Man & Boy

Esquire (UK) - - Man & Boy -

do Latin. There is a lot of art and mu­sic and drama. Which is all ab­so­lutely won­der­ful. FOR A GIRL. But where the hell am I go­ing to send Sam?

For girls, ed­u­ca­tion is op­tional. Hav­ing won the sex war, they have ar­rived at a pre­vi­ously un­dreamt-of po­si­tion in our so­cial evo­lu­tion, where they have the choice either to work or to marry a man who does. So, while my Kitty is a clever lit­tle thing and will prob­a­bly do well in her ex­ams and choose to go to univer­sity and one day find work that is fi­nan­cially and spir­i­tu­ally en­rich­ing, hav­ing had a joy­fully re­laxed, cre­ative and nur­tur­ing time at school; if she doesn’t, fuck it, she can just marry a banker.

Not so, Sam. He is go­ing to have to sup­port a fam­ily. If he wants to repli­cate the life he knew as a kid, with a cou­ple of nice houses, for­eign hol­i­days, pretty cars, pri­vate schools and all that, then he’s go­ing to need to earn a lot of money. A lot. It’s not like I don’t want him to feel happy and safe and cher­ished at school, but is it, for a male child, re­ally the most im­por­tant thing?

I was sent to a fully uni­formed, all-male, old-fash­ioned, re­sults-driven pri­vate school at the age of six and was left there un­til, well, ba­si­cally yes­ter­day. I wore shorts and a pink blazer and cap and was mugged by lo­cal youth ev­ery morn­ing of my life. And in the af­ter­noons I was mo­lested by a teacher. Not badly (although th­ese days, they tell me, “rape is rape”) but I was spanked and frot­ted and tick­led, re­warded with choco­lates by one teacher for stay­ing in shorts through­out the win­ter term, pun­ished by an­other — many times — by hav­ing my head buried in his (trousered) crotch un­til I couldn’t breathe.

But from there I got into one of the great pub­lic schools, where I was sex­u­ally threat­ened in the show­ers by se­nior boys, racially abused by pupils (and one teacher) and kept from the com­pany of women un­til it was too late to pre­vent me from be­ing fucked up about women for life. And through all those years I was made to feel aca­dem­i­cally dense, pun­ished in­ces­santly for mi­nor lapses of at­ten­tion and spent many an af­ter­noon won­der­ing whether a speed­ing train or a high win­dow would be the less painful route to join­ing that term’s ros­ter of at­tempted sui­cides.

But who cares? I got straight As, got into Ox­ford, got a great job and now earn, if not a banker’s salary then be­tween two and three times what the prime min­is­ter does, for about four morn­ings’ work a week. A po­si­tion I have got to, I be­lieve, not de­spite the pres­sure and mis­ery and bor­der­line rape, but be­cause of them. I truly feel that it is only be­cause I was torn from my fam­ily, de­prived of the com­pany of girls, bul­lied and tor­tured and told I was worth­less, that I ended up amount­ing to anything at all (sad it was so rel­a­tively lit­tle — from the tenor of this para­graph you’d have thought I ended up El­ton John or Ella Fitzger­ald or some­thing).

For ever af­ter­wards, I was de­ter­mined not to in­flict that mis­ery on any chil­dren I might have and when my daugh­ter came to school age I was as good as my word, send­ing her to the lit­tle piece of heaven I have de­scribed, where hap­pi­ness al­ways comes first.

But to send Sam there? Would that not be a be­trayal of the re­spon­si­ble, wage-earn­ing, fam­ily-sup­port­ing man he needs to grow up to be? I don’t know. I can tell you only this: de­spite ev­ery­thing, I took him to my old prep school the other day for an en­trance as­sess­ment and they of­fered him a place. And so did Kitty’s school. And now I don’t know what to do.

Is it more im­por­tant that my son be happy or suc­cess­ful? And are the two re­ally mu­tu­ally ex­clu­sive? Is my re­spon­si­bil­ity to the chirpy lit­tle dork I am about to turn out of doors for the first time, whom I just want to be happy? Or to the 30-, 40- and 50-year-old man he will be­come, who will need all the skills and con­nec­tions and crazy fucked-up in­cen­tives there are, to come even close to mak­ing a life for him­self in this cruel mod­ern world?

Deep down, I know which I favour. I know which will have him skip­ping to class with joy ev­ery morn­ing and which will have him stam­mer­ing and self-harm­ing with stress and anx­i­ety be­fore his age is in dou­ble fig­ures. But at my back I al­ways hear my in­ner con­ser­va­tive, whis­per­ing, “Latin, cricket, morn­ing prayers, big school, Oxbridge, money, money, money…”

Sam is on the launch pad, the rocket points sky­ward. In the dim haze above, two very dif­fer­ent worlds are dimly vis­i­ble. I have only to set the course and start the count­down. But into which fu­ture do I send the poor lit­tle bas­tard? For the life of me, I can­not de­cide….

Sam is go­ing to have to sup­port a fam­ily. If he wants to repli­cate the life

he knew as a kid, with nice houses, for­eign hol­i­days,

pretty cars, pri­vate schools, then he’s go­ing to need to earn a lot of money.

A lot

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