Male Role Models

Tough, Machismo “Real Men,” versus Reticent, Soft-Spoken, Suburban Ozzie Nelson

I grew up in the 1950s. Men were considered “real men” if they were either the strong silent type or the tough, “you-talkin’-to-me?” street type with their ducks-ass hair style and pack of Lucky Strikes rolled up inside their short t-shirt sleeve.

These “real men” played sports and avoided the arts; loved manual labor and hated desk jobs; were hard drinkers; drove stick shift; and dodged commitments, especially marriage (“tying the noose,” we called it), until the 11th hour, after a brief courtship of prom night, drive-ins, street dances, roller rinks, a summer at the beach, and making out in the balcony back row at a movie theater.

A “man in a uniform,” fresh from active duty, always had the upper hand on the street. Women, of my generation, loved a guy in a uniform.

Television, of course, had another narrative of the male ideal. Ozzie Nelson, of “Ozzie and Harriet” fame, was presented to us as the classic suburban husband and father in his button-down white shirts and tie-clipped thin ties. Reticent to a fault, even in his wry humor, he was always pathetically even tempered. Continue reading