2008-08-21 / Sam Bari

Learning to say the "M" word

You can't beat a system you can't understand
By Sam Bari

When I was growing up, life was predictable. It was more standardized. People didn't question traditions, no matter how stupid some of them might be.

Back then, people graduated from high school, got a job, joined the military, or went to college. Women who weren't married by the time they turned 23 were considered homely, and men who weren't married by the time they reached their mid to late twenties were highly suspect. Of what, I'm not sure, but they were viewed with a critical eye.

If a married couple didn't buy a house and have children within the first five years of marriage, something was "just not right." That's the way it was, no questions asked.

Not any more. And this is a good thing. Sometimes the world needs a little shaking up. My generation set milestones in the shaking up department.

First we changed music and made rock 'n' roll the most dominating genre since the invention of sound. We redefined the scope of the words "freedom" and "rights." We took "free love" out of the closet, and we dared to question authority, religion, and morality. We definitely had a "youth movement" going for quite a while.

Not that everything we did was good. The youth movement had a few, shall we say, residual effects. Nonetheless, it did open the doors for experimentation. Doors that had been closed for . . . Hmmm . . . centuries.

For instance, nobody ever lived alone unless he or she was widowed. Only old people lived alone. A bachelor pad was generally an apartment or house occupied by a couple of single men who were looking for spouses.

Most single women lived at home, or shared a home with several other women. A new trend had started that people take for granted today. Many people chose to live alone. That also had some residual effects. People started marrying later in life, or elected not to marry at all.

For a while, marriage was on a serious decline. And it wasn't because of "free love" and so many couples living together. Many people discovered the joys of living alone — particularly men.

A man would graduate from high school or college, get a job, find a house or an apartment and experience living alone for the first time in his life. Here, in the sanctity of his own castle, he was free to break all of the taboos that had been programmed into his little male brain since he was born. He could finally question the rules in his life that were in direct opposition to his natural instincts.

He could eat all the ice cream he wanted, right out of the container and nobody was there to say a word about it. That alone made men wonder about the mental stability of their mothers, who made them put ice cream in a bowl.

They weren't sharing it with anybody. It was their ice cream. Why couldn't they just eat it and throw the carton away? No muss, no fuss. No need to dirty a bowl. It just didn't make sense.

Then these same men would come home from work and start removing clothing as soon as they stepped through the door. By the time they got to the living room, they were in their underwear, comfortable, sitting in front of the television in their favorite chair. And nobody said a word.

If women did this, most men would be absolutely delighted, they thought. So why did the practice annoy them so much? It was puzzling.

The residual effect on society was that men liked living alone. Mommy or some other woman was no longer interfering with their instincts. They could wash their hands and faces in the big kitchen sink with impunity. They could belch and drink beer and yell at the television during football games, and nobody would criticize them.

Women across the country were questioning daughters when they came home from dates. "Is that man of yours ever going to ask you to marry him?" they would ask.

"I don't know, Mom," the girls would say. "I think he's trying, but he just gets as far as — Will you mm m- . . Then he just stops. Sometimes he says m-m-mu-muuu. I think he might be asking me to moo. I'm not sure."

Learning to say the "M" word is not easy when you live in a system you can't understand.

Return to top