Lamenting the decline of manly pleasures

"A simple manly pleasure, now gone," a newspaperman once lamented about the demise of the old-fashioned men's haircut, tendered by a man – always a man, expert not only with scissors and shears, but with intangible tools of the trade: taciturn, discreet, dignified, expert in the discharge of an intimate personal service in a place cloistered from the world outside.

Manly pleasures.

Sights, sounds, and images of people, places, and things surface from forgotten depths: the aroma of fine cigars; gun smoke's sulfuric, curiously bracing smell (think Robert Duval's paean to "the smell of napalm in the morning" in Apocalypse Now); plush leather chairs, hearty laughter, unexpurgated conversation – male bastions like my hometown Philadelphia's Locust Club, Vesper Club, and stately Union League, and other, now forgotten, manly hideaways and retreats.

Nor were manly pleasures the reserve of a privileged few.

Hard to believe now, but the urban all-boys high school of my youth hosted a rifle club, where teenage boys were taught marksmanship and gun safety.

Barbershops redolent of Pinaud lotions dotted the neighborhood, prototypes of today's safe spaces, where a young man could learn the art of manly conversation by eavesdropping on elders nearby.

Some call this progress.

How times have changed.  The nearby suburban Orvis store, "Sporting Traditions since 1856," is a sanitized, civilized, neutered version of sporting goods palaces of yore.  The grainy sepia and black-and-white posters of rugged, bearded, armed forbears that dot the walls impart a faux authenticity linking the sanitized present to a rugged past.  They are also inadvertent reminders that once upon a time in America, men were hunters, gatherers, heads of households, and breadwinners.

Nowadays, their meek, domesticated suburban progeny trek to huge hunting and fishing emporiums like Cabela's and Bass Pro Shops in SUVs – wives and children in tow – to sate the yearning that no amount of brainwashing and social engineering will ever completely eradicate from men's souls.

It's been said (generally by women, generally condescendingly) that sports were invented largely so that men would have something to talk about.  Assuming this to be true, so what?

Were not the Girl Scouts invented so young girls would have something to talk about, and Moms' Clubs for moms to have something to talk about, and Women's Democrat and Republican clubs for politically involved women to have something to talk about?

No amount of social engineering, marching, and legislating will change the fact that human nature is inviolate.

Men will continue to think and behave like men, and women will continue to think and behave like women, ad infinitum.  Social engineers risk nothing by conceding this timeless truth.

Nor this: Vive la différence!

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