Men!

Oh dear, where are the young men of today going wrong? Looking at it from a grandfather's point of view, I'm wondering whether they've lost the plot. They certainly come across as a useless lot compared with the way we were brought up.

It is the diminishing role of fathers that particularly concerns Professor Anthony Clare, the eminent psychiatrist (and father of seven). He has been talking about men in crisis in a Radio 4 series and has just written a book about it. In the past, he says, men were in command as family men. Now the role of child adviser, moral guide and decision-maker has been taken over by wives.

The break-up of families is to blame. The divorce rate has doubled in the past 30 years and there has been a startling growth in single-parent families. Something like one in six fathers are not living with their children. More and more mothers are going it alone.

How different it was in days gone by. We lived in close-knit communities, usually fell for a local girl, began courting after meeting her family and saved to get married while our bride-to-be set about filling her bottom drawer with sheets, saucepans and the like.

Engagement, of course, meant certain rights. In those days before the Pill, many girls were soon whispering "I'm in trouble." The answer was a quick trip to the registry office. No argument. If you got a girl pregnant, it was instant marriage - for better or worse. Divorce was a custom frowned upon and reserved for the rich.

There was a dreadful stigma attached to illegitimacy. I should know. As I always say, I was born a bastard before it became fashionable. It caused me the most terrible suffering as a child. I was seven before discovering one of my big sisters was my mother. In those days, an unmarried mother could finish up in a mental ward. My mother, riddled with guilt, did everything possible to deny my existence.

How different today. Young mums with their babies proud to be classed as single-parent families. The jobs that do exist for unskilled girls aren't worth having and so it makes more sense to rely on the rest of the family and whatever help the State provides. In this world, young men seem to have nothing to offer.

Most of them have little money and few prospects. They are glad to hand over responsibility to women. As Professor Clare reports: "The characteristics of marital family life - commitment, dependability, loyalty, self-sacrifice, tolerance, love itself - are seen as soft, limiting, threatening."

Carry on the way they're going and men may well become redundant altogether. Dare I mention advanced genetics and deep freeze donor banks? This is, after all, the Third Millennium. With the changes taking place in modern society, the young girls so much in command today may soon be asking: Who needs men?

That's quite a thought, isn't it? My grandson replaced by a test tube! Methinks it's about time the young lads of today sorted themselves out.

Copyright © 2000 Derek Jameson / Retirement Matters Ltd. All rights reserved.