Father should know better

is the subject of my Trade Tripper column in this Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld:

It being Father’s Day weekend, there was this radio commentator saying that we should take the time to reflect on the value of dads. The point was: fathers need to know that they are special and important in our lives. That all the work they do is appreciated and will never be forgotten. We should make the effort therefore to listen to fathers’ needs, of their struggles and concerns, of their dreams and frustrations, of their longing to connect with us, finding themselves, and being accepted for who they are.

Which led me to ask this question: since when have fathers become women?

Really, is it just me? There are fundamental differences between men and women we should respect. And I cannot get the need of today’s men to spill their guts out to every person within social media or cable TV range. Men are silent (particularly about themselves), control their emotions, and do rather than talk. John Wayne puts it best: talk low, talk slow, and don’t say too much. Though actually an advice on acting, the Duke might as well be giving a master class on how to be a man.

One of my favorite lines was from the movie The English Patient. Ralph Fiennes’ character Almasy on a past expedition: "I once traveled with a guide who was taking me to Faya. He didn’t speak for nine hours. At the end of it he pointed at the horizon and said, ‘Faya!’ That was a good day."

Now that may be very un-PC, but screw that. A grunt and a squint is enough. We don’t spend time trying to empathize or share feelings. No. We get things done. Or get wasted. And if we can do both simultaneously so much the better. Feelings are to be shared, privately, with wives; under the constitutional proviso that the wives do not divulge such confidences to their girlfriends. At least, not within embarrassing hearing range.

So, regardless of what Oprah says, men shouldn’t shed tears in front of others or exchange emotional issues with other guys. Or use facial cleansers in public. In fact, don’t even give a damn what a TV host says. Period. We don’t, as Al Pacino spat out in Heat, share our feelings so that we could "somehow cathartically dispel all that heinous shit." (By the way, if you can’t tell what the central friendship in that movie is, you’re a girl).

Because, really, who needs a man (a father at that) with issues? What would the world have become if Arnold Schwarzeneger in the Terminator movies, instead of the confident declaration "Come with me if you want to live," had gingerly asked: "So, what do you think? We don’t want to offend anyone." Or remember Gregory Peck in Twelve O’clock High? Doggedly carrying out the mission, defiantly alone in command. Instead of issues (or tattoos and washboard abs), real men have a moral compass, inner strength, commitment to purpose, self-mastery. It may and will hurt inside sometimes but the trick for a man, as Lawrence of Arabia would say, is "not minding that it hurts."

Guys today need comfort and hugs. But the fact is, the last thing we need is a mechanic or plumber who suddenly breaks down weeping because he suddenly felt inadequate upon seeing an exhaust pipe or piece of plumbing. Men don’t despair. They have a drink and then saddle back up. Think of Rick in Casablanca. Or Frank Sinatra. Of Steve McQueen in Bullitt: no speeches, no apologies. Just easy cool, the quick-draw shoulder holster, and the 1968 390 CID V8 Ford Mustang. Think Lee Marvin’s effortless riff in the Dirty Dozen. Or Denzel Washington in the Book of Eli wordlessly going west to preserve the Bible. Of Jordan or Kobe.

Undoubtedly, the Beatles (the 50th year of their assembling is being commemorated this year) exemplified all this. As writer Martin Lewis said: "Unlike vast legions of entertainers before and since, The Beatles’ objective in forming a group was not to become famous or rich or have their pick of the opposite sex…They were motivated by the love of music. It colors your approach. How many kids today make a record on their Mac with Pro Tools and expect it to be No. 1 in 10 minutes? From 1957 to 1962, The Beatles played hundreds of live shows in front of very few people, making no money, sleeping in disgusting locales. They had no sense of entitlement. Just drive and commitment."

In short, as Lewis would emphasize: The Beatles had "skill, personality," and -- most importantly -- "grit." Troubles, worries, drama? That’s to be hidden backstage. Onstage, it was purely to deliver and deliver with a grin and a smart alecky line. In fact, that’s what we remember of The Beatles: able to come through without the effort showing that they simply seemed preternatural.

And that's how fathers should remain.