It’s very important for Rusters that – with our famous mission statement being to observe and comment upon the modern world from our viewpoint as ‘people beyond a certain age’ – to maintain a degree of balance between comparing the now with the past and also looking to the future.
Arguably, therefore, it is our duty not to trap ourselves entirely in a conservative or reactionary frame of mind.
To my mind little could be worse or more depressing than the prospect that this organ might become the host of endlessly churned out diatribes on the Lionel Bart theme (Fings Aint’ Wot They Used T’Be) and/or making fun of the follies and absurdities of the obsessions, technological wizardry and other privileges with which by chance – for the most part through no effort of their own – the ‘snowflake’ generations coming behind us have been endowed.
It is a truism to state here that not all new technological and sociological ‘advances’ are of dubious benefit.
Yesterday, for example, I was at lunch with a party at which one guest possessed of kids in their twenties detailed the ‘regrettable’ (my word not his) manner in which the younger generations now live their lives.
In first position, he cited the fact that they all spend their entire ‘waking’ day on their computers, smartphones and/or game consoles – to the exclusion of practically everything else. In his view they were wasting their youth.
[Cue here, though to be fair he didn’t mention them, a list of all the ways we could metaphorically occupy ourselves during school vacations for days at a time on a derelict bomb site with just a pot of ink, a piece of string and two wooden planks … “And look, it didn’t do us any harm, did it?” … (though youngsters listening to this might silently think to themselves otherwise!)].
Secondly, he detailed the fact that about six months ago the chap his daughter had been spending a lot of time with for over a year took her on a trip to Paris for the weekend for the specific purpose of asking her whether he and she might now take their relationship to a new level, i.e. that of ‘boyfriend and girlfriend’.
The company immediately split into factions taking different attitudes to this development.
One lady was horrified, apparently on the basis that if a girl had been ‘seeing’ (i.e. had been in a sexual relationship with) a young man for over a year it was outrageous that it was only now he was bothering to suggest they might begin to regard themselves as seeing each other to the exclusion of all others.
I then expressed a personal and alternative point of view by gently suggesting that the speaker was stuck in the ancient mores of her own youth, when presumably [perhaps in an early example of #MeToo sensitivities] she and her female friends regarded ‘giving themselves’ to another [i.e. having sex with them] as a sign of commitment between the two parties concerned.
My line was that – in the modern world of the internet, porn, ‘open discussions of all things’ and young people brazenly sharing every aspect of their daily lives with their peers via the monster of social media – having sexual intercourse had long ago developed ‘since our day’ into being simply a regular part of life no more or less important than, for example, any other sport or hobby.
In that context, I continued, I could see no reason why perhaps, having had sex regularly with someone for a year (whilst both parties involved also retained freedom of opportunity to bonk others, whether that was ever taken advantage or not) that could quite feasibly be an appropriate time to go away together in order to discuss and/or decide whether they now wished to commit to each other – even if this was only now, for the first time, on the basis that from now they would now regard themselves officially as a couple.
In putting forward this proposition I was reminded of the occasion – which I believe I have previously mentioned on these pages – when the Canadian showbiz couple Bernard Braden and Barbara Kelly appeared as interviewees on the Michael Parkinson TV chat show in the late 1970s (or was it early 1980s?).
Whilst discussing the beginnings of their relationship either during or shortly after the end the Second World War, Parky asked Kelly why they had got married quite so soon after they had met.
“Because we wanted to have sex!” she famously – and in those days at some shock to the viewing public – replied.
Back then (before even my young adulthood), two people having sex before both had made some public declaration of commitment to each other was not just frowned upon – in the wider world it could even reduce one’s reputation to lasting detriment.
‘Nice girls don’t’ and so on.
(I can recall hearing myself in my early twenties once confiding to a pal – in an echo of Groucho Marx’s remark about not wanting to belong to any club that would be prepared to offer him membership – that my fundamental problem with the opposite sex was that I’d discovered the sorts of girls that might be prepared to go to bed with me were not the sorts of girls that I wanted to go to bed with myself. To put it another way, it was almost a case of “Who in the hell would want to have sex with the kind of loser who’d be stupid and sad enough to want to have sex with me?”!).
But to return to the point I was making in conversation, i.e. that, in our heyday, people felt they had to ‘get into relationships’ with prospective partners largely because ‘that is what you had to do before you could have sex with them’.
Surely the modern world, in which young people are having casual sex all the time with a variety of partners (as I fondly but grudgingly imagine is the case), is far healthier in every sense?
At least that way you can have a lot of fun – presumably find out if you’re sexually compatible – before you decide whether you actually want to become a couple or not.
Arguably, this is far better than having to go all the way to committing to being a couple first – maybe having spent several weeks ‘courting’ or ‘dating’ before the man even makes his first tentative move towards a chaste ‘goodnight kiss on the doorstep’ having escorted his charge back to her parents’ home – and only then being able to commence the process of finding out how compatible the pair of them are as sexual partners.
Especially if you’re a male and you’d already invested a fair amount of money and effort in the process – then only then found out the sex was hopeless.
At that point you’ve got the tricky and complicated problem of gradually extricating yourself from the ‘couple relationship’ concerned, hopefully without offending the other party too much or indeed revealing that the only reason you entered into it in the first place was because you wanted to have sex with her.
Sometimes this could even take months!
This is the first time I’ve thought or expressed this in public in years but – the more I think about it, the more I feel I’d like to be a young person today.