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I saw something lovely on the L platform last week. A man had a baby tucked inside the top of his overcoat with just the top of the baby's head sticking out. Every so often the baby would raise its head and then plop it back on his chest - making a little game, enjoying being secure, I thought. The man was staring straight ahead, lost in thought. He carried a briefcase and I guessed that he had taken the baby to work that day. Fatherhood in the modern family, not dreamed of when I was having children.
The evolution in male parenting roles has come rather quickly. Couples seem eager to handle dual careers and shared responsibility. Men don't seem to take it as a loss of status or role, maybe because there's a financial reward.
While the years since World War II brought whiplash-like changes to the lives of women, I have a hunch men are facing some wrenching changes in the future, maybe sooner than we think. I wonder how they'll handle these whoppers.
First, hunting. We're having a national "conversation" about guns, which means we have to give the crazies a place at the table. This "conversation" goes to great lengths to protect the second amendment and the rights of hunters. Frankly, one would think hunting was some sort of sacrament. Undoubtedly hunting is important economically - equipment, licenses, etc. - and as a sport. I've heard men describe hunting as essential to their psychic well-being and bonding with their sons. Honestly. It was on NPR. But think about it. As a rational society, after we get rid of assault weapons, concealed-carry laws and the like, eventually we'll take a look at whether killing animals is a sport or an embarrassment.
Second, and how shall I say it, most men, from the time they're toddlers, have a mystical relationship with balls - and ball sports are a great way to channel their energy and love of competition. But how long are we going to encourage sports that require a helmet and body armor and even then result in big and little kids having concussions and undergoing repeated orthopedic surgeries, and men showing dementia in their forties? Is the fun and big money worth it? I think the handwriting is on the wall. Tennis, anyone?
Third, I see even bigger changes in the military, requiring fewer troops. While the U. S. military is now 20% women, they rarely go into combat. I think a Marine has to be able to carry up to 100 pounds of equipment, at least in training. I like to think I would have served my country, certainly in World War II (I was a baby), and even in my adult years, if they had engaged in a war I agreed with (I was too old for Desert Storm). The truth is, although olive and khaki are great colors for redheads, I could never have gotten through basic training.
Now our military plan seems to be moving away from traditional combat and more towards robotics and drones. When it all evolves to spying, strategy, smarts and operating equipment on a console, we might one day see a portrait of the joint chiefs all wearing lipstick.