Sometimes when I talk to people on the radio, I’m left slightly drained. Not often but sometimes. This week I listened to a relatively young woman tell me about a checklist men my age should study to find out if we’ve been badly influenced by our general experiences of growing up. She presented a narrow set of examples and I began to feel slightly guilty. Most of them were relevant to me.
My first mistake was to admit when I was about 10 years old I watched every John Wayne film on TV. I thoroughly enjoyed most of them. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is still my favourite film. She began tut tutting but she did say she admired me when I described The Quiet Man as my least favourite.
I was always put off by the pathetic idea that it might be acceptable for a man to beat his wife with a stick cut from a tree. The term for that is domestic violence. We were in agreement there but when I explained that I used to lie on our garage roof and pick off people passing by with imaginary shots from a toy rifle she became quite irate.
“Was your mother aware of this?” she asked.
“Yes, she bought me the rifle,” was my reply.
I was then given a lecture on how such irresponsible parenting could have led to me being a gunman in a mass shooting.
I tried to reason with her that I was only 10. I was playing and the gun was plastic.
I admitted there were times at primary school when I tried to walk like John Wayne, but I stopped that when the teacher thought I had failed to get to the toilet on time.
Another error was to admit a fondness for Top of the Pops. When I was a youngster the Top 40 chart made Thursday nights special. It was the only chance to see our favourite singers on TV. My guest then gave a damming account of the influence of the show.
I was expecting her to be scathing about the presence of Jimmy Savile but she was too hung up on what impact Pan’s People had on me and my development.
I was more guarded in my reply about the scantily clad female dancers than I had been about my love of cowboys. I described them as “athletic” and “talented”.
To be honest when I was young, I quickly realised the dancers were just filling in when some American superstar couldn’t make it and I hardly ever watched them gyrating to the camera.
I explained that it was during those songs I did my homework. She wasn’t accepting my defence.
Apparently, my subconscious admiration for Pan’s People fuelled my desire to watch Miss World. This was me beginning to descend the slippery slope. I accepted I did watch the crowning of Mary Ann Stävin.
I explained how it was a family event. We all tuned in and picked our own winner. I thought it would soften the blow if I said we watched it straight after the rosary but that was no consolation. Another example of “irresponsible parenting”.
Football was my final sin. According to this young sage, when I was playing it was a macho world where men played the game and women washed the jerseys. In many places that was true but not everywhere. We used to play against one club where men played, and no one washed the jerseys.
The smell of stale sweat gave them an advantage in every game. No one wanted to get close enough to tackle. There is some wisdom in her arguments.
Over the last twenty years society has been on a fast moving journey and thankfully stereotypes have been broken down and equality is a word we should all shout loudly but if I see a child playing with a plastic gun, watching reruns of Top of the Pops or expressing an ambition to be in a beauty contest, I’m not going to suggest the sky is about to fall in.
Frank presents U105 Phone In Monday-Friday from 9am-noon