British problems, the drive in North America for a serious and committed programme of mentoring of teenagers by older men is paying dividends. It works through churches, the armed forces, through schools and voluntary organisations, and it is backed by both state and federal governments. Perhaps it's a task for our next Prime Minister to lead on. And it is cheaper than building new prisons.

Two posters are doing the rounds of the billboards. One, for a new TV channel, features a presenter on the left with the words on the right: "You'll soon be going to bed with this man". The other carries a picture of Tony Blair on the left and the word "Bill" on the right (it's the Tories' attack on Labour's spending plans). The gremlins have got into one of the poster sites which changes messages every few seconds. It is stuck and now informs me that I'll soon be going to bed with the Labour leader. Is this what Labour's spokeswoman for women meant when she said that we'd be more promiscuous under Mr Blair's government? Maybe Scary Spice should think again about voting Tory - Tony could be the answer to her prayers.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Simon Laird (left) and Sister Simon Laird, featured in the BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets  

Estates of the nation: Let's hear it for the man in the street

Simmy Richman
Maggie Gyllenhaal stars in The Honourable Woman  

Women wait for the call: This week's reshuffle is David Cameron's chance to act on his one-third pledge

Jane Merrick
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport