Some real men over 50

 

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Category: Relationships Date: 17 Dec 98


Last week, I promised some examples of my favourite men over 50. I’m beginning with my father, who never wanted me to cook, clean and do dishes, and instead opened fat files on me and literally shoved me, an undeserving below-average student, kicking and screaming through “O”s, “A”s and University. And who has always drummed it into me that life is not worth living if you don’t give back.

 

Then there’s veteran journalist George John with his biting humour: “Ever hear how people these days respond to questions in TV and radio interviews?  

“‘Aaaaaaaamm’” Then he cracks up. He is rooted in the age of articulate and informed men who read widely, and were able to get up and speak impromptu in the debating society for and against on any topic, from the works of Bertrand Russell to cricket. Intellectually, he belongs in the class of men like CLR James and Eric Williams. He speaks Bajan better than the Bajans, skips in and out of our islands like they are towns in his homeland, the West Indies. He looks 50 but I believe he is well over 70 or more than that. And yet, like so many in that Old World, still a romantic: “I forgot to kiss my wife before I left home this morning.”

 

Raoul Pantin is a closet poet and ace journalist whose work is equal to that of his friends, Derek Walcott and Earl Lovelace, all of whom have hit high on my men-over-50 list. They have mastered the nuances of both Standard English and English Creole, and use it to razor effect. These writers are documenting our age with wit, style, compassion and intelligence. They top our list with honours.

 

Naipaul nearly made it but his bitterness cancels his brilliance and makes him irrelevant to a vast number of Trinidadians, whom he no longer claims anyway.

 

Then I vote for Frank Rampersad, a brilliant economist who has always had a vision for a united Caribbean which does not sell out its natural resources. His vision is documented in hundreds of papers, but Rampersad has never lost sight of his objective - that of improving the lives of ordinary people of our region through self-sufficiency.

 

In the arts, the choices are obvious: The artist James Boodoo, and Peter Minshall. David Rudder is not yet old enough to make my list, but he’s up there the moment he turns 50!

 

In business, a single name stands out: Lawrence Duprey, who believes in investing in his own country and people.

 

In journalism, one name: Keith Smith, who has always given the people of our country a positive reflection of themselves. He is among the few journalists who have a panoramic vision and an eye for detail. He is consistently affectionate towards our people and demonstrates it with his wit and generosity of spirit. In this way, he uplifts us all.

 

All of our presidents past and present get thumbs up. Sir Ellis, Justice Hassanali and Arthur NR Robinson. Sir Ellis for the creation of our Constitution and his obvious celebration of life. Justice Hassanali for his brand of goodness and wisdom, and His Excellency Mr Robinson, a man of formidable intellect who will always be remembered for the fact that, at gunpoint, he was ready to give his life for his country.

 

Posthumously, I vote for William Demas. In the one interview I had with him when he was Governor of the Central Bank, we talked about everything from theatre to politics. He called me up out of the blue when I was a fledgling journalist “just to talk.” I’m sure he found my naiveté, and the fact that I knew so little about him, amusing. In those conversations, I learned as much about Keats as he did about the federation. Earlier this year, when I was doing some research at the Central Bank, I came across volumes of his speeches, and was astonished that an economist could be so humane and so practical at the same time. I never got a chance to tell him that.

 

I’m sure I’ve left out many other worthy men over 50, among them ordinary citizens, who conduct their lives honourably in their dealings with their parents, children, and country. I have also left out public figures past and present who have given hugely to our people. My only defence is that I am a committee of one, and a very limited one at that.

 

Last week, I invited responses to the topic of real men over 50. Here are some:

 

Dear Ira,

I am 37, and while I don’t think I am a good man all the time, I certainly try. Maybe it was my Catholic upbringing: we were made to feel bad from a very early age.

When I was told that I had committed original sin by the time I was seven years old 15 times, I decided to pack it in and be really bad for a while, especially to Catholics.

As a result, I was sent away to boarding school in New England, where I promptly undermined the American academic system (not in history and English, though).

Maybe I was such a bad boy - internationally - that people think I can’t be a good man, especially here on Banana Republic Isle where Manning can still remain a member of the Opposition.

