Learning a little humility harder for some

Sunday columnist Peter Leith is closing in on his 92nd birthday, but the outrage bubbles as fiercely as ever.

The story is told of the ageing Aussie male who wrote to the Dorothy Dix columnist of the prominent women’s magazine: ‘Dear Dorothy Dix. When I was 19, I could hardly bend it with two hands; now that I am70, I can bend it with two fingers. How did I become so much stronger?’

The story may be apocryphal, but the reality is not. Every day, you and I can see ageing and old men who are overbearingly assertive, dominating and even downright rude to their female partners.

Only the other day, at a dinner party, I heard the elderly man sitting opposite me tell his partner, after she had said something, not to “be stupid”. He then looked around the table at the other men and made the shoulder-shrugging ‘what can you expect’ gesture with which we are all too familiar. Sadly, some of the other men responded with raised eyebrows and the same shoulder shrug.

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It is a sad reality that some men, too many of us, look for other ways to be the ‘leader of the pack’, the alpha male, as our macho masculinity declines.

Men who have been, or like to think of themselves as having been, ‘loners’ and/or the leader of the pack seem to have more trouble adjusting to the realities of ageing than do those who have been ‘team players’.

Even so, how many older men do you see walking behind their partners and pushing the trolley in the supermarket?

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As our physical abilities and capacities decline, many incline towards being more assertive, more dominant in other ways. 

A psychologist friend described it to me as “compensatory assertive behaviour” and told me that as we lose some skills or natural abilities, we tend to cling more fiercely to others. Learning a little humility makes life easier for everyone.

Have you come across the ageing alpha male? Are they a dying breed? Have your say in the comments section below.

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