Monday, January 17, 2011

All Human Wisdom, a new series by Perry Brass: "Men"

“All human wisdom is summed up in two words; wait and hope.”

Alexandre Dumas Pere, last words in The Count of Monte Cristo.


Men of late have taken a horrible rap in this life. Testosterone, aggression, and every kind of gross stupidity and wild-hair-up-the-ass chauvinism have been linked to them. Everything they do is suspect, and linked either to a crime or a social misdemeanor. They are out there alone, unstable, and barely able to make a living in this unbrave new world where neatness counts, “style” is looking exactly like every other stylish person, and labeled as either a sports-nut lughead, a vacuous yuppy, or an airhead pansy. Dad, who used to know best, is gone. He was thrown out of the house after his company was sold from under him, even though it was no fault of his own; he’s feeling utterless powerless (see “God” in next episodes). So unless he’s bringing in a secure, regular, and always increasing paycheck he might as well fly off to the Moon. Our consumer culture is now geared 90% toward women who do that much of the actual buying. If you look at TV, it’s about shampoo, hair coloring, Maybelene mascara, and how to make a 30-ton SUV can look feminine enough for a woman who will have the ultimate say in its purchase.

Man—as the silent ballast, bastion, balance, and security of the world—is over.

He’s now a jackass who does crazy juvenile things on video, or watches WWF to get his need for aggression out, because he’s too fried and flayed tied to his cubicle cell all day to actually do any real guy things. He’s so stressed out he needs Viagra to get it up at an earlier and earlier age. He has nothing to say to other men, and he’s too scared of a sexual harassment suit to say much to women. He may go the sellable employable Metrosexual route, after all most HR executives who will hire him are women, so his nails look great, his hair is shiny and doesn’t show gray anymore, he’s wearing all-black Kenneth Cole, but he still feels like a schlump. Because there is not a whole lot left inside him, except of course what he can suck out of the current vogue for high-class “spirituality” (preppy Jesus, high-fashion yoga, designer-water-bottle trips to India, Richard Geer Buddhism, etc.).

It’s sad.

Instead of Depak Chopra, he’d prefer a six-pack.

Yep, dude. Kick back. Fart loud. Talk sexy to a girlfriend. Maybe even not talk at all. He’d like to be as smart or shit-dumb as he really is; and as mean or decent and good-heartedly nice—without having to be cool, brilliant, scintillating, and a screwed-up castrated sonovabitch which is what the working world has made of him.

So he’s out there alone every day, fighting the “good fight,” knowing that something smarter, more cutting-edge, and faster than he is, which might even be a machine or a disembodied voice in India, will take his place. It’s rough, tough, and wearying. But he’s been so brainwashed on his treadmill that even getting off it is too threatening.

The truth is, like dogs, men really adore their own company, sniffing each other’s butts, but even that has been removed from them because of the fear of being labeled a suck-ass queer. It’s sad, but true. I feel sorry for them, or us, since I adore men in all their myriad forms. I know, some of us are assholes, to denigrate a perfectly useful part of the body. But there is something about the everyday, functional, working male that is exquisitely beautiful and we are losing that beauty by the nanosecond.

Part of this comes from the lowering of all bars and the leveling of all circumstances. In other words, the phony aura of egalitarianism that the US relentlessly promotes, markets, and exports.

So instead of an equality of the most talented, we now have an equality of the most vacuous. Go to any shopping mall and you see it in action. There is a vacuum of feeling and a blandity that could drive most thinking sentient humans to suicide. And a horrifying loneliness, but thankfully lots of choices at the Gap, a perfectly appropriate name for a store selling the same canned individuality.

It is in this environment that we have thrown men, shorn of any exuberance and delight. It makes you want to go back to that period of old-fashioned war, when men wore natty uniforms of polished brass buttons and spit-shined shoes. War is the ultimate game, which is why humans keep doing it and why men are apeshit-crazy about it no matter what they say. The only problem is that now it has become as corporatized and faceless as the rest of life—and men are no longer any good at it. In fact, they are so bad that they keep asking women to take part in it. It has taken a lot of the verve out of war, but has opened up a whole new “revenue stream,” as they say in corporate American Newspeak, for the ladies.

Winner of 3 Ippy (Independent Publisher) Awards, 6-time finalist for Lambda Literary Awards, poet, novelist, and gay activist, Perry Brass has published 15 books including classics like Mirage, Angel Lust, Warlock, The Substance of God, and Carnal Sacraments, as well as How to Survive Your Own Gay Life. As an activist, he joined the Gay Liberation Front in 1969, right after Stonewall, becoming an editor of Come Out!, the world’s first gay liberation newspaper. In 1973, he helped start the Gay Men’s Health Project Clinic, the first clinic for gay men on the East Coast, strongly advocating the use of condoms a decade before the onslaught of HIV. His newest book is The Manly Art of Seduction, How to Meet, Talk To, and Become Intimate with Anyone , a guide to leaving passivity and getting what you want—nicely. It is now the # 1 book on Amazon’s Kindle Reference Book list, beating out Robert’s Rules of Order. Go figure? He can be reached through his website, .


  1. As a gay man (and teen, once) I never felt that I belonged with any group. Always I was unwelcome, outside looking in, never wanted anywhere. Therefore I have no loyalties to any group, escpecially men, who were the most unwelcoming. So I feel no identification or sympathy with men's loss of the old status, just as I feel no identification with women or their continually developing position of greater independence. I have learned, though, to rely only upon myself for everything. The loneliness can be bitter at times but I derive a certain satisfaction from it. Never rely on anyone for anything, they always have ulterior motives, and everyone's top priority is always number one...their own ass.

  2. A friend recently sent me this Tony Hoagland poem. It touches on similar issues.

    And the Men
    want back in:
    all the Dougs and the Michaels, the Darnells, the Erics and Joses,
    they're standing by the off-ramp of the interstate
    holding up cardboard signs that say WILL WORK FOR RELATIONSHIP.

    Their love-mobiles are rusty.
    Their Shaggin' Wagons are up on cinderblocks.
    They're reading self-help books and practicing abstinence,
    taking out Personals ads that say
    "Good listener would like to meet lesbian ladies,
    for purposes of friendship only."

    In short, they've changed their minds, the men:
    they want another shot at the collaborative enterprise.
    Want to do fifty-fifty housework and childcare;
    They want commitment renewal weekends and couples therapy.

    Because being a man was finally too sad
    In spite of the perks, the lifetime membership benefits.
    And it got old,
    telling the joke about the hooker and the priest

    at the company barbeque, praising the vintage of the beer and
    punching the shoulders of a bud
    in a little overflow of homosocial bonhomie
    Always holding the fear inside
    like a tipsy glass of water

    Now they're ready to talk, really talk about their feelings,
    in fact they're ready to make you sick with revelations of
    their vulnerability
    A pool of testosterone is spreading from around their feet,
    it's draining out of them like radiator fluid,
    like history, like an experiment that failed.

    So here they come on their hands and knees, the men:
    Here they come. They're really beaten. No tricks this time.
    No fine print.
    Please, they're begging you. Look out.

    Tony Hoagland

  3. Thanks for these 2 wonderful comments. I appreciate them, especially the candor of "Anonymous"'s. I feel sad that you have been so hurt by your experiences in life. It is not difficult to feel that you belong to no group, but it is part of human nature to want to belong to something, be it the Boy Scouts, the Republican Party, or a bird watchers club. Sometimes you really need to let your defenses down enough to realize that there are no mistakes in life worse than being completely afraid of mistakes. If you do this, belonging to something will be a lot easier, and very satisfying.