May 9th, 2011 10:41 EST
Wishing Our Young Men Felt Like Taking Travolta's 'Saturday Night Fever' Walk Again
When I was a young man in the 1950s the high-maintenance ducktail and pompadour were the rage. Guys would whip out their combs, usually carried in their back pockets, like gunslingers doing tricks.
It was a kind of hopeful gesture, anticipatory. They were hoping to make an impression, to score. Hairstyles are shorter now and you don`t see that kind of nervous energy, which now seems quaint and innocent.
But I think style isn`t the only reason for this behavioral shift in young men. I think they`re not as optimistic as they were in the 50s. I think something has been lost, stolen even. A kind of enthusiasm about what was going to happen next. You remember John Travolta`s famous walk in Saturday Night Fever? You don`t see much of that ebullience anymore. Our young people seem to expect less of their society, and they`re certainly getting less. The only strutting I see in Manhattan these days is by Wall Street suits walking like phalanxes, high on their sense of entitlement, expecting the whole world to get out of their way.
Indeed there was a kind of something-must-happenness in the air back then. We had recently won a great war. We had a genial, beloved if not particularly inspiring president in Dwight Eisenhower. The suburbs were growing and Herbert Hoover`s silly promise of a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage was coming true. A middle class was being born. Unions were muscular. Everyone seemed to have a future. We weren`t obsessed with politics. We felt and acted like one nation. The public airwaves (yes, they`re public) weren`t filled with hate-mongers. The media hadn`t glommed onto the sales tactic of pumping up our anxieties.
We believed in our government. I believed the war in Korea was just and I enlisted. We trusted in a future, in ourselves. And taking out that comb and running it through our hair was a celebratory gesture of confidence and eagerness for the future. Bring it on, we said. Now we`re not so certain. We look to our leaders for trouble, not solutions. Our young people have become the adults, the politicians the adolescents. They shouldn`t be let out on the streets without adult supervision.
All that is gone. What we`re left with is a droll question about the wisdom of young men sitting on combs.
Djelloul Marbrook is a retired newspaperman. His second book of poems, Brushstrokes and Glances, will be published by Deerbrook Editions on December 20, 2010. His first book of poems, Far From Algiers, won the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize from Kent State University in 2007 and was published in 2008. It won the International Book Award in 2010. His novella, Artemisia`s Wolf, will be published by Prakash Books of India in December. His novella, Saraceno, was recently published as an e-book. His story, Artists Hill, adapted from the second novel of an unpublished trilogy, won the Literal LattÃ© first prize in fiction in 2008. The pioneering e-book publisher, Online Originals (UK), published his novella, Alice MIller`s Room, in 1999.
Del`s book, Far From Algiers: http://upress.kent.edu/books/Marbrook_D.htm
New review of Far from Algiers: http://www.rattle.com/blog/2009/05/far-from-algiers-by-djelloul-marbrook/
Artists Hill, Literal LattÃ©`s fiction first prize: http://www.literal-latte.com/author/djelloulmarbrook/
His blog: http://www.djelloulmarbrook.com
His mother`s art: http://www.juanitaguccione.com
His aunt`s art: http://www.irenericepereira.com