Initiating Boys – Tattoos, Beards and the Search for Manhood.

boys and tattoosIs it just me or did anyone notice a huge surge in tattoos a few years back? Is it just me or did half the NRL and AFL seem to have woken up one day and decided to impersonate a Celtic warrior tribe complete with neck tattoos and warrior bands on their arms.

Over recent years delivering seminars for parents at schools around the world I would always ask the question as to whether people had noticed a surge in tattoos adorning every spare inch of epidermal real-estate for young men? The answer was always in the affirmative.

My essential thesis was that the death of a culture of manhood and initiation does not mean that boys stop looking for initiation. They just try and do it themselves. Unfortunately, one thing every tribe in history that ever took initiation seriously understood is that initiation is, quite simply, something that can never be done outside of a committed community of men. Boys, regardless of all their bluster and faux machismo just can’t initiate themselves.

manhood beard

My thesis is that boys are desperate for initiation, for something, anything to drag them out of the world of Peter Pan and into the great adventure, danger, risk and reward, love, loss, romance and heroism of authentic manhood.

Witness the emergence of the next incarnation. Post tattoo man. The hipster. Have you noticed the surge in beards? That’s the next wave after tattoos. That said, many hipsters join tattoos with beards. They seem unsure whether they are supposed to be intimidating or providing some sort of bearded manly assurance to the greater public.

I stood in the airport today at Sydney and while waiting for a taxi I witnessed a progression of beards on young men. They ranged from the elegantly trimmed to a rather sad looking afterthought clinging reluctantly to the chin of a suited young lion of the world of finance.hipster

Can you see what I am getting at? A generation of unfathered, mentor-less males looking for something, anything to provide the illusion of manhood?

One of the the key focus points of our The Men We Need Resource for schools was the awareness that boys are crying out for the community of men, fathers and teachers to re-engage in this crucial cultural task of initiating boys.

So, over now  to you. Am I going to far with this? Do you agree? What do you see in your school, community or on the street? Post a comment at the bottom.

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