Thursday, 29 March 2018

Mind the gap

Generally, I don’t feel my age. Who does? Apart from, for those of us over 40, when an evening of over-indulgence takes until the next evening to recover from, compared to mid-morning in our youth. That said, I’m frequently reminded that neither am I a young person. The latest is this week’s goings-on with the Australian cricket team.

Well, next not just this week’s. It’s long struck me as just plain wrong that in a sport that’s essentially non-violent, like cricket, banter has long since descended into outright personal abuse and threats. It’s troubled me that England get up to this nonsense, but by all accounts the Aussies are the true masters of the petulant and the profane.

What I can’t comprehend the approach that thinks this behaviour is ok. I’m not being naïve – I’m amazed I wasn’t sent off more frequently than I was in my footballing career, and in the heat of some very hot moments, bad words may have escaped my lips. But to embark on a systematic pattern of abuse and intimidation; no, I don’t get it.

What I get even less, however, is firstly the blubbering emotional collapse we’ve seen today by the (now-ex) Australian captain, Steve Smith, when caught doing something he shouldn’t have done, and secondly, the chasm of a contrast between the macho, arrogant mindset that drives one set of behaviours, and the childlike behaviours in that collapse.  Maybe a psychologist could explain to me how they’re closely related.  Perhaps they’re both borne of deep emotional immaturity. But I can no more imagine bleating about in public about how I’ve let my parents down than I can setting out to emotionally destroy someone.

But Steve Smith isn’t the only example. I can’t be the only one of my generation who winces a bit when Princes William and Harry talk about the need to be more open about our mental health, and blokes in particular. I’m not suggesting depression isn’t real or something to be taken seriously, but in common with characteristics that drive the current hideous identity politics, I worry that for some it’s becoming a badge of honour – something that marks them out as special. Because we’ve all got to be special in these days of the selfie and Instagram, even when we’re manifestly not.

You might think I’m wandering from where I started. I’m not. The point is that I just don’t understand or relate to many of the emotional responses of under 35s. I don’t think crying in public is a virtue – I think it’s embarrassing. In my world, it’s like getting drunk; something to be done in private, and while there are times you can’t help it happening, it’s not something to be proud of. I generalise of course – I’m sure there are plenty of under-35s who aren’t emotionally incontinent (e.g. my kids; of course) and there’ve been plenty of examples of middle-aged men blubbing when they’ve been caught doing something they shouldn’t, but the generalisation feels valid to me.

And there’s the rub – perhaps it is just me. I am, after all, someone who never goes out without a handkerchief in his pocket, would never wear a suit with unpolished shoes or go to work unshaven, and when walking side-by-side with a woman has to be the one closest to the road. I don’t think that children can or should be friends of their parents (though that’s not to say they shouldn’t have a close, healthy, unique relationship), and that age and achievement does buy a degree of respect from kids that’s sometimes lacking.  And I would never think it ok to play my music out loud or have a noisy conversation in a packed train carriage.  I do know how all this sounds by the way.

All this is a bit like looking back at 80s music – was it objectively better, or does it just it feel better because of the time in our lives it happened?  Similarly, will the public-crying, emotion-spilling 28 year olds of today will mature into buttoned-up misanthropes like me?

If they do, there’s hope yet. 

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