Men are everywhere; there is a imbalance of them represented in our daily lives. So who are the ones we admire? Footballers (as a type)- no! Pop stars, actors – no! Politicians – some! Married men? Well if you take the latest YouGov poll then yes (they are all married except the Pope and the Dalai Lamai). Indeed long-term marrieds Stephen Hawking and David Attenborough top the Brits list.
So what about the other married men we see on TV, in film, and hear on the radio; do we find these as admirable?
It would seem not; allegations involving a render-vous, that might never have happened, with a buxom model made a mockery of Vernon Kay this week (though it was smartly dealt with by their agents – a quick apology, a quick reprieve and then other news took over – now the family can get on with the real shouting behind their electric gates).
There are lists and lists of novels about marriages turned sour by love’s roving eye. These may offer us some illumination but mostly they favour the wives point of view (as both offender and offended). So here’s some guidance for any married men in the dog house this weekend…
- Get some perspective:Listen to The Art of Adultery, Radio 4 for a cultural long view.Natalie Haynes sets out to find out why popular culture has been enthralled by infidelity, moving from the ancient tales of Helen of Troy and Medea through to the popularity of modern day dramas like ‘The Affair’ and ‘Doctor Foster’; along the way, discovering why Chaucer in Miller’s Tale, Shakespeare in ‘Othello’ or Tolstoy in ‘Anna Karenina’ and ‘War and Peace’ have explored adulterous themes in their classical works.
2. Find in yourself a new more noble role model:
Atticus Finch – To Kill a Mockingbird (1961). Atticus Finch – bold, heroic, noble, honourable… an idealised verison masculinity? We could all learn an awful lot from this character.
The true story of severely disfigured John Merrick, known as “The Elephant Man,” and his physician Frederick Treves reminds us that there are many kinds of nobility. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-32781968
Film Clip with John Hurt in the role: https://youtu.be/sF19L00KbAI
3. Hear a “practical exercise of conscience”:
Listen to Quicksand by Henning Mankell (creator of Wallander) – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0736pkf
When the University of St Andrews gave Henning Mankell an honorary doctorate in 2008, it announced that the degree was awarded not only for his contribution to literature but also for the “practical exercise of conscience”. That is a formal way of saying “for being a good man”, which is what Mankell was. Now, in Quicksand, published in English less than four months after his death, the Swedish novelist gives us an insight into how he reacted to his diagnosis of cancer and reflected on his mortality. The result is an extraordinarily moving book that tells us a great deal about Mankell’s life and, incidentally, a lot about our lives, too. (New Statesman)
4. Read about a love that’s pure and simply complicated:
Few husbands have been lauded for writing with such loving praise about their wives as John Bayley in Iris: A Memoir of Iris Murdoch. An unconventional relationship, she had many affairs, their marriage lasted 43 years (until her death in 1999).
5. Or wallow in the pain of adultery, see/read the stage play Betrayal, by Harold Pinter. Based on the writer’s own 7 year affair with TV presenter, Joan Bakewell, this is love at it’s most self-absorbed and competitive. (Interview with Joan Bakewell )
Or watch TV’s most recent examination of the emotional effects of an extramarital relationship in The Affair, on Amazon Prime.
6. If it’s a new start you are after try, redemption Les Miserables style.
For a literary example of how to change your ways through mercy and forgiveness follow Jean Valjean. He overrides his former criminality by devoting his life to hard honest work and to helping others.
8. And finally to soothe a hurting heart, remember; “Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself” (Kahil Gibran)