But, rest assured, I have been trying to be a good man for a long time.

Yours sincerely,

Keith.

 

***

Dear Ira,

I think your column articulated what I think most accomplished Trini women feel, and the mixed-up signals men sometimes receive from it.

Of course, this doesn’t change the fact that all the local landscape seems capable of producing are little boys, but that’s a whole other article! (Ha! Ha!)

Yours sincerely,

Janine.

 

***

Dear Ira,

I found your article very persuasive and entertaining. I am not sure, however, that real men ever existed (or still exist in an “over 50” form) in the way you depict them.

I can see that some men have, or used to have, those commanding and competent qualities, but something has surely got to give.

Being the “perfect” real man surely cannot come naturally all the time and the pressure will tell - be it through drinking too much, dressing up in women’s clothes or being a closet gay!

Maybe I am just a jealous cynic, but perhaps some women still have an unrealistic, idealised view of the perfect man.

The men turn out to have feet of clay because they are men, not gods. At least I hope this is the case for the sake of the rest of us wimpy males!

Richard.

 

***

Dear Ira,

It’s soooo true that some women are completely confused as to what they really want in a “man”. I would like to share with you info about my real man!

My husband is six years older than I. Throughout our courtship, and even now, he still opens doors and pulls out chairs. He cleans the house, cooks, sets and clears the table, washes the dishes, cleans the stove, does the laundry, irons my clothes, rubs my feet at the end of a hard day.

And he listens to me when I’m venting about my lousy day, offers me words of encouragement as well as criticism, supports career decisions I make. And he is great with children.

This is not a man who is afraid to change dirty diapers or wipe runny noses. And he cries during the touching parts of a movie or TV show. (He’ll swear it was the flying insect in his eye.)

He’s an absolute darling of a husband and, better yet, a gem of a friend to me. So don’t despair, not all “real men” are over 50; my husband is only 31 years old. Hallelujah!!!

Nicole.

 

***

Dear Ira,

I’m not ashamed to say it. Men are a phenomenal preoccupation of mine. I am a youngish (?) 37-year-old woman, single and, yes, slightly jaded.

A romantic veteran, you know, back from the spoils of war, reasonably intact, but a little pained in some places. What do I think constitutes the ideal man?

The most common pursuit is to be loved. Build from that. Both sexes are capable of that. Is that too simple? Yeah, I know, because even reasonably intelligent people confuse love with other things such as lust, pleasure, validation, etc.

I am now beginning to confuse myself which, as you know, was not the point of this exercise!

I don’t want to sound like an out-and-out pervert, but I happen to think that fantasies may be an area where good, clean, fruitful fun and understanding could be had between the sexes.

As a warm-blooded (and I didn’t realise this until I was well into my 30s, shameful), vibrant and reflective woman, I need and want an optimum level of physical and mental titillation.

This is an unusual combination in most men. They’re either well-endowed (if you’ll excuse the pun) in one department and sorely lacking in the other.

And that is a recipe for disaster and bad relations and jadedness, which I think a lot of women feel.

On the other hand, to be fair to the hairier sex, there are women who have as much appeal (and I am speaking in the broadest sense of the word) as a wet sponge.

They trade in any semblance of intelligence and innovation for a base and slightly obscene notion of femininity.

Nina.

 

***

Dear Ira,

As usual, you display deep feeling for the things you write, a tremendous sense of insight borne out of being deeply in touch with, and comfortable with, your own feelings.

I don’t just say this because I am a 53-year-old male (Ha! Ha!)

Nigel.

 

***

Dear Ira,

My father is my ideal man. My mother and I are both very liberated women and he understands this, but also realises the need for “good old-fashioned providers”.

He trusts me and I am allowed my freedom, yet he is there for me if I need him. I’m still his little girl no matter how old I get. He is a master in the kitchen and gets up every morning to make me lunch. He is always responsible.

Writing about him has helped me to realise just how much he means to me, so I think I’ll go apologise for not cleaning out the cupboard like I promised him to.

Shanna.

 

***

 

Now I’d like to hear from you men on your ideal woman. What attracts you and what makes you stay? Women’s contributions are also welcome.

 

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