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Author: Graham Reid Phoenix

I write about being a man, creativity and intentional living. I explore what masculinity means to men and women. Connect the dots in your life, experience your inner power and be in control of your life.

Get Up, Stand Up, Don’t Give Up The Fight!

Bob Marley, famously, told people to stand up for their rights. To do that he told them to ‘Get Up, Stand Up, Don’t Give Up The Fight!’. You can take this message into your business and create success.

I was going to call this piece ‘Don’t Give Up The Day Job’. I wanted to warn aspiring entrepreneurs against jumping in to their new business too quickly. It seems so easy to jump online, put up a website and talk to the world about what you love. It might be football, travel, sex or anything else your mind can conjure up. Well, it is easy! You can make a decision, get online and be up and running in a day.

The problem is that is likely to be absolutely nobody out there listening to you. If there is nobody listening then there is nobody to be a customer and pay you money.

This is where most people’s dreams come crashing down. That’s OK, as long as you still have your day job! Read more

How I Found A Fabulous Marriage Using A Relationship Vision [Video]

For me great relationships are part of what makes life tick, so when I became a single man in my fifties the prospect of a new relationship terrified and fascinated me. I used a Relationship Vision to create a new, amazing marriage.

For me having a passionate, creative relationship is crucial to a full life. The problem, when I was not in one, came down to a single, crucial, issue; what was I looking for? This was a puzzle to me, there was so much choice out there. How do I make a choice that will work for years to come? How can I distinguish between all the amazing women out there?

I discovered the relationship vision, the answer to great relationships.

“A vision is not just a picture of what could be; it is an appeal to our better selves, a call to become something more.”
(Rosabeth Moss Kanter)

Watch the video to hear about my vision as I wrote it some years ago. I crafted it from the perspective that we were together and that this is how we are living. I found this positive, present, perspective very powerful.

“Vision without action is a dream. Action without vision is simply passing the time. Action with Vision is making a positive difference.”
(Joel Barker)

—Photo‌ insightimaging/Flickr

This article was previously published on ‘The Good Men Project’

Old People Love Sex Too—6 Illusions About Age And Sex

I question the stereotypes of older men having sexual performance issues and older women having physical attraction issues. I look at six illusions about age and sex for men and women.

Flickr: Tommy Hemmert Olesen

Old people sex is often seen by people as a contradiction. In response to my column about being a good man, ‘What On Earth Is A Good Man?’, a man made a fascinating comment on Facebook about a friend of his wife.

Read more

What On Earth Is A Good Man? (And What Is The Good Men Project All About?)

For Graham Phoenix, being good means going beyond what he feels inside himself into what he feels about the world outside. Here, he explores just what that means.

I write stories about myself that relate to my essence as a man. I draw parallels for other men that might help them to look at the issues they face in a different, more powerful, way. This is a superficial view of the columns I write; on a deeper level I am exploring my world and challenging it.

What is the purpose of this exploration, is it important to do it?

Many years ago, when my children were young, I lived in Edinburgh, Scotland, and went to a prominent Episcopal Church in the city centre. I was approached to co-lead a group being set up for men and women to explore their sexuality and christianity, and find ways to integrate them. I felt that my involvement could highlight the intersection of being gay and being christian and help open up the congregation to the fact that it could even exist. My intention was to challenge people in this area and, at least, open up a conversation.

That is the purpose of the Good Men Project, to open up a conversation, in this case about men, in particular, good men, and to challenge what people think. But what is a good man? What does ‘good’ mean for me and for the Good Men Project?

“There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”
(William Shakespeare)

The alleged Indo-European root of good is ghedh (to unite, join, fit), so that which is united is good. You can stretch this to mean that if you accept the majority view, you are good, in other words being morally right is good, being conformist is good.

This approach relies on an authoritarian view of the world. It re-enforces a patriarchal view of society. It establishes the status quo and does not accept challenge. If you challenge you do not fit the majority view. This is how many people see the world and if you step out to change this, it scares them. It is hard for them to see that letting go of their certainties could make a better world.

“The strength and power of a country depends absolutely on the quantity of good men and women in it.”
(John Ruskin)

In Ruskin’s nineteenth century world there was a need for people to come together to create a new world of industry that would respect nature and build a bridge between life and art. That was a great idea but still does not help in defining what a good man is.

For me being good means going beyond what I feel inside myself into what I feel about the world outside. The essence of a man being good is when he looks outside himself, beyond his world view, and challenges himself so that he can challenge others. It can be seen in a man who asks what he can do to contribute to improving the world or changing it. Being good means committing to have a bigger vision than just feeling great.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
(Edmund Burke)

This famous quote from Burke encapsulates what I mean. It is not men that are evil, it is the system that is evil. Most men are essentially good in themselves, they have a balance that leans towards good.

I realize that what I seek to do in my writing is to challenge men to go beyond themselves and see goodness as what they do out in the world. Whether it is about masculinity, the environment, relationships, fatherhood or any other of the issues that men face today, I encourage men to challenge what they think and find a new world view.

“Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do.”
(Voltaire)

For men to stay comfortable in their own world is for men to give up on themselves, their family and the world. We are in a time when most people realize that we have to do something to change the way we are socializing men. We want to find ways to encourage men to act and to no longer perpetuate what is broken.

“Good men are the stars, the planets of the ages wherein they live, and illustrate the times.”
(Ben Jonson)

The Good Men Project challenges men’s view of the world. The key to the power of the collective message on the site is the diversity of voices in the men having the conversation. The writers are progressive men, they are comfortable with themselves as men.

As writers we have to consider what the people we are talking to are trying to preserve. What are they are trying to protect themselves from? People want to believe in their own world view, in what they believe is right and wrong. They want to know that the world can stay as it is, that is their safety zone. We are here to challenge that safety zone.

We need to concern ourselves with what’s happening in the world and how we can affect it. That is why I write, that is why I push forward in my own way.

I realize that, as a writer, I need to be aware of my own strength and keep challenging. The readers who resist are still exploring their own model of the world. They are showing that they are not yet ready to go beyond it, but they have gone far enough to come and visit the site. So there is a point at which the movement is happening, the movement is getting bigger and more people are accepting the challenge of how they see the world.

I may not agree with everything that is written on the site, in fact I do not agree with a great deal, but the intention is, and has always been, to raise men’s consciousness, to encourage men to think beyond themselves.

It is very hard for many people. They come into this world, are raised a certain way, associate with certain people, and read certain books; they are socialized to see the world a certain way. It is hard for them to open themselves up to a different world view, indeed it is hard for any of us to open ourselves up. The answer is to talk about it and see how we can create change.

The Good Men Project sub-title is ‘the conversation no-one else is having’. It is in the nature of a conversation that it ebbs and flows, but it should, in my view, always move forward otherwise it becomes an argument.

“A man is called selfish not for pursuing his own good, but for neglecting his neighbor’s.”
(Richard Whately)

We need to concern ourselves with what’s happening in the world and how we can affect it. That is why I write, that is why I push forward in my own way.

Why do you come to the Good Men Project? Why do you read the articles? What do you want to see change? How are you a good man?

Let me know in the comments, keep this vital conversation going.

Do Men Cling To Their Mask of Masculinity?

I used to regard the life I was leading as a lie. My fear was that people would see me as weak, indecisive and scared. I wonder whether this is typical for men?

According to Tony Robbins we all have a Primary Question. It’s a question we ask ourselves everyday of our lives, one that controls our focus and the direction of our lives. For many years my Primary Question was, “What if I’m found out?” I regarded the life I was leading as a lie, a mask, an attempt to bolster my male power. My fear was being found out by someone, by anyone. My fear was that people would see the real me, the weak, indecisive and scared me.

To avoid being discovered I put on a front of strength and determination. I hid behind a view I had of masculinity, of male power, a view that I thought protected me.

As I developed my view of myself and moved beyond this phase, as I started asking myself better questions, I found that I was left with a borrowed view of masculinity. I realized I was lost, as a man. My view of myself was based on an idea of being a man that I thought was attractive to women. I realized this was false when I discovered that the women I knew saw through this mask.

It was only when I looked closely at myself, when I discarded what I thought a man should be, that I started living as the man I am. It was then that my outward presence shifted, it was then I became just me, a masculine man not a not pale shadow of a male stereotype.

The context within which I now see myself as a man is one of honesty and authenticity. Its not that they are necessarily masculine characteristics, but they do reveal a man in his true essence. My mask is swept away and what I now see as masculinity appears free and clear. Women see this and respond to the clarity. The nature of the masculinity revealed is personal to me. There is no one model, there are many forms of masculinity, all equally valid.

Looking from the other side of the shift I wonder where the mask came from and why it was so deeply entrenched. It contributed to the failure of a 30 year marriage and to the bankruptcy of two companies.

♦◊♦

I am British, white, and from a normal middle class background. My family were not well off but we did not want for anything. I had a good education and nothing abnormal happened in my life. This is the kind of background that produces many normal men, men who grow up behind masks, feigning masculinity.

I believe that there is a core essence we are born with, an essence of sexuality, gender and personality. This essence creates us as straight or gay, masculine or feminine, extrovert or introvert, etc. This is not the whole truth but it does influence how we react to life, how we make decisions about ourselves.

This core is overlaid in the early years, up to about age seven, with the experiences that most powerfully influence our development. This period can re-inforce or suppress our essence. The influence and effect, or lack of it, of our parents is primary and it is backed up by friends, teachers and many others.

It is in this period that I believe the idea of a mask is born. This when we decide whether we are worthy, whether people like us. It affects our sense of self. Our sexuality and our view of gender can be affected as can be seen in the dramatic effect that sexual abuse can have. It often corrupts the victim.

Beyond these years we continue to grow in a cultural milieu that influences us. As men, if we have decided that by the age of seven that we are not worthy, we will often seek refuge in stereotypical ideas of masculinity to hide what we really are.

William Pollack said in his book “Real Boys’ Voices”,

“When boys speak about ‘being themselves’. Many describe a double life in which they are one person in public — a cool guy who plays fast and lives by the rules of the Boy Code — and somebody completely different in his private life, often a much more creative, gentle, caring sort of guy. Others say they can ‘be themselves’ only after they go home, go to their own rooms, and shut out the outside world. What just about every boy says he knows all too well is what I call the mask of masculinity, a stance of male bravado and stoicism boys learn to use to cover over their inner feelings of sadness, loneliness, and vulnerability, to act cool, and to protect themselves from being shamed by their peers.”

This can happen to all of us but why is this particularly an issue for men.

♦◊♦

Men are normally raised by mothers not fathers, although this is slowly changing. During the formative years, up to age seven, boys tend to be more influenced by women. This is still so today with the large number of absent fathers, for whatever reason. A boy accepts this female role model until the time of separation comes. This is the time when boys are about to become men, puberty is approaching and society dictates that they need male role models in order to develop their sense of masculinity. In tribal societies this was dealt with by ritual and initiation, recruiting the boy into the dominant male group.

Is your life relaxed and peaceful? Have you come to a clear understanding of who you are as a man? Have you dealt with the issues you had when making your transition from boy to man?

The transition to manhood can fail to work for many reasons. It can be forced and happen before the boy is ready for it, the father may fail to provide guidance or it could be unnecessary and harmful to the boy. In many urban contexts this transition happens on the streets with gangs taking over the role of parents. The story of Oedipus is a myth about this period of transition.

This passage can result in confusion for the boy/man, depriving him of connection to his mother and not replacing it, causing him to fall back on the stereotypes he is fed by the media and by friends. This slowly becomes a mask, a masculine stereotype.

In my case I lacked the guidance from anyone to make this shift and, as I retreated from both my parents, I found it difficult to know who I was or how I should behave.

Much of the blame I put on the view of men I had from the media. All men face these issues and the resolution is to help boys and men face the shifts they go through and understand that they can make their own decisions and frame their own masculinity.

I now live way beyond the mask I wore when I was younger. I see myself clearly and understand the issues I faced through my life. I have successfully dealt with the issues and feel happy and relaxed as a man. I no longer worry about being found out, I happily let people see my true essence, see me as I truly am.

Many men have not had the advantage of gaining the understanding and experience to take their life beyond their troubles. I now work as a Men’s Coach, helping men to move forward and come to terms with what they have been avoiding.

Is your life relaxed and peaceful? Have you come to a clear understanding of who you are as a man? Have you dealt with the issues you had when making your transition from boy to man? Let me know in the comments what your view of masculinity and how you balance it in your life.

“Life is all about making a choice regardless what is thrown at you. Overcoming these so call obstacles that will assist you in becoming a better person. Go against the grain and do not just grow into that idol that society wants you to be. Fighting to keep your own image and standing fast for what you believe in is the only thing that counts.”
(Fendson Dorvilus)

Photo Credit: Flickr/Martin Cathrae

How My 91 Year Old Relative Showed Me The Secret To A Powerful Relationship

Graham Phoenix explores the difference between loneliness and aloneness, and discovers how dependency can destroy a relationship.

photo by javier citoI recently visited a relative of mine who is 91 years old. She doesn’t get out of the house much these days, she suffers from dementia and is locked in her loneliness. Although people go in to see her every day and others come and take her out on trips she doesn’t remember much, if anything, about this. So when she sits on her own in front of the TV in the evening she feels lonely and is lonely, because she remembers nothing of the events of the day, all she can remember is the distant past of family life and activity, so she feels lonely.

Her dementia locks her in her prison, but do those of us with our full faculties need to be locked in our prison. What is the prison I am talking about? Is it loneliness or dependency? Both, I think, can be prisons that distort our view of the world.

After I left and divorced my wife of thirty years, I lived in a one bedroom flat on my own. It was the first time I had ever lived on my own. On the one hand I felt liberated and excited, on the other I felt lonely. When I met a girl I wanted to have a relationship with I pursued her and determined to create an amazing relationship with her. She resisted this because I wanted it too much.

I stepped back and looked at what was happening and realised that I was trying to fill a void, I was trying to get rid of my loneliness. I discovered that I was not going to create a great relationship until I could let go of the need to have one. I found that difficult for a while and set about understanding my situation.

♦◊♦

Osho, an Indian mystic, guru and spiritual teacher, helped me to understand what was happening with his distinction between loneliness and aloneness.

Loneliness is what I was describing at the beginning. Osho explained it as follows:

“Man ordinarily lives in loneliness. To avoid loneliness, he creates all kinds of relationships, friendships, organizations, political parties, religions and what not. But the basic thing is that he is very much afraid of being lonely. Loneliness is a black hole, a darkness, a frightening negative state almost like death … as if you are being swallowed by death itself. To avoid it, you run out and fall into anybody, just to hold somebody’s hand, to feel that you are not lonely… Nothing hurts more than loneliness.”

I see many relationships created out of this fear. My first marriage, I realise now, came out of this. Frequently these relationships don’t work and end in disaster. People find that the other person does not fill the void, the gap that exists. More often they exacerbate it and create even greater fear.

Osho goes on to say,

“The day you decide that all these efforts are failures, that your loneliness has remained untouched by all your efforts, that is a great moment of understanding. Then only one thing remains: to see whether loneliness is such a thing that you should be afraid of, or if it is just your nature. Then rather than running out and away, you close your eyes and go in. Suddenly the night is over, and a new dawn … The loneliness transforms into aloneness.
“Aloneness is your nature. You were born alone, you will die alone. And you are living alone without understanding it, without being fully aware of it. You misunderstand aloneness as loneliness; it is simply a misunderstanding. You are sufficient unto yourself.”

I discovered aloneness as a powerful, positive state to be in. I came to understand myself and enjoy my own company, I ceased to need others to fill my void, I was able to do it myself. I let go of the need to be in a relationship, but not the desire. The desire was about the woman not about myself. What I hadn’t expected was that as soon as I fully embodied this state the woman I was interested in became interested in me. I no longer needed her and so became attractive to her.

We married and love our life together. We spend most of our time together but don’t depend on each other. We are capable of aloneness, of being on our own, but love being together.

♦◊♦

Jed Diamond in a recent post on the Good Men Project, ‘5 Little-Known Secrets Couples Need To Know About The Science of Love’, talked about his confusion over dependency between couples,

“Like most of the people in Western society, I believed that “dependency” was something I needed to avoid like the plague. I believed that a “real man” was strong, independent, and self-sufficient. He didn’t complain and he never showed his weaknesses. To a lesser degree women are also raised to value independence and see dependence as a weakness to be overcome.
““Again, this is backwards,” says Johnson. Far from being a sign of frailty, strong emotional connection is a sign of mental health. It is emotional isolation that is the killer. We know that men live sicker and die sooner than women and the suicide rate is 2 to 18 times higher for men than for women. The main reason, I believe, is that men have fewer social supports than women do. We associate manliness with independence and dependence with “wispiness.””

The confusion is that he equates dependency with the strong emotional connection we need in our lives. For me dependency is the attempt to fill the void of loneliness, it’s using the other person to complete ourselves, to make ourselves feel whole.

This is an unhealthy emotional connection, the one that destroys relationships. Aloneness, on the other hand, is where we find our own strength and let go of the need to have others fill our void. Through aloneness we can build genuine, strong emotional connections that support both people in the relationship.

The emotional isolation that Jed refers to is more to do with a refusal to be ourselves and be happy with ourselves. Like my 91 year old relative we ignore all that happens in our lives and just focus on the lack, the loneliness. Yes, men need social support but not to enable dependency but to support self-sufficiency. This is not manliness but a sign of emotional strength.

The danger in the idea that Jed talked about is the idea that men cannot be emotionally strong on their own, the idea that they need a woman to support them. Both partners should only approach a relationship from their own emotional strength, then they can find the spark that creates the electricity in the relationship, the excitement that makes them want to be together.

♦◊♦

It simply means that emotional strength comes from believing in yourself before you use someone else’s belief in you. What you think means more than what others think, no matter how seductive that can be.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs puts love or belonging above the physiological and safety needs of people. We need to have our basic needs met before we even think of connecting with other people. We focus the our security needs and our need to stay alive, be fed and watered. Then follows our need to belong to groups, to society, to other people. This may seem to be a need for dependency, I see it as a need for connection, for understanding.

Remember that at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy is the need for self-actualisation. This is where the sense of aloneness comes from. This level of need refers to what a person’s full potential is and the realization of that potential. That potential comes from within themselves and is not dependent on others.

How does this work out in real life, what are the consequences of all this?

It simply means that emotional strength comes from believing in yourself before you use someone else’s belief in you. What you think means more than what others think, no matter how seductive that can be.

My aged relative spent most of her life living in her own strength. She did not rely on others and believed implicitly in her own abilities in this world. The sadness of the dementia is that this this has gone leaving her without her own self-confidence, and so very alone. Although she remembers family life long ago, she doesn’t remember how much of it came from her, she has lost the emotional strength that was once at the core of her life.

I Want Respect: On Punk Music and Learning Disabilities

Graham Phoenix attends the first night of a Punk Music Tour and discovers what inclusion for those with learning disabilities really means.

Fish Police 588There is a lot of talk on The Good Men Project about inclusion across the areas of gender, gender identity, race and other important issues. But the topic of how we treat those with learning disabilities like everyone else is just now coming to the forefront of the discussion. No matter how hard we work to include those who seem to be not like us, many people still find those with learning disabilities a challenge. I know I do. Autism and Downs Syndrome can be especially difficult as the effect is to disable simple communication. If we cannot communicate through words with someone how do we include them in our life?

I came across this issue last week when I went to the first night of a punk music tour in the UK. A band called the Fish Police embarked on an eight day UK tour. This, in itself is nothing new and it’s likely that you might be asking yourself, “why should I care?”
As Richard Phoenix, who organised the tour, said in a recent article,

“You have to recognize that the band, Fish Police, are breaking barriers and pushing boundaries as musicians with learning disabilities. By being a band at the forefront of a nascent music scene, they are helping to shift perceptions and attitudes towards the learning disabled community.
Up until this point, the concept of these musicians being able to tour across the UK has sometimes felt impossible. For years there have been arts organisations who have helped support people with learning disabilities to make amazing music, which in turn has created pockets of creativity and scenes across the world. However, making the transition into the more traditional pastimes of bands – such as releasing records and going on tour – has been elusive.”

♦◊♦
This where inclusion becomes difficult. Even where there is the desire for inclusion what does it actually men?
Help is already provided by a number of other organisations for people with learning disabilities to learn instruments, read music, remember the music and write words. This does not, though, bring them into the main stream of playing and touring.
Richard says,

“Some of the musicians are truly exceptional, particularly some on the autistic or Asperger’s spectrum, but they can need support with things like booking rehearsals and setting up gigs. Much of my job is like that of a tour manager. We also, for example, look after a band called The Express who play and write all their own songs but it’s difficult for them to communicate so a lot of the support we offer is helping them engage with each other.
I used to encounter so many musicians who were really passionate but frustrated about the lack of opportunities for playing with other bands, getting records out, or getting people to hear their music. So it’s incredible to now be able to find ways to make that happen.”

Patrick Strudwick in a recent Guardian newspaper article said,

“Punk, with its raging, mad-eyed, opiate-guzzling musicians, might be a far cry from the patronised, victimised stereotype of people with learning disabilities. But in the burgeoning live music scene for people with learning disabilities it is punk and heavy metal that predominate. Lyrics, stripped of opacity, punch with the fury of the sidelined: “Why don’t you understand me?/You always torture me/Force me to clean toilets/Force me to eat/I don’t understand why you don’t let me outside”.
Other songs by Finland’s Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät” , one of the more established groups on the British scene, convey the disempowerment of living with autism, Asperger’s, Down’s syndrome or other learning-affected conditions: “I don’t want to live [in a] group home/I don’t want institution/I want respect.””

Richard Phoenix is himself a musician who is deeply embedded in the UK Punk Scene. He was once called ‘The Drumming Icon of the British Punk Scene’. He continues to play and tour with his own bands, including ‘Sauna Youth’, but has become increasingly involved in the crossover between punk music and learning disabilities. Last year he set up his organisation Constant Flux, whose aim is to create more opportunities for musicians with learning disabilities.
He says,

“I applied for a grant from the Arts Council England to put the Fish Police on tour to Nottingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Sunderland, London, Brighton and Swansea. They’re playing with some of the best bands in the UK’s DIY, alternative and learning disabled scenes, bands as diverse as the music The Fish Police make. All the gigs are in accessible venues and will be fully integrated, meaning the stages and the audiences will contain people with and without learning disabilities.”

♦◊♦

There is, of course, a serious side to the tour – it combats social exclusion and perceptions of ability. But mainly it’s going to be about dancing and having a good time.

It is not always apparent which musicians have learning disabilities or what the diagnosis might be. This challenges audiences to think about how often people with learning disabilities’ needs go unnoticed simply because they are not obviously disabled. A lot of audience members say they don’t know what to expect or how they are going to react to the musicians but in the end people are just into the music and forget they are watching people with learning disabilities.

The musical world in which the Fish Police exist has been created by and informed by singer Dean Rodney and guitarist Matt Howe’s autism, and the way they see the world. Dean pictures the world as if it were a TV show, he takes things he observes in his own life and twists them into unique creations.

When I attended the first night of their tour, I found it hard to understand who, on stage, had disabilities, that, of course, is the point. Off stage Dean and Matt joined in the dancing and celebrating the music of the other bands, as everyone else, but still lived with their communication difficulties. Their lives, though, were significantly improved through the use of music to break down their barriers.

The evening was a celebration of inclusion which really means the lack of any distinction or barriers. Most of all, though, it was a night of great music.

My Decade of Freedom Before Middle Class Life Drew Me Back

Graham Phoenix remembers the 60’s and 70’s, his years of rebellion, and how they ended up in the power of marriage, parenthood and ordinary life.

Three-Generations

I left school in 1966 and I am now 66 years old. This seems to me a great reason to celebrate my decade of freedom that started that year, nearly 50 years ago. It was the year The Beach Boys released the album ‘Pet Sounds’, The Doors released their eponymous album and John Lennon met Yoko Ono leading to the end of live concerts by The Beatles and their break-up. The Vietnam War was causing chaos, almost revolution, in America, but it didn’t really enter my consciousness.

Janis Joplin sang:

“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose,
Nothin’ don’t mean nothin’, honey, if it ain’t free.
Yeah, feeling good was easy, Lord, when he sang the blues,
You know feeling good was good enough for me,
Good enough for me and my Bobby McGee.”
(‘Me and Bobby McGee‘)

For me freedom was about leaving home at the age of 18 and starting to live. In ‘My Father was an Angry Man’ I talked about how I grew up under my father’s dominance. Getting out was scary but released so much in me. My decade straddled the 60’s and the 70’s, a turning point in the post-war world.

♦◊♦

It started small for me. 1967 saw the release of ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’, an album I have never forgotten and played countless times. ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ opened up a whole new world to me. This was a world of what would now be called soft drugs, mainly cannabis and LSD. Harmless in those days, compared to today.

Before the drugs, though, was politics, left wing politics, much to the dismay of my middle class father.

I had left home to work in the theatre and within a couple of years I was a staunch trade unionist sitting of the Scottish Committee of Equity, the Actors and Stage Managers Union. I helped pick the Scottish Organiser of the Communist Party in Scotland to run Equity in Scotland. This flowed naturally from my natural reaction to being out in the world at last.

CND (the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) became my passion, as it did for the British left wing politician Tony Benn, who died last week. Like much of the campaigns from the left in Britain, CND never succeeded in it’s aims. It seemed so noble and so obvious. Earlier in the 60’s there had been JFK, Khruschev and the Cuban Missile Crisis. This was serious, the world was on the edge of destruction, the Cold War hotted up.

♦◊♦

It would be nice to think that all this seriousness led me to embark on a path of changing the world, but this was the 60’s after all. Both Robin Williams and Grace Slick are reputed to have said, “If you remember the 60s, then you weren’t really there…”. I did my bit to move on and numb myself into not remembering.

That really started in the early 70’s with experiments with drugs and sex. Sex had been a desperation for me in these years. Like many men I felt I should be getting it, frequently. It was the age of ‘Free Love’, but somehow that seemed to pass me by. I tried to make it work but had not learned, yet, about women or girls. I had gone to an all boys school, had grown up in a mainly male family, and I just didn’t know how to go about it.

I spent some months working in a Strip Club in Soho in London. Spending 12 hours catching clothes as the girls undressed and standing around backstage with naked girls, left me feeling nothing would make this work for me. Working on the original production of ‘The Rocky Horror Show’, in London just made things worse. Smoking dope seemed to blunt the unease as did working, hard.

The 1973 Oil Crisis, and petrol rationing in Britain, made me pretty well give up hope. What was life about; conflict, drugs, no sex! There had to be a better way.

♦◊♦

I understood, now, the life my father had led and what I had been missing. I gloried in it and left politics and drugs behind. A few years later I left the theatre and my first son was born. Now I had a real reason to live.

The end of my decade of freedom came when I met a girl and fell in love. Everything seemed to slot into place. I felt connected, wanted and desired. I was able to express myself through my emotions and my passion. I was finally able to discover something about myself.

We got married, bought a house and started living a good middle class life, just like my father. In the marriage service it talks about what marriage is for:

“The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God’s will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord. Therefore marriage is not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, deliberately, and in accordance with the purposes for which it was instituted by God.”

I understood, now, the life my father had led and what I had been missing. I gloried in it and left politics and drugs behind. A few years later I left the theatre and my first son was born. Now I had a real reason to live.

In a couple of weeks it is his son’s first birthday. I see the continuation of life through the generations, I see the end of my son’s decade of freedom and I see him loving it. I wonder what experience my grandson will have?

Men And Women – The Shifting Dynamic At The Extremes

How do you see what is happening in the world? How do you see it changing? How do you see the shifting dynamic between men and women?

men and women

Why do I upset both men and women at the extremes when I write. What am I doing that scares them so much. Why can’t they acknowledge what is really happening in the world and join to make it even better.

I recently posted on The Good Men Project a piece about parallels between what has been happening in Ukraine and the struggle for masculinity. I received a fascinating reply from a woman who said…

“The world is becoming more ‘feminine’ in its workings and men hate the idea of claiming femininity so they take all these characteristics that are deemed ‘feminine’ and call them the ‘new masculinity’ so that they can get credit for this new ‘more moral and honourable way of living’ without giving credit to the example that they are following – the feminine.”

This immediately set me on edge and pissed me off. Why? Read more

When a Man’s Responsibility Has Gone – What is There Left

Men keep going because their wife, children, colleagues expect them to. They keep going because of the shame of giving up. Graham Phoenix looks at when he went to the edge and kept going.

I lay under the duvet cover screaming, screaming out loud. I could feel the break coming. I felt helpless and hopeless and I did not know what to do, I did not know how to deal with my wife, with my life. I was lost; as a husband, as a man, as Graham. I knew something was wrong, something more than the clash of brute force and stubbornness, something more than titan struggle that had been going on downstairs. I was so lost I could not even work out what was wrong, I just wanted the world to go away.

After thirty years of marriage all I could see was destruction and emptiness. The love was destroyed, the friendship and companionship was being prised apart by the alcohol and the addiction. Over recent years I had done what a man does; I had solved the problems. It was supposed to easy. The application of male logic to a situation could solve anything, no?

I screamed as I realised I had not only not solved the problem of my wife’s alcoholism, I had made it worse. My logic had failed to lever open the door of my wife’s emotions to reveal the dark secrets in side. It had, in fact, nailed the door shut and sealed the gaps. Read